In RSY-Netzer we spend a lot of time learning and thinking about Israel and Reform Zionism. As the RSY-Netzer PBnA (Policies Beliefs and Actions) explains, 'Love, care and engagement' characterises our relationship with Israel. As a Reform Zionist youth movement we have a responsibility to be well informed and engaged with events and politics in Israel.
We define Reform Zionism as being Zionist – believing there should be a Jewish state in the Land of Israel – with our Reform Jewish values, including the ideals of peace, equality and justice, made central to how we create a truly Jewish state.
Hopefully you'll see this narrative grow out of the pages of this choveret and find it a useful resource for helping to communicate this.
So if we had to tell the story of Reform Zionism, what would we say...
We hope that this choveret will enable you to explore and learn about Reform Zionism in a fun and engaging way, enabling you to share and emulate this on future RSY-Netzer events.
is the UK Taskforce’s Education Officer.The UK Task Force is committed to issues relating to Arab citizens of Israel.
Is rabbi for young adults in the movement for Reform Judaism
is UJIA’s Director of Informal Education and Israel Engagement.
Deborah is a first year rabbinical student at the leo baek college and was Jeneration field worker in 5772-5774
is the RSY-Netzer and Community senior youth development manager.
is the Informal Education Director at the Movement for Reform Judaism.
is an RSY-Netzer vatik and was a movement worker for 5775
is an RSY-Netzer vatik and was a movement worker for 5767. Charlie was elected as the co-chair of Pro-Zion in 2006.
is a boger of RSY-Netzer and will be a movement worker for 5777
is a cantorial student with the Hebrew Union College and was a movement worker for 5774
works with reform Judaism as the Community partner
is Assistant Rabbi at Sinai Synagogue, Leeds
Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner
is Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism
is a bogeret of RSY-Netzer, studying Jewish History at UCL
is a bogeret of RSY-Netzer, studying International History and Politics at the University of Leeds
is a movement worker for 5776
is a fourth year rabbinical student at the leo baek college and was a movement worker for 5769
is a vatika of rsy-netzer and worked as Jeneration fieldworker in 5775-5776
is head of the UJIA centre for Israel Engagement
is a movement worker for 5776
is a social worker, co-chair of Keshet UK and RSY-Netzer vatika and was a movement worker for 5771
is a vatik of RSY-Netzer and Assistant Director of Recruitment and Admissions at the Hebrew Union College
is a movement worker for 5776
is completing a shnat sherut (year of service) in the UK with the Jewish Agency.
is Branch Relations and Education Coordinator of Netzer Olami
is Yachad’s digital campaigner. Yachad is the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement for British Jews, founded in 2011 to inspire British Jews to take action to support a political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
is a movement worker for 5776
RABBI LAURA JANNER-KLAUSNER
ZIONISM is the belief in self-determination and national liberation of the Jewish people by having an independent State in the land of Israel.
The word ZIONISM comes from Mount ZION - the location of the ancient City of David in Jerusalem. Zion is the point to which Jews have directed our thoughts, prayers and dreams for thousands of years. It embodies the continual yearning and Jewish presence in the land of Israel since the time of Joshua in the Bible.
Zionism provides Jews with political, national and cultural independence.
Jews were completely dependent on foreign powers for their physical security in the Diaspora for thousands of years. We were expelled from many countries and our physical, economic and social safety was dependent on others.
Zionism enables Jews to be independent, it is the way we can have self-determination and liberation as a people. It is our expression of national independence.
Modern political Zionism was founded by Herzl (end 19th C) as he believed that Diaspora Jews have always been seen as "the other."
Herzl witnessed European anti-Semitism and so he believed that the Jewish question was ‘neither a social nor a religious’ one but a ‘national one’ as ‘we are a people—one people’.
The way to respond to our eternal struggle in the Diaspora as the other was that the Jewish people should create a nation state in our historical homeland, Israel, having existed as the other in Diaspora for two thousand years.
This State would be a place of safety and refuge for Jews from all around the world.
