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Wednesday 7 May 2008

Israel 60

Yom Huledet Sameach
60 Years of the modern State of Israel

Tuesday 6 May 2008

update 25/04/08

Dear Members,

Moadim L'Simcha to all. As Pesach draws to a close, please find
attached four articles for your interest. Sorry that it is more than
usual, it was difficult to choose only three.

1. We have the latest newsletter from the New Israel Fund, an
organisation that works to promote equality and social justice in Israel.

2. The first edition of the Chavruta newsletter since the very
recent revival of Chavruta-Chazon L'Yisrael; who describe themselves as
an independent national society for spiritual-cultural and
social-political reform. One of the members of the editorial board is
Dr. Michael Livni (from Kibbutz Lotan), one of the founders of the
Reform Zionist Kibbutzim in Israel, and one of the founders of the
Reform Zionist Movement. Dr. Livni is the author of numerous articles
on Progressive Zionism, and the author of Reform Zionism: Twenty Years –
An Educators Perspective. Of prominent interest in the newsletter is a
statement by the editorial board regarding the Israel Movement for
Progressive Judaism and Zionism.

3. An article reporting on the Pesach Seder for foreign workers,
organised by Beit Daniel, the Reform Community in Tel Aviv.

4. Finally, Rabbi Michael Marmur provides us with his Pesach
reflection on Chametz, Haredim and Liberal Democracy. You'll see what I

Don't forget that Yom Hatzmaut is fast approaching, you can still get
tickets for the ZF's gala show at the Wembley Box Office.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,
Charlie, Daniel and all at Pro Zion

Chavruta Newsletter

CHAVRUTA NEWSLETTER No. 11 – February 2008/ Adar Aleph 5768
(Translation from the Hebrew – Shaul Vardi)
CHAVRUTA - CHAZON L'ISRAEL, is an independent national charted society
for spiritual-cultural and social-political reform.

Editorial Board: Editor: Dr. Michael Livni, (Kibbutz Lotan). Board
Members: Rabbi Ofek Meir
(Leo Baeck, Haifa), Osnat Elnatan (Kibbutz Tamuz - Beit Shemesh), Rabbi
Silvana Kandel (Kvutzat Shacharut - Yokneam)

A Statement by the Editorial Board
The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and Zionism

The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) is in crisis - both
financial and ideological.
For a number of years the IMPJ has stood at a crossroads and must decide
regarding its path.
"For the children are come to the birth and there is not strength to
bring forth", Isaiah, 37:3.

Is the "Movement" first and foremost an organization of congregations
offering Reform religious services to its members and others? Or,
alternatively, does the Movement give expression to a unique
comprehensive Zionist approach with an action program to reform the
individual, the people and the world?

Today the trends in the Movement stand in contradiction one to another.
In general, the professionals in the Movement, most of the Executive and
many of the rank and file wish to adopt a movement definition (a
"brand") which sees the IMPJ not as a movement but as a religious stream

"The IMPJ is a religious stream offering contemporary Jewish identity to
those who wish to renew their Judaism while maintaining a freedom of
choice in their way of life". (IMPJ, "M'Erech L'Derech, 2006)

Chavruta has a wider and more comprehensive vision. The proposed
Movement identity quoted above is a throwback to classic Reform, the
Kultusgemeinde, the ritual congregation of the Diaspora. Here in our
national home, we cannot limit the potential inherent within Reform with
its roots in prophetic Judaism to the ritual congregation. Our point of
departure must be a Zionist one -- Judaism is not only the religion of
the Jewish people but also its nationality and culture. Without
negating the congregational ritual functions, the IMPJ should offer
those joining it progressive social and cultural identity and
identification and commitment to initiatives furthering Israel as a
Jewish and democratic State. Above all we see the calling of the IMPJ as
an educational movement educating to Jewish-Zionist democratic commitment.

