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  • Mitchell Israel

Religious Equality in Israel: My Experience

Shalom!

A few weeks ago, during Pesach, my friend Max sent me pictures that he had taken from the Robinson’s Arch section of the Kotel. The space reserved for egalitarian prayer had been occupied by Haredim, where they put up a Mechitza. The one place where men and women were supposed to be able to pray together at Judaism’s holiest site was taken away for the night.

One of the major issues that drove me to IRAC in the first place was my search for religious pluralism in Israel. As a Liberal American Jew living in Israel, it has been pretty disheartening as of late to see some statements by Haredi MKs against liberal streams of Judaism in Israel. An example is Menachem Eliezer Mozes of the United Torah Judaism party, who in February went on a rant where he called Reform Jews “clowns” and told them to “go hold bar mitzvahs for dogs”. This statement was condemned by many secular woman MKs, but MK Mozes faced little consequence from this rant. This anti-Liberal Jewish sentiment is nothing new, and is often used regarding to Kotel.

This past week’s newsletter discusses a seminar planned by the Ministry of Religious Affairs that was cancelled after they declined attendance to a female Reform Rabbi. IRAC has done a lot of work in the past to advocate for non-Orthodox Rabbis. The Miri Gold ruling has allowed state funding for Reform and Conservative Rabbis who serve on Regional Councils,however, we are still seeking state funding for local Rabbis, and true equality remains a pressing issue.

Despite these three negative actions, I have seen some great moments of religious pluralism while in Israel. One of these came when I went on a school trip to Kibbutz Hanaton, a pluralistic kibbutz. There, we participated in a panel discussion with Jews of all streams who chose to live together. It was very encouraging to see a pluralistic Jewish community at Hanaton, as it shows it is possible for Jews of all observance levels to live together.

Before Pesach, I met with well-known Israel educator Neil Lazarus, who saw on my Facebook that I was working at IRAC, and commended me for our work. It was great to be acknowledged by someone influential, as it shows that we have backing from at least some of the Israeli public.

Until Next Time,

Mitchell

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