Jews are a nation, a people and not a religion. A religion is a far too narrow definition of Jews as a religion is a system of faith and the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power. This is only one element of being Jewish and of course, many Jews do not believe in God or are unsure of their belief but are still very Jewish!
A nation is a group of people united by common descent, history, memory, land, language and religion who have inhabited a particular territory.
Zionism is the fulfilment of the Jewish nation's aspirations as we have a common descent (Abraham); history (slavery, Exodus, conquest of Israel, Diaspora); memory ("we were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt); land (land of Israel) and religion (ethical monotheism - the God of our ancestors) .
The Torah is centred around the Jewish Nation’s connection to Eretz Yisrael and God’s promise to deliver us to the land. Eretz Yisrael appears in our prayers; our collective memory and our collective prayers for the future.
The modern State of Israel was declared in 1948 and so is relatively young and messy. It has all the great things of a feisty Middle Eastern country and a lot of the difficult politics of one too. It is vibrant and changes constantly in response to the rich ingathering of the exiles of Jews from around the world. It is a Jewish State that also has 20% Palestinian Israeli Arab citizens.
There are threats to Zionism's safety – there is a need for Zionism as Israel is still not safe as a nation. Israel faces external threats by being in the Middle East where there is only peace with a few neighbours.These are threats to both Israel's physical and moral safety.
The balancing act between Judaism and democracy is the core issue of long term physical and ethical safety in Israel.
The Israeli author, Amos Oz, says that as an ideology, Zionism is a bit like a family surname: It exists alongside lots of different first names.
Zionism, as an ideology, is not one thing. It’s a family surname — one which members of the Jewish family have related to in different ways ever since Herzl catapulted it onto the agenda.
Some Jews are cultural Zionists: they’re interested in achieving a Jewish state as a cultural centre for Jews worldwide. Others are Labour Zionists: they want to create a socialist society. Many are religious Zionists: they see a Jewish state as integral to acting out the values of Torah.
I am a Reform Zionist and believe in Israel as a canvas for the actualization of our Reform Jewish values of a religious Zionism of equality and justice.
How do you define your zionism?
Do you think that Zionism is as relevant to Jewish people today as it has been for our ancestors?
This Choveret will go in to greater detail to uncover the narrative of Reform Zionism but for now...
For My Zionism
What about an election campaign for Zionist Minister? Could you have your chanichim run a campaign to gain the title of 'Zionist Minister of Netzer'? They would have to think about all the reasons why we should be Zionist and convince the public to vote for them/ their team.
THE Jewish People's Connection to the Land over the ages
BETH LEVY and DANIEL LICHMAN
The Torah is centred around the importance of Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) for Am Yisrael (the people of Israel). From God promising the land to Avraham and his descendants to playing an active role in bringing the Am Yisrael into the land: the holiness of Eretz Yisrael is unquestionably important. As religious Jews who root our Judaism and lives in the Torah we must recognise the holiness of Eretz Yisrael and engage with it. Here’s just one example of one of these texts from the Torah:
Yes, texts like this - and there’s quite a few - where God promises the land to the Israelites show Eretz Yisrael to be special, holy, set aside for Am Yisrael .
Yes, of course the land is important in Jewish thought, but remember, for two thousand years, until modern Zionism and the foundation of the state of Israel, most Jews lived in the diaspora and when they referred to the land in their prayers it was hopeful, messianic thinking - a way to dream of a future redemption where pain, suffering and spiritual - rather than physical - exile would come to an end. I’ll show you what I mean with some of our prayers:
When I daven (pray) the daily Amidah and when I recite Birkat Hamazon I don’t yearn only for the building of the physical Jerusalem but also the spiritual: I yearn for the repair of all the brokenness within myself and the world. If my kavannah (intention) is limited to the land itself then my prayer becomes about politics and contemporary Zionism, rather than about God and a yearning for redemption.
It is not so simple. The physical importance of Israel in our liturgy can co-exist with the personal redemptive aspect. As Reform Zionists, we recognise that Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel) has not brought us to redemption and that there is still a lot more work to be done to improve the state. However, part of our desire to make this particular state better is because of our connection to Eretz Yisrael.
