Helen Shardey OAM, ARZA Australia President and UPJ Vice President, shares highlights and reflections on the Australian first Progressive Taglit Birthright tour participants taken at the Lebanon border.
ARZA Australia as the local organiser with huge support from our Netzer Shaliach Sefi, and his partner Sara worked on this tour over the past two years. We were delighted the day their tour started in Israel on January 26 this year, and we are very much looking forward to their return and hearing about their experiences.
Meanwhile there is so much else happening in Israel, much of it of concern to the entire Jewish community. This concern is now being expressed through huge mass rallies and protests in Israel and by leaders across the entire Diaspora.
For instance here in Australia, our Rabbis, such as Rabbi Fred Morgan in a powerful drash asked the question as to whether it is to be “Tribalism or Peoplehood in Israel”? The President of the Zionist Federation of Australia, Jeremy Leibler is quoted as saying recently,(AJN) “to ensure the balance between the role of the elected Knesset members and an independent judiciary is appropriately maintained, there are clearly extreme elements within the government who wish to completely strip the Supreme Court of its independence. This would have catastrophic consequences for Israel’s democratic system.
He also referenced Israel’s declaration of Independence establishing the Jewish democratic state and calling on Netanyahu to ensure that any reforms reflect Israel’s character as a Jewish State as laid out in that all important and fundamental document.
There has never been a more important time for the Australian Jewish community to lean in and engage openly, thoughtfully, and respectfully in relation to these issues”.
And finally, the Central Conference of American Rabbis also recently said in relation to the new government in Israel “In addition to the free exercise of voting rights, those principles include the right, and even the responsibility, to hold democratically elected leaders to account. In that spirit we join our Israeli colleagues….who have significant concerns about the government Coalition. (It) has been established by a Coalition agreement that violates central values of Judaism – above all, K’lal Yisrael, the unity of the diverse Jewish community both within Israel and worldwide; and ahavat ha-ger, loving the non-Israelite in our midst”.