We note with satisfaction that the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC)
furthers Zionist democratic reforms in Israeli society. The Center
utilizes mainly judicial action and within that area it has indeed made
its mark on Israeli society. To a large extent, however, IRAC functions
like a battery of artillery which prepares the ground within Israeli
society for "foot soldiers" to move in. But in fact, there are no "foot
soldiers". It is not within the power of purely legal activity to change
basic social order and values in Israeli society. This would
necessitate a movement and not only submission of petitions to the
Israeli High Court of Justice

Only a movement in the essential meaning of the term, i.e. a body with
ideas, ideals and an action program can constitute the base for the
"foot soldiers" so necessary today. The current budget of the IMPJ
serves the needs of congregations and not the needs of national movement
"Halukka"* Funding for the IMPJ until When?
Much of the ongoing expenses of the congregations are subsidized by
Diaspora Jewry. This situation is problematic both financially and
morally. True: Israel discriminates against the non- orthodox religious
streams. Nevertheless, it would be an illusion to believe that even
after this injustice has been rectified that the State will fund
congregations at their current level.

Admittedly, funding from the Diaspora is necessary for investments in
infrastructure and the development of the national work of the
Movement. However, is it credible that the financing of the ongoing
expenses of the congregations of the IMPJ should be comparable to the
way in which pre-Zionist "Halukka Jewry" was financed and whose mode of
existence was challenged by Zionism at its outset?

Chavruta sees itself as a Reform Zionist lobby both within the IMPJ and
without. For this purpose we are renewing publication of the "Chavruta
Newsletter" which was published in the years 2000 – 2002 (you may find
these newsletters on line at HYPERLINK "" .) The Chavruta general meeting held on 30th
January 2008, decided to further our principles (see below) not only to
the general public but in particular among those who may in any case be
close to our point of view.

*Halukka – the system of charitable distribution of Diaspora money to
19th century Jewish communities in pre-Zionist Palestine.

We in "Chavruta - Chazon L'Israel" Believe That: The State of Israel
was established as a Zionist state constituting the National Home of the
Jewish people. The state was founded as a result of the physical and
spiritual distress of the Jewish people in the modern age. It has given
an answer to the physical survival of the people. However we have not
yet related to the spiritual and cultural dimensions of our lives.
Potentially, the Jewish state is the beginning of our redemption. In
order to realize the prophetic vision, we need reform (tikkun) of our
values in the following areas:
A Genuine Peace between Ourselves and Our Neighbors
The Equal Value of all Humankind and the Sanctity of Human
This value grants all citizens of the state of Israel equal rights
before the law and imposes obligations of equal value on all to the
State. The educational and economic gaps existing in Israel at present
are incompatible with the equal value of all citizens.
3. Protecting the
The sanctity of the Land of Israel demands intensive action in order to
fulfil the injunction "do not destroy". At present, our way of life, the
way we produce and the way we consume, desecrates and befouls the
holiness of the land and the people who inhabit it.
Creative Commitment to the Jewish
Every generation stands before Sinai. It is its right and obligation to
interpret the heritage and its symbols by means of democratic process
in order to ensure the continued creative existence of the Jewish people
wherever it may be in our time.
"But the just shall live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). In a
democratic Zionist state no one has the right
to impose a particular way of interpreting the heritage. We
must obey the injunction - "tell your
children" (Exodus 13: 8) through experience and learning,
in a manner that will ensure mutual respect
between different attitudes.

The idea of the Divine expressed in its many forms by holidays
and feasts, by the Sabbath and in
everyday, in the life of the individual and the life of the
community, is an ever-present bond focusing the
Jewish people in its infinite mission for the reform (tikkun) of
the individual, the Jewish people and the

CHAVRUTA and the Arrangements Law

At its meeting on Wednesday, 30 January 2008, Chavruta decided to join
the Forum of Organizations to Abolish the Arrangements Law. The
Arrangements Law constituted a milestone in the worship of the
individual and materialism that led to the emergence of social gaps over
the present generation. This newsletter was written close to Shabbat Ki
Tisa: "And all the people took off the golden rings which were in their
ears … and made it into a molten calf; and they said: 'This is your god,
O Israel…'" (Exodus 32:3,4). See the comments by H.N. Bialik below.
The Forum of Organizations to Abolish the Arrangements Law is organized
by Shatil - The New Israel Fund's Empowerment and Training Center for
Social Change Organizations in Israel. We reproduce here sections from
the information material of the Forum as published on its website:

The Forum of Organizations to Abolish the Arrangements Law was
established in September 2007. The Forum includes approximately 50 civil
organizations that have come together to secure the joint objective of
abolishing the "Arrangements Law," beginning from the next financial
year (2008). The Forum emphasizes the antidemocratic and
anticonstitutional nature of this law, and urges the government to
transfer the hundreds of articles it includes into regular legislation.