Yes, I spent a long time believing that Reform Zionism addresses this need to meet redemption through building Medinat Yisrael, as you say. But I wonder if we can be committed to social justice work in Israel because we are part of Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) and Medinat Yisrael is a project of Am Yisrael, rather than because of any inherent religious significance of Eretz Yisrael. I guess in this I am supported by my understanding of Judaism as a diasporic, exilic creation. Rabbinic Judaism, which we follow, was founded after the temple was destroyed, the exile had begun and Jewish sovereignty had ended. Being in exile from the land - or in a spiritual sense, from ourselves - has to be fundamental to Judaism.
A Babylonian sage explains this in the Talmud:
God remembering us is the redemption that we continue to hope for and that motivates us to improve the world by bringing it closer. I worry that seeing Medinat Yisrael as an end of exile and beginning of redemption supports extremists and also compromises on this central Jewish obligation taught in this text - that we should see ourselves (even for Jews physically in Eretz Israel!) as in exile so that we are aware that we still have work to do.
The context of where that text comes from is important. Just before Rav Yehuda says this the Rabbis stressed the importance of Eretz Yisrael!
The Talmud can hold multiple perspectives, and does not say which one is preferred. This same tension can be seen today in the Jewish community. There are Jews like the Rabbis who believe strongly that we should live in Israel. There are also those more like Rav Yehuda who feel either ambivalent or angry towards it. It seems our debate is not a new one!
Yes, good point, I should have looked at the whole passage! That’s really fascinating - it seems to me that for much of diaspora Jewish history the perspective of Rav Yehudah dominated - Jews stayed in diaspora/exile and yearned for Jerusalem (physical or spiritual or both!) without considering returning. I’m interested in learning about when and why this change in Jewish theology began. To revive the perspective of the rabbis - that Jews should live in Israel - after such a long exile is a really radical move.
It is very interesting. European nationalist ideas transformed the way many Jews looked at their religion. It began to seem like the redemptive vision they prayed for three times a day could become a physical possibility. Early Religious Zionist thinkers are really interesting to look at. They drew together ideas of the land, the people and the possibility of national redemption.
Wow, I find Kook’s words incredibly moving. He reminds me that if I disregard Eretz Yisrael as a fundamental part of my Judaism I will be denying a core part of Judaism which will leave my religious life lacking. If I love the Torah, how can I not have a love for the land whose very landscape and place names evoke the narratives that have in my constant re-reading of them become a part of me!
Yes, he is a helpful thinker on this: going back to Kook reminds me that even if religious extremists claim thinkers like Kook as theirs, it does not mean that we as progressive Jews and political moderates need to disown these ideas. Maybe you’re right, perhaps with careful thought we can hold these ideas at the same time: a deep love for Eretz Yisrael and a commitment to continuing to support social justice work in Medinat Yisrael motivated by the Jewish sacred hope in a future redemption.
Could you take your chanichim on a journey through different time periods? They could meet different groups of Jewish characters to find out more about their connection to the land and what beliefs and experiences their relationship with Israel is built upon.
ZIONIST THINKERS PRE-STATE
The pre-state Zionists were a pretty remarkable bunch. They were bundles of paradox: visionary dreamers with a ruthlessly pragmatic streak; universalists with powerful experience of the secular world who wanted to build a particularist Jewish utopia; Europeans who moved to the Middle East; mostly middle-class who laid the foundations for a new Jewish working class and so on. If you want to learn more, check out the next page. You can also use Wikipedia or any number of excellent web- or book-based resources, such as The Jewish Agency . I thought I would tell the story of one relatively unknown Zionist, a woman called Hannah Maisel, and through it unpack some key educational issues for you to explore with your chanichim.
Hannah Maisel (1883-1972)
Many of the stridently secular chalutzim (zionist pioneers) grew up in orthodox families. In moving to Israel and breaking away from their families and communities they were rebelling. Why did they rebel against this upbringing? How are you making a statement about your beliefs?
Almost all of the early Zionist were born outside of the Land of Israel. What was their identity as Jews living in the Diaspora? What is your identity as a Jewish person living outside of Israel?
