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Tuesday 6 May 2008

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


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