About the Arrangements Law
The Economic Arrangement Law was first passed in 1985, as a one-time
measure (an emergency law) complementing the economic plan to stabilize
the economy. Since then, each year's Budget Law has been accompanied by
an Economic Arrangements Law. The Arrangements Law differs from other
laws in that it includes a wide number of laws and legislative
amendments on different issues. These are passed by the Knesset as a
single unit, without meaningful and orderly discussion in the Knesset
committees and in the government as is usual in the case of ordinary

Over the years, the Arrangements Law has expanded considerably; it now
comprises some 200 articles. As mentioned, the law is passed by an
accelerated procedure described by the Israeli Supreme Court as "a
procedure inconsonant with the democratic legislative procedure."

The Arrangements Law has come to be used by the Ministry of Finance as a
tool for imposing its neo-liberal approach on the economy and on the

Examples of the problems inherent in the Arrangements Law
( Authorities are usurped from the earmarked parliamentary committees
and transferred to the Finance Committee: According to practice, the
Arrangements Law is discussed by the Knesset Finance Committee, despite
the fact that many of the laws it includes should be discussed by the
specific Knesset committees according to each committee's fields of
expertise. In recent years, some of the articles in the Arrangements Law
have been separated and discussed by the specific committees. This
process of separation is limited and partial, however, and the influence
enjoyed by the specific committees is still limited.

( Inadequate discussion: The short period of time allocated for
discussion of the Arrangements Law as a whole, and of its different
articles in particular, makes it difficult for the Members of Knesset to
engage in full discussion and to ensure proper control of the
legislative and budgetary process.

( Political and coalition constraints: The fact that the Arrangements
Law is presented alongside the Budget Law, and the dependence of the
budget on the Arrangements Law, intensify political pressure on Members
of Knesset and reduce their room for maneuvering. The representatives of
the coalition (in the Knesset plenum and in the committees) are required
to work to secure authorization of the legislation included in the
Arrangements Law, with the goal of ensuring the ongoing control of the
government and the coalition in which they are members. This situation
reduces the chances of raising substantive objections.

( Transparency and accountability toward Members of Knesset and the
general public: The current format of debates, the tight schedule, and
the large number of details included in the Arrangement Law all damage
and impair the ability of Members of Knesset (and of the general public)
to understand the true ramifications of this act of legislation. This
situation is incompatible with the desire to ensure the transparency,
responsibility, and accountability that may be expected in proper
administrative proceedings.

( The dominance of the Ministry of Finance and the Budgets Division: The
Arrangements Law, and indeed the budget process as a whole, underscore
the power and centrality of the Ministry of Finance, and the Budgets
Division in particular, relative to the Knesset and the government.

The Attorney General:
"The inclusion of numerous amendments to different laws on different
subjects in a single proposed law is inconsonant with proper legal policy."

Chaim Nachman Bialik Reproves His People

Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it… surely the people is
Isaiah 40:7

Surely the people is grass, become as dry as a tree
Surely the people is a void, an infinitely heavy void;

In the clamor of a foolish people around the golden idols
God's voice is hidden, His mighty thunder suppressed.
And in the heart of scoundrel and villain, and with shameful spittle
The word of the Lord will be degraded, turned into scornful laughter.

Surely the people wither, full of levity and venom
Rotten and dissipate from head to toe!
For on a day of anguish and pain it has failed to bring forth
One that was mighty in works, a living man with a beating heart
One in whose heart a spark might burn, the spark that makes the blood boil
One from whose head a spark might shine to light the way for the people;
One who would treasure the name of the entire nation and its God
Far over wealth of gold – more than the falsehood of idols.