What can be gained from a secular education? What can be gained from a religious education?
What barriers are there still to women’s full participation in your movement, in Reform Judaism, in Zionism, in Israel and in the UK?
“Separate but equal” – does this work for your vision of feminism?
What projects in Israel does RSY-Netzer currently support? Today, is Zionism in the Diaspora about “building Zion” (philanthropy to Israel) or “building Zionism” (education in the Diaspora)? What balance do you think it should be?
In traditional Judaism, vising the graves of the “tsaddikim” (famous/important rabbis) is an essential part of a Jewish life. Who are RSYNetzer’s tsaddikim? Whose graves should you be visiting on your various Israel programmes?
Zionism was a movement of institutions. It grew by creating well-organised political, cultural and economic structures. Is this suitable for 2016?
Aliyah was central to classical Zionism. What is the place of aliyah within Reform Zionism? Have you ever considered aliyah?
The early Zionist youth groups and movements literally changed the world. In what way is RSY-Netzer changing the world?
Could you create a Zionist Thinker Quest game where each team is a different Zionist thinker? The challenges that each team faces could be specialised to their Zionist thinker's life and experiences
• Born in 1883 in Grodno (today Belarus, then in the Russian Empire)
• Fifth of twelve children. Parents were strictly orthodox
• At school, became involved in Poalei Zion youth group
• Full secular education
• Due to a lack of agricultural preparation before they went the First Aliyah Chalutzniks weren’t experienced farmers and they faced many hardships and failures.
• Unable to attend agricultural study in Russia (forbidden for women), she studied in Switzerland
• Eventually got a doctorate, with distinction
• In 1909, made aliyah and tried to find an agricultural training institution for women. None existed, so settled on Sejera Farm and in 1911 established Chavat Ha-Alamot (The Young Women’s Farm)
• She believed that men and women played absolutely equal but sometimes different roles in Labour Zionism. Whilst many men might be physically stronger, there were other areas of work in which many women were far more accomplished than men. Zionism needed both
• Married in 1912; had no children
• Because she was Russian, she left Palestine in 1917 (the Ottomans and the Russians were at war). In England, she met some of the key founders of WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) and persuaded them to help support her women’s projects in Palestine which promoted women’s agricultural work.
• She was a delegate to many WIZO conferences and World Zionist Congresses.
• In the 1920s, she helped establish many more women’s agricultural projects, most notably Nachalat Yehuda, a training farm for women, which she managed until her death in 1960. She is buried at the cemetery there
different forms of zionism
is the branch of Zionism that is focused on maintaining the core of Jewish history and culture. Ahad Ha’am, its founder, realized the need to modernize Judaism and expand its boundaries outside of traditional practices.
is the original Zionist movement initiated by Theodor Herzl. Herzl’s vision of Zionism was to fight for a sovereign Jewish state on Jewish-owned land on the international stage.
Labor Zionism is a secular movement which values building a Jewish Homeland upon socialist principles
EXAMPLES OF KEY ZIONIST THINKERS
Is what I am saying not yet true? Am I ahead of my time? Are the sufferings of the Jews not yet acute enough? We shall see.’
Up untill this point he viewed assimilation as both desirable and inevitable; the struggle for equal rights was over. Although he had become Bar-Mitzvah, he’d had scarcely any Jewish education.
1894 – Alfred Dreyfus (French captain who happened to be the only Jew on general staff) was accused of spying for the Germans. Herzl reported the trial for his Viennese paper and how it was received by the French public.
In Paris Herzl started to write about the use of the Jews as a scapegoat. Herzl started to believe that all Jews were trapped in an ‘invisible ghetto in a gentile world’.
The last straw for Herzl proved to be the Dreyfus affair:
Herzl concluded that assimilation is no protection against anti-Semitism. He came to believe that Jews need a country of their own. He set to work on what he called ‘the solution to the Jewish question’.
Born to wealthy parents and schooled in Budapest, then moved to Vienna where he got a PHD in law. Gave up law shortly thereafter to become a journalist and moved to Paris.
