I am in the relationship-building business, and as such I try to avoid ever publicly expressing a political opinion. With that said, I’m going to try to walk that fine line and discuss Israel’s government and the proposed judicial reform from the perspective of an observer, and share with you the impact these issues had on our recent trip.
Firstly, to get yourselves caught up on the issues, here are a few videos from our friends over at Unpacked:
The anti-current government/judicial reform protestors were out in full force during our conference. They were at the airport welcoming larger American groups. They were in the streets. They were in our hotels. They were outside the conference center gates, and for those who registered and paid, they were inside our conference.
While many, if not most, of the conference attendees agreed with and even supported the protestors, there was some frustration that the protestors would not let anyone with whom they disagreed, speak. To JFNA’s credit, they invited to a panel discussion the very controversial Simcha Rothman, who is a Knesset member from the far-right Religious Zionist Party and chair of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Personally, I was very interested in hearing his perspective on matters. Sadly, I did not hear a word that he had to say because his voice was completely drowned out by the protestors.
While the anti-reform protestors were the more visible and more vocal, the pro-reform camp had its say as well with an organized “million-man march” in Jerusalem. While actual participation fell short of the million, an estimated–and not insignificant–450,000 protestors did show up to support the current government.
In my opinion, the fact that so many Israelis could protest and counter-protest is a sign of a healthy democracy, although Israel is certainly facing a political crisis.
But this is already last week’s news. This week, Israelis are back in bomb shelters with 937 rockets (as of this writing) having been fired into Israel from Gaza. I’ve been in communication with our friends in Eshkol, who are directly in the line of fire. Many have been evacuated to Eilat, safely out of harms way.
Bitter internal political fighting has taken a back seat to the more imminent threat of rocket fire.
As Americans, we have ideas for the “perfect” Israel, but life in Israel is complicated and Israeli politics reflect that complexity. Security is a priority in a way that we will hopefully never truly understand in America.
I hope that Shabbat brings peace to the region so that Israelis can safely return to the streets for their protesting.