Renewing a Reform Zionist Think Tank in Israel
An initiative of Chavruta – Chazon L'Israel in cooperation with Tzell

Monday,March 31, 1:00 pm – Tuesday, 1 April 2008, 2:00 pm
Rabin Youth Hostel, 1 Avigad St., Jerusalem
(Behind and below the Bible Lands Museum – bus route 17)

The think tank will focus on three subjects:

1. Outlines for a Reform Zionist action plan within the Israel Movement
for Progressive Judaism.
2. Cohesion in Israeli society – can the gulfs be mended, and if so – how?
3. Chavruta – Chazon L'Israel as a Reform Zionist lobby inside the IMPJ
and elsewhere.

The IMPJ Conference, which will take place on May 22-24, will provide a
suitable opportunity to raise formal proposals and to engage in informal
contacts with rank-and-file members in order to promote Reform Zionism
within the movement.

A detailed program will be distributed by email to all those who
register for the event two weeks in advance. Registration: through
March 10, 2008.

Please send the registration slip by snail mail, email or fax to Dr.
Michael Livni (see below)

Please write clearly and legibly
First name and family name) …………………………………….. Telephone …. …………..
Full postal address (including zip code) ………………………………………………………………
Do you require sleeping arrangement in Jerusalem? ………………. Email …………………………

The number of rooms in the hostel is limited. Singles will be
accommodated two or three to a room
Fee per person – NIS 100. Couple: NIS 150. Payment in cash during
Travel expenses above NIS 50 by public transport will be returned to
those coming from far afield.
For questions, please contact Dr. Michael Livni, 054-9799055

CHAVRUTA – A Vision For Israel Fax – 08 6356827 E-Mail:
Registered Society No. 58 032 212 1
Kibbutz Lotan, D.N. Chevel Eilot,
ISRAEL 88855

Welcoming Strangers to the Seder

Welcoming strangers to the Seder
After finishing his first cup of wine Sunday night, Alusine Swaray
dipped his matza into maror and happily went back for a second helping,
undeterred by the spicy reminder of affliction.
Jack Jakainte, Alusine Swaray and Allan Bangura dip their matza into the
maror at the Pessah Seder for foreign workers.
Swaray, 48, a Christian from Sierra Leone, was one of some 45 foreigners
enjoying the sixth annual Pessah Seder for foreign workers at the Beit
Daniel Synagogue in Tel Aviv.
The Seder is a joint effort by Beit Daniel, Keren B'Kavod - the social
action branch of the Israeli Reform Movement's Israel Religious Action
Center - and the Mesila Aid and Information Center for the Foreign
Community, a Tel Aviv municipal organization dedicated to providing
social services and information to Tel Aviv's large population of
foreign workers.
"We felt that we needed to do more," explained Rabbi Meir Azari of Beit
Daniel. "If you are in Tel Aviv, you can't ignore the presence of the
foreign workers... This is an opportunity to meet them, to show them
that we care."
After musical and dance performances by children from the African, Latin
American and Filipino foreign worker communities, the adults retired to
a more traditional Seder while the children participated in special
activities such as painting their own Seder plates.
Maya Vamosh, a Jewish educator at Beit Daniel, explained that the Seder
was designed to accommodate the diverse religious views of its
"I took the most important elements from the Haggada and left room for
the people from Mesila to explain themselves," she expounded. "For
instance, where we say the Hallel [prayer], I asked one of the women to
bring their praise of God into the Seder."
Despite the multi-religious nature of the Seder, the participants were
still able to appreciate the Jewish elements of the ceremony.
Rose Roxas, 40, is a domestic helper from the Philippines and a
volunteer with Mesila who assists members of the Filipino community in
navigating the difficulties involved in being a foreign worker.
"It's amazing, really, how God took care of the Israelites when they
were about to leave Egypt," said Rose, an Evangelist. "It's the same as
in the days of the Torah."
Life in the Jewish state has impacted Rose's family beyond simply
teaching them about Jewish history. Her 11-year-old son, David Israel,
plays nearby.
"King David is my favorite Bible character," explained Rose, regarding
her Judaic taste in names.
Jewish history and religion were not the only issues in the spotlight at
this Seder - the politics of foreign workers played a role in the
proceedings, as well.
"We like you, we love you, we support you, and we want you to get the
rights you deserve," Azari said in his speech to the workers.
Mesila director Tamar Schwartz delivered a similar address, discussing
the significance of the Pessah story to the situation of foreign
workers. "Thousands of years, and nothing has changed?" she said. As
Schwartz spoke of Moses's famous demand to "let my people go," Swaray
nodded in deep agreement.
"It is necessary for the government to give the same rights to the
children who are born here," said Swaray.
"Regardless of how their parents entered," added his colleague Edwin
Brownie of Liberia.
The two men were referring to the campaign of their NGO, the African
Workers Union, to achieve Israeli citizenship for the children of
foreign workers. In addition to their regular jobs as house cleaners,
the two men have been petitioning the government on the behalf of
foreign workers since 1997.
Politics aside, however, the Seder served as a multicultural learning
experience. Teresa Rodriguez, 40, a Colombian domestic helper,
highlighted what she saw as the beauty of the event.
"It's beautiful because here today, it doesn't matter if you are
African, Latin American or Asian," she said.
Azari also commented on the diversity of the event.
"I don't think that you will be able to see a lot of synagogues in
Israel hosting non-Jews for the Seder," he said.
But he added, "For most of them, probably this is the first time that
they are sitting and not serving. This is an opportunity for them to
feel welcome."