Born in Ukraine, his family were very wealthy for ghetto inhabitants. He was educated by a Chasidic rabbi, he was well versed in Talmud & other Jewish scripture. Ahad Ha’am (meaning one of the people) was actually a pseudonym – his pen name.
With his secular vision of a Jewish "spiritual center" in Israel, he confronted Theodor Herzl. Unlike Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, Ha'am strived for "a Jewish state and not merely a state of Jews".
Ahad Ha’am believed that the creation in Eretz-Israel of a Jewish cultural center would act to reinforce Jewish life in the Diaspora. His hope was that in this center a new Jewish national identity based on Jewish ethics and values might resolve the crisis of Judaism.
He explained that the only way Judaism is to survive and thrive as a culture once again is to fully engage with the Jewish nation living in its historic centre, Israel.
More than Israel has kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Israel.
Abraham Isaac Kook was born in a small Latvian town. At 23 he became a Rabbi and he became the 1st Chief Rabbi of Palestine after the British Mandate.
Kook argued that modern Jewish nationalism, even at its most secular, expresses the divinity within the Jewish soul and signifies the beginning of the messianic age.
There is no doubt that we cannot fulfil our all-embracing mission
unless we settle in the holy land, for only there can the spirit of our people
develop and become a light unto the world.’
combines Zionism and observant Judaism Based on a fusion of Jewish religion and nationhood, it aims to restore not only Jewish political freedom but also Jewish religion in Israel in the light of the Torah and its commandments.
Born in Poland in 1886 and educated in a Hebrew school established by his father, an ardent Zionist. By his mid-teens, Ben-Gurion led a Zionist youth group, "Ezra," whose members spoke only Hebrew among themselves.
Arriving in the Land of Israel in 1906, he became involved in the creation of the first agricultural workers' commune (which evolved into the Kvutzah and finally the Kibbutz)
Ben-Gurion was a founder of the trade unions, and Having led the struggle to establish the State of Israel in May 1948, Ben-Gurion became Prime Minister and Defense Minister.
As Prime Minister, he helped build the state institutions, presiding over various national projects aimed at the development of the country. He also oversaw the absorption of vast numbers of Jews from all over the world. A centerpiece of his foreign policy was improving relationships with the West Germans.
Israel has created a new image of the Jew in the world - the image of a working and an intellectual people, of a people that can fight with heroism.
In 1882 the Jewish people started realising that more than a joint past, they also had a joint future in Israel.The pioneers leading the Aliyah movement were called “Chalutzim” (deriving from the biblical term Chalutz in the Book of Numbers) and they were the first “Olim” (people who make Aliyah). The reasons for Aliyah varied from person to person, but generally most of them came due to antisemitism and poverty in Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia. Some of the chalutzim came from the rest of Europe, Africa, and Asia (mainly Yemen) as well.
In Hebrew, making Aliyah means immigrating to Israel and this term comes from the Hebrew ‘to ascend’.
The number of the chalutzim that came in the first wave, also known as “The First Aliyah” was relatively small, but they had great importance. They were mainly disorganized groups of Jewish families who were looking for safe refuge outside of their countries. The first Aliyah received farms and land from the Zionist movement and money from Hovevei Zion. Edmond James de Rothschild invested much of his wealth and helped them remain stable later on. The Olim faced problems with local attackers as well as difficulties with the Ottoman rule that persecuted them.
The people of the second Aliyah were young secular socialist Jews who arrived with the same motives as the first Aliyah. They built collaborative settlements that later on grew into kibbutzim (a form of communal life style). A wider spread of Jewish settlements was starting to form. They started establishing political, economic, social, and security infrastructures in order for them to move from Zionist theory to practice.
These Aliyot combined were the final steps on the staircase to the long awaited for Jewish state.
