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Israel Lurches to the Ultra-Orthdox

I am sad to report that Israel has made two moves recently that thumbs its nose at Conservative and Reform Jews and embraces the desires of the ultra-Orthodox, who comprise only 15% of the Jewish people worldwide.

The first move is to renege on the deal negotiated over a 4-year period with all Jewish parties to allow equal access to the Western Wall (also known as the Kotel or the Wailing Wall). The ultra-Orthodox threatened to bolt the slim coalition Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put together and he caved in to their demands. The deal is now officially “frozen”, which means it is dead.

The second move is to disallow conversions unless they are performed by rabbis that are approved by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate. They have already published a list of 160 blacklisted rabbis and they will examine all conversions to see if they meet the┬árabbinate’s standards. This means that the ultra-Orthodox will have sole authority to determine who is a Jew and who can be married to a Jew. While the cultural tilt in America is toward increased pluralism, in Israel it is toward total theocracy.

Many Jewish leaders and organizations are now refusing to meet with Netanyahu and feel a big divide has opened between Israel and American Jews. I am a strong supporter of Israel, and will continue to be, but like many other American Jews, I will be focusing my support and charitable donations to activities that support the safety and success of Israel and not to activities that support the government and the theocratic status quo.

The politicians and the Israeli electorate need to feel our disapproval of what they are allowing to happen or this trend will continue and become permanently established. All Jews must be accepted and welcomed in Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, as magnificently rendered in the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva.

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