Reform Reflections: Inspiration from the Haredi community

Reform Reflections: Inspiration from the Haredi community

Posted by Rabbi Michael Marmur
Although they will not thank me for the endorsement, I have decided to
come out in favor of the Haredi community in Jerusalem. Many in the
Ultra-Orthodox world are disgusted by the decision of the courts,
supported by the Attorney General, not to force businesses in Jerusalem
to refrain from selling chametz during the festival of Passover this
year. Following the decision of the court, representatives of the edah
charedit have sent letters to some sixty businesses and outlets pleading
with them not to sell leavened products during Pessach in the City of Gold.
I like this response. By turning to these fellow Jerusalemites and
asking them to reconsider their decision, these Haredi representatives
are playing according to the rules of a modern liberal democracy. It
remains to be seen if some within the community escalate their
opposition to the dreaded chametz, and move from words to sticks and
stones. But so long as the opposition is reasoned, respectful and
peaceful, it should be supported.
I write these words in the midst of my own battle with the forces of
leaven, the chametz which lies around my house, in my car, and even more
elusively - in my heart. I perceive these days of Passover preparation
as some of the most significant and profound of the Hebrew calendar. The
Passover of which I dream is indeed leaven-free. But the Israel I dream
of living in is one in which leaven should not be outlawed. Exploiting
the institutions of state in order to enforce the great teachings of
Judaism is a tragic error, and it helps contribute to alienation and anger.
A representative of the Haredi community (this is a confusing and
imprecise term, since there are almost infinite variations and nuances
within the Ultra-Orthodox world) was interviewed on the radio this
morning, and he explained why it was so crucial to keep all chametz out
of Jerusalem. He told the tragic tale of Orthodox grandchildren visiting
with their secular grandparents in Jerusalem who were given pizza to eat
on the festival of Passover because their ignorant and innocent
grandparents did not know better. They had assumed that Jerusalem
restaurants would only sell Kosher for Passover comestibles, and as a
result the sanctity of the festival was sullied. The spokesman went on
to state that Jerusalem, city of holiness, must be pure during the
festival of Passover.
The story about the mistaken grandparents tells a great deal about the
weird configurations of Jewish identity in our times. Within three
generations there are radical transitions from secular to Orthodox, and
vice versa. But the idea that legislating against the owner of the kiosk
will make the complexity go away is wrongheaded, short-sighted and
Jerusalem should be pure this Passover. It should be purged of poverty,
and garbage, and corruption, and prejudice, and hate. I passed some
graffiti on the wall in a "good" neighborhood in Jerusalem this week.
Its author, clearly an honorable son of our people, expressed gross
anti-Arab sentiments. Now that is chametz of the worst kind, and that
needs to be removed - before Pessach, and every day.
On this Festival of Freedom, we should defend the right of our neighbors
to do things we don't like, and defend the weak from assault and
oppression. It's actually fine in my book to engage others in
conversation, to try to persuade them to act differently. Persuasion is
better than legislation, and much better than aggression.
One more thought, for those of you who are ahead in your house cleaning,
or those of you who don't clean your house in a special way for Pessach,
or those of you who are limited in the amount of physical work you can
do. Open your Inbox and delete all the unnecessary e-mails which have
just been lying around for a year: this is a new additional version of
chametz for the twenty-first century. I don't want the courts to outlaw
e-mail (although that does sound tempting). I wasn't proposing a new law
- I was just making a suggestion. It's a technique I have learnt from
the Haredi community.