The kibbutz was founded on the basis of:
of work, people and consumption
of the individual from material worries
All income generated by the Kibbutz and it's members goes to a communal pool
Everyone on the Kibbutz has the same amount of money, whatever their job or position
The kibbutz is governed by direct participant democracy
In the past, many kibbutzim emphasised the community structure over the traditional family structure, and young people lived separately from their parents
members meet in asephot (meetings) to make decisions.
the ideology of Kibbutzim has always been the good of the collective and a strong involvement and ideological belief in the social issues and agenda of the country
Even though Kibbutzim now only encompass 3 percent of Israel (according to the Jewish Agency), this 3 percent still had (and continues to have) a huge impact on Israeli production, culture and ideology.
What do you think about this model? Could you live in a Kibbutz?
You should remember that the Jews that arrived in this new land came from very weak backgrounds. The new security organisations set up by the Olim were a source of pride. Finally, for the first time in generations a new perception of a strong and independent Jew was formed. The “Shomer” (“The Guard”- ancestors of the CST?) was the first security organization to be established. The Shomer took the responsibility to train Jews who worked the land and showed them how to protect themselves. At its peak, the “Shomer” was in charge of 13 different agricultural villages and defended Jewish territories.
What can we learn from the first olim?
Imagine packing up all your belongings to move to a new land and building liveable conditions from scratch. This was a huge challenge for the first pioneers, who completely altered their lifestyle. It is amazing and inspiring to see that their hard work has had a lasting impact on Israel today.
On Shemesh, an amazing kehilla is created by dedicated madrichim. Even when it seems challenging to make change, remember the kibbutz-niks and how they created successful communities. Madrichim can also develop communities as well as have a lasting impact on chanichim with a fantastic inspiring camp.
Degania was the first Kibbutz and since this model, there have been many other Kibbutzim that follow a similar structure and values that Degania held.
faced hostility from their new Arab neighbours.
didn’t have strong agricultural knowledge
Some of the first Kibbuztim initially faced many problems making life a struggle.
The pioneers weren’t experienced farmers
Many kibbutzim were based around the Kinneret, attracting mosquitoes carrying malaria and other diseases, so a lot of people died tragically.
The kibbutzim offered a chance for Jewish people to reimagine their identity in the state of Israel. For chalutzim like Bussell kibbutzim enabled the Jewish people of the past to build a strong independent Jewish future.
Under the direction of Yossef Bussell, the chalutzim decided the challenge would be to stay on one land and make it their home as this is something that hadn’t been achieved by Jewish people for generations- Jews had not lived consistently in one land to call their own.
The idea of a ‘New Jew’ was to eradicate the negative, anti-Semitic image of Jews in 20th century Europe and instead replace it with a new image of a secular Jew who worked off the land in Palestine - fighters for their identity. For some kibbutzniks work ethic replaced a religious ethic.
Kibbutzim were founded by chalutzim ‘pioneers’. They were part of the first waves of Jews who went to British Mandate Palestine in the 20th Century. Most of these chalutzim were young Europeans who felt persecuted in Europe and wanted to work on the land far away from Europe, while creating a new Jewish state and breaking the image of European Jews.
“Our task is to give the people what it lacks more than anything else. And that thing is roots. The Jew has been wandering for too long. It's time he (or she) had a chance to rest. On his (or her) own land. In control of his (or her) own life.”
Kibbutz derives from the word Kvutsa (group). It is a collective community found in Israel that was traditionally based on agricultural vales. Kibbutzim started as a combination of socialism and Zionism, but have evolved as the years have passed.
Kibbutz life has evolved with the state of Israel. For instance, in some Kibbutzim children used to live communally whereas now, they live with their own families. Similarly, some kibbutzim are now privatized, meaning unique values of communal living are lost. However, there is still a sense of some communal responsibility. Some believe that this change is the only way for kibbutzim to survive in our climate today. Others believe differently:
“The Kibbutz of today has evolved dramatically and the focus of Kibbutz life on society has substantially diminished.” The Jewish Agency
Their entire story was completely based on the power of youth. It may be easy to forget, or to go unnoticed but these Chalutzim were young individuals who were around the age of the madrichim on camp! The power of an idea is definitely reflected in this, let alone the power of youth. This can definitely be taken into account whenever coming up with a new idea with your chanichim. Just remember, what you know today as “the State of Israel” was only formed thanks to a group of ''silly kids'' who decided to follow their ideology.
