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Returning to Israel: A Few Thoughts

Shalom and Welcome Back!

I spent the past week traveling Europe, and visiting friends studying abroad. I spent time in Rome, Florence, and Barcelona. During my travels, however, Israel was weighing heavily on my mind. While I spent the day in Florence, I received the news that Israel had reached a deal with the UN on resettling refugees, then heard that PM Netanyahu reneged nearly hours later. I spent the next day feeling ashamed of being an American living in Israel. The events of the past week reminded me of how important the work that I am doing for IRAC is.

Over the course of the past week, I read two articles that stuck with me regarding all that is going on in terms of both the refugee deal, and Israel-Diaspora relations in general. The first was written by Yair Rosenberg, one of my favorite Jewish journalists. The article, titled “Bibi has no Backbone”(http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/259334/bibi-has-no-backbone), discusses that although PM Netanyahu is portrayed as a strongman, he is very quick to crumble to pressure on contentious, rather than consensus, issues. The refugee deal is far from the first time this has happened. In his article, Rosenberg sites the Kotel agreement, which the Israeli government froze last summer, a major setback for IRAC. Being the leader of a major country involves standing up for what you believe in, even in the face of pressure, and PM Netanyahu has proven time and time again that he is not capable of this.

The second article comes from Abraham Riesman of New York magazine, and is titled “The Lonely Man of Faith” (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/04/reform-judaism-rick-jacobs-liberal-zionism-netanyahu.html?utm_campaign=nym&utm_source=tw&utm_medium=s1). This article profiles Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the President of the Union for Reform Judaism. Rabbi Jacobs has been a friend of IRAC and what we stand for for a long time. The article does a very good job of explaining the gaps between American Jewry and the Israeli establishment, and where Rabbi Jacobs stands. Like myself, Rabbi Jacobs feels caught in the middle, both willing to defend Israel from delegitimizing movements such as BDS, and also willing to criticize its government when he opposes its actions. I hope to see more American Jewish leaders follow the lead of Rabbi Jacobs on this front. It is important to show that we can love Israel while remaining critical of its policies, especially on issues like gender discrimination, racism, and religious pluralism. These are just some of my thoughts and reactions to the past week. I am so grateful to IRAC for giving me a platform to voice these thoughts.

Until Next Time,

Mitchell

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