Pesach Update 16th April 2008

Dear Members,

Just a quick reminder that the Zionist Federation's Yom Hatzmaut, Israel
@ 60 Gala Show, with Jackie Mason and Sarit Hadad performing, is coming up.

For more info. or to purchase tickets please visit

Please find attached three articles for your interest this week. First
is the recent newsletter from IRAC. Next we have an article written by
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the President the Union for Reform Judaism, the
American Reform Movement, commenting on the current situation that
Israel is faced with in Gaza. Finally there is a piece written by Rabbi
Reuvan Hammer who served recently as interim Rabbi at New London Masorti
Synagogue, about 'the missing fifth' cup at the Seder. We hope you
enjoy these articles.

We wish you Chag Sameach,

Charlie, Daniel and all at Pro Zion

Reform leader argues that Israel will soon be forced to drop its 'restraint' policy.

Preparing U.S. Jews For Assault On Gaza
Reform leader argues that Israel will soon be forced to drop its
'restraint' policy.

by Eric H. Yoffie
A few weeks ago, I sat with a Jewish delegation that met with some
important Protestant leaders here in the United States. The conversation
quickly turned to events in Gaza. In a perfunctory sentence or two, our
Protestant colleagues said that of course they condemned the rocket fire
directed at Israeli cities, but in their view the real problem was the
suffering of the Palestinian population in Gaza and the wildly
disproportionate nature of Israel's response to Palestinians attacks.
Deeply pained and angry, I replied: You are absolutely right. Israel's
response has been wildly disproportionate because it has been far more
restrained than what would be expected from any other civilized,
democratic government.
Did they understand that since 2001, more than 7,000 rockets had been
fired from Gaza at civilian targets in Israel? Did they realize that a
"proportionate" response would involve 7,000 Israeli rockets fired at
civilians in Gaza? Did they appreciate that the relatively small number
of civilian casualties in Israel resulted not from the humanitarian
intentions of Hamas but from the crudeness of their weapons, and that
those weapons were now improving? Did they know that the traumatized
children of Sderot lived in constant fear? On what basis, I asked, did
they expect Israel to tolerate these attacks?
And what would their congregants be saying if their churches in Michigan
had been subjected to seven years of hostile fire from across the
Canadian border? Would church leaders be calling for "restraint" from
the American government in these circumstances? And did they really
expect that any American president would show such restraint?
What followed, of course, was the suggestion that the "occupation" was
responsible for the rocket fire. I replied: Excuse me, but Prime
Minister Sharon pulled out of every inch of Gaza in 2005, and his
successor was elected on a platform calling for unilateral withdrawal
from most of the remaining territories. And yet there has not been a
single day of quiet following that withdrawal. Indeed, rocket strikes
significantly increased after it was completed.
Yes, I assured them, I shared their concern for Palestinian suffering in
Gaza. But the simple fact is that if terror and rocket fire were to come
to an end in Gaza, the suffering of her people would end as well.
There was nothing surprising in these exchanges, but they reminded me of
how much American Jews have yet to do to educate their fellow citizens
about Israel's current plight.
And there is some urgency in this task because I have little doubt that
Israel's restraint will soon come to an end.
During my recent visit to Jerusalem, I met with the prime minister and
more than a dozen Knesset members from across the political spectrum.
Virtually all of Israel's political leaders are reluctant to escalate
the military conflict with Hamas; they fear the uncertain results of
such an escalation, as well as heavy casualties on both sides.