Imagine growing up and being raised with many other kids in a kibbutz children’s home instead of in the house with your parents. This may be similar to the case in camp, but would you be able to live like this all the time?
Do you think this is something Jewish people of the 21st century can identify with today?
How can we be pioneers today?
BIRTH OF THE ZIONIST YOUTH MOVEMENT
The first ZYM was Blau-Weiss (Blue-White), established in Germany before World War I (1912). It was inspired by the culture of outings and hikes prevalent in the German youth movements and also by the English Scouting groups. The spread of Zionism in Europe combined with the exclusive nature of other non-Jewish youth groups (in Germany, Jews weren’t allowed to join non-Jewish groups) led to the rapid growth ZYMs across Central and Eastern Europe. Between the two World Wars movements of all different political and religious slants were born. One thing that was constant across the different movements was a desire to strengthen the Zionist movement (through making aliyah), and a commitment to peer-led structures and informal education. Most held regular meetings and highlighted the importance of shared experiences and the creation of a Jewish counter-culture. Sound familiar?
A meeting of the HeChalutz youth movement in Shadova, Lithuania at a training farm in the 1930s in preparation for their eventual aliyah.
Most of ZYMs in Europe were ‘pioneering’ which meant that one of their main focuses was the transport of people to British Mandate Palestine and the settling of the land there. Many of the movements who were Socialist favored building kibbutzim. During the period of the Second Aliyah (1904-1914), 60% of the pioneers were aged between 15 to 25. From this it was clear that well-organised, informed, and motivated young people do make a difference. These early chalutzim were often rejected by the adults of their own communities as foolish dreamers but many of them succeeded in putting their theory into practice. In British Mandate Palestine there was a restriction on Jewish immigration to the country, making acquisition of immigration certificates very difficult. The ZYMs played a significant role in promoting illegal immigration to Palestine between 1934 and 1944 in order to enact their belief in building a Jewish State.In the years just before Israel’s creation the ZYMs also helped in settling and defending the land. Between 1936 and 1938 groups of young people would arrive in a place and over the course of a single day and night build a homa u'migdal (wall and tower) to signify that this was a Jewish place of settlement.
At that age Rachel Bluwstein (often just called ‘Rachel’) moved to Palestine. She was the 11th daughter to the Rabbi in Kiev, and in 1909 she moved. Life, study, and wars took her on a different path where she ended up back in Russia, but she always yearned to be back in Palestine. Rachel joined one of the earliest Kibbutzim on the shores of Lake Kinneret, but she became sick and was sent away. She died at the age of 40 in Tel Aviv but is now known as one of Israel’s greatest poets.
What were/are your plans for the age of 19?
ZYMs IN THE EARLY STATE OF ISRAEL
As the state was being created in 1948, the youth movements joined the battle for its security. Most members of the Palmach, the fighting arm of the Haganah (the pre-state army), came from youth movements.
ZYM continued to play an important role in the Israeli Defense Force. Traditionally the Nachal combat unit was made up of people who had grown up in the same youth movement and after serving in the IDF would continue on as a group and settle a new, or small, kibbutz.
During the Shoah Jews were forced into ghettos all across Europe. In some of these ghettos (most famously in Warsaw and Vilna) the members of lots of different ZYMs came together to establish Jewish fighting forces to rebel against the Nazis. Although they knew that they would not defeat the Nazi machine they felt as though fighting was one way to maintain their dignity through this awful period. Many of the survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising were members of Dror (which became Habonim Dror). After the war was over they travelled to Palestine and established several kibbutzim including Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, literally meaning ‘Kibbutz of the Ghetto Fighters’. (They have some brilliant resources online).
Youth movements continue to be a big part in Israeli life and culture. At the age of around nine children will start attending regular youth movement activities during the week and on Shabbat. There is still a very strong pioneering focus to lots of Israeli groups so activities frequently include tiyulim (hikes) around the country. At fifteen some become madrichot/im. Some ZYMs, like HaNoar HaOved V’HaLomed have tried hard to create branches in the Bedouin and Arab-Israeli population. However, many ZYMs are limited to Jewish citizens of Israel (although there is also a big youth movement amongst the Druze community). The Israeli snif of Netzer-Olami in Israel is called Noar Telem. The biggest ZYM in Israel is the Tzofim (Scouts) who have an overall membership of 100,000 including around 20,000 non-Jewish members.