Nonetheless, from most of those to whom I spoke, what I heard was that
there would soon be no alternative to a more aggressive military posture.
The reason for this is simply that the attacks on Sderot threaten
Israel's very existence.
Once again, most of the world has found a way to take an utterly
intolerable situation - nearly daily attacks on Israeli civilian centers
- and turn it into something that is both tolerated and even routine.
And as the accuracy of the rockets increases along with the Iranian role
in supplying Hamas forces, the circle of cities under attack has begun
to expand.
It is only a matter of time before Hamas cells in the West Bank begin
firing rockets as well.
The result is that it is now possible to imagine a scenario under which
Israel, without ever losing a war, would cease to be a viable state.
As a result, there is a strong likelihood that in the months ahead,
Israel will move against Hamas forces in Gaza. With or without an
invasion, her army will likely target all of Hamas' military
installations, institutions and leaders. Since for years Hamas fighters
have hidden themselves in civilian centers such as schools and
hospitals, Palestinian civilian casualties are certain to grow. But
Israel will almost surely decide that it can no longer protect
Palestinian civilians at the cost of sacrificing the well being of her own.
This is not a welcome scenario. It would be preferable by far if
international diplomacy could arrange a ceasefire that would end the
rocket fire without allowing Hamas to build up her forces for future
attacks. But chances for such a diplomatic resolution are small, and
Israel must prepare for the worst.
Israel must also continue to support American diplomatic efforts to
advance what is left of the peace process. President Bush hopes for a
diplomatic breakthrough this calendar year, and while he is unlikely to
succeed, he has earned, by word and deed, the trust of Israel and the
American Jewish community. Surely, as he pursues this diplomatic course,
he is entitled to the goodwill and cooperation of Israel's government.
In that regard, we should keep in mind that an Israeli attack on Gaza is
certain to unleash a barrage of international criticism. American
support will be essential if Israel's military is to have the time it
needs to complete its mission. For that reason, current tension between
Israel and the American government over Israel's settlement policy is a
potential disaster.
An unpopular president who is being asked to take the heat for support
of an unpopular Israeli military operation is entitled to some
consideration from Israel's leaders. Whatever the differences, Israel
needs to get its settlement policies in line with American expectations
and to do so now.
With all this said, the responsibilities of American Jews are clear. A
centrist Israeli government has done everything within its power to
escape a military confrontation.
Nonetheless, confronted by challenges to its sovereignty, by expanding
attacks on its civilian population, and by the unrelenting hatred of an
anti-Semitic, religiously fanatic regime, it is moving toward the
military action in Gaza that it had desperately hoped to avoid.
Let us remember, then, that the Jewish state came into being for just
such a time as this, when Jewish lives are in danger and no one but a
Jewish army will come to their rescue. And let us remember too that our
task now is to support Israel in her time of need, to make her case to
our fellow citizens, and to do all that we can to rally the Jewish
people and good people everywhere to her side.
Rabbi Yoffie is president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

IRAC Passover Update

In This Issue: Celebrating Passover with Keren B'Kavod
• Celebrating Passover 'B'Kavod'
• Israeli Helping Israeli
• A Philosophy in Action
• Israel 2006: More kids under poverty line

For more information, please e-mail:
Rita Konaev
Development Associate
Visit IRAC on the RAC website!

The Pluralist
Newsletter from the Israel Religious Action Center

April 13, 2008
Dear Friend of the Israel Religious Action Center,
In Israel, the week of Passover is a popular time to take your family on
a vacation--to float in the Dead Sea or to play in what's left of Lake
Kinneret. Yet Passover demands that we relive events that shaped our
history and our people. We are encouraged to consider the "other": the
stranger, the orphan, the widow. We might say in Israel, 'To walk a
kilometer in another's sandals.' The seder is a great chance to
reconnect with loved ones but it is also the time to welcome the
stranger. In the past few years, IRAC has hosted pre-Passover seders for
foreign-workers and their families. It astounds me how well people from
as diverse regions as southeast Asia and western Africa can identify
with the story of Moses leading the Israelites. Passover is a time for
reliving our own past, but also for considering on the lives of our
neighbours and our guests. Everyone has a story of Exodus, a story of
seeking a home or a refuge, a search for meaning and identity. This
Passover, I hope all of Israel will take the opportunity to reflect and
consider. In our rough neighbourhood, a little empathy can go a long way.
Wishing you a meaningful Pesach, Anat Hoffman
Celebrating Passover 'B'Kavod'
Keren B'Kavod is the humanitarian aid and social action program of the
Israel Religious Action Center and the Reform Jewish Movement in Israel.
Keren B'Kavod provides food packages, warm clothes and other necessities
to needy families and facilitates cultural and educational activities
for disadvantaged youth across Israel, regardless of their ethnicity or
As the Passover holiday is approaching, Keren B'Kavod brought together
volunteers to prepare food packages to be distributed in the coming
weeks. The Passover food package project is the program's biggest
project and its oldest. This past week, the Keren B'Kavod staff,
community volunteers, and hundreds of Israeli high school students
gathered in the parking garage of Beit Shmuel, the center of the Israel
Movement for Progressive Judaism, and at a school in Haifa. A testament
to the Keren B'Kavod staff and volunteer-leaders, the energy of these
teenagers was focused on an assembly line where more than 2,000 boxes
containing food, games, toiletries and in some cases clothing coupons,
were quickly put together. The Keren B'Kavod boxes were passed from
hand-to-hand, quickly filling with non- perishable food-items. Between
the packing shifts, children from the Beit Shmuel kindergarten were
brought in and shown around the garage-turned- assembly plant and were
explained the importance of the project. Even the preschoolers did their
part, putting their colourful hand-drawn Passover cards in the packages.
Israeli Helping Israeli
The Passover package project unites Israel's Reform Movement to aid all
Israelis. The volunteers come primarily from Noar Telem, the Israeli
Reform youth movement, TALI Beit Chinuch, a Reform high school and
Mechina, the Reform Movement's pre-army program. The volunteers were not
only involved in assembling the holiday boxes but also in fundraising,
spending evenings calling members of Reform communities around Israel.
Tens of thousands of shekels have been raised through canvassing the
congregants from Israel's 24 Reform synagogues by the youth and adult
volunteers of the Reform Jewish Movement. In addition, the suppliers of
the components of the packages in many cases donated their products or
services or provided them at a discount.
The finished packages, stacked to the ceiling by the end of the flurry
of work, are distributed to Israeli families in need, regardless of
where they live or their ethnic and religious backgrounds. Reform
communities are in touch with their regional welfare councils to
determine the amount of need in each area. Keren B'Kavod distributes to
Jewish, Christian and Muslim families, to veteran Israelis and new
immigrants, to residents in cities and in development towns, to
residents of unrecognized Bedouin villages, and to foreign workers in
South Tel Aviv. The boxes are distributed throughout the year around the
time of a religious holiday: Rosh Hashanah, Christmas, Easter, and the
(Muslim) Feast of the Sacrifice, or in this case, Passover.
A Philosophy in Action
While helping families in need is the main goal of Keren B'Kavod, the
steps it takes in accomplishing these goals are in many ways an end unto
themselves. The continued success of the Passover project stems from the
culture of ownership and responsibility for the project and its goals
that is developing in the Israeli Reform Movement. "We are building a
circle of people to help," says Yoav Shafranik of B'Kavod. Keren B'Kavod
makes a concerted effort to work through welfare channels in order to
have a degree of anonymity towards the families it helps. Says Yoav, "We
are trying to be respectful of the families." That is the goal of Keren
B'Kavod: to make sure all Israelis live b'kavod (in dignity).