RSY-Netzer has its own glorious and grand (and slightly newer) history. You can find out more about the beginning of RSY-Netzer on the website
With thanks to Paul Lipz, Libby Burkeman, and Daniel Rose whose hard work I stole. For any more info, to geek-out over Zionist Youth Movements, or to chat through your peulah ideas please do get in touch: [email protected]
How about you delve deeper into what it means to be a youth movement and make your mishpacha it's own mini-youth movement within camp? What would it need to succeed? What about instead of a colour wars or mishpacha olympics you hold a Zionist Youth Movement congress where all the movements compete to see who has the best vision for Israel and the most effective plan to make it happen?
THE FIRST ZIONIST CONGRESS
The Zionist Congress is the parliament of the Zionist movement. Jewish Zionist groups from all around the world and from across the spectrum of political and religious beliefs are represented at the congress. The congress is supposed to set the agenda for the work of the World Zionist Organisation and elects the leadership of its departments and decides how it should spend its money and other resources.
The First Zionist Congress was famously convened by Theodore Herzl in Basel in 1897. Its goal was to bring together all the different Zionist groups and enable them to create a shared language and goals for the political Zionist movement.
Its regular meetings created the structures that the Zionist movement needed to start to achieve its goals. The congress created a global Zionist organisation and established ways to fund the movement.
The First Zionist Congress was a symbolic parliament for those supporting the implementation of Zionist Goals.
The approximate figure in attendance was 200, 69 delegates from Zionist societies and the remainder were individual invitees. There were 10 non-Jews who were expected to abstain from voting.
17 women were at the congress, some in their own capacity and others accompanying representatives. Whilst women participated in the first Zionist Congress, they did not have voting rights. Full membership was given the following year, at the second Zionist congress.
The WZO developed several branches including the Jewish National Fund (JNF) whose job was purchasing the land of Israel, and the early Jewish Agency whose job was to look after security, Aliyah and education. You probably recognise these names as they are some of the key organisations involved in running parts of the State of Israel today.
THE DECLARATION OF THE STATE
The establishment of the State of Israel was declared on the 14th of May 1948 in what is now called Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. The timing is dramatic, just a few hours before the British Mandate, the administrative and military rule by British Forces for decades, is set finally to end. When the British leave we will for the first time in 2000 years, have our own state. That is the assertion. Months earlier, on the 29 of November, the UN had granted permission for a Jewish State through the Partition Plan. The day after the Declaration the 1948 War of Independence begins.
The Declaration can be felt as a courageous act, a seizing of Jewish history, in this dramatic context. Full copies of the declaration are available online at www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org
but it should be listened to on YouTube. It is emphatically read by David Ben-Gurion who would go on to be the 1st Prime Minister of the State.
Aside from the drama of the moment, the Declaration offers me as a Reform Zionist two important frameworks.
Firstly, most of the 1st half of the Declaration, tells a classic, and crucial Zionist narrative. A story explaining the essence of Zionism, why Jews have the right to national self-determination in the land of Israel. The ancient land shaped us and our Torah, religiously and politically. During 2000 years of exile we never gave up on the land, praying for a return. The 1st Zionist Congress of 1897 stepped-up this desire practically and politically. The Balfour Declaration asserted the right for this return specifically to the land of Israel. The UN have now granted it. The Holocaust has proven the need for Jewish self-protection through national self-determination . The Declaration asserts a “natural and historical right” to the land. “Right” is the key word in the 1st half of the Declaration. While listening to this core Zionist narrative we may be struck by the claims, and we may be aware of the possibility and existence of other important, conflicting narratives. We may, for example, notice the way it elides two thousand years of Diasporic creativity and life into one period of exile, in its “From the Tanakh to the Palmach” thrust. However, the fundamental story is important and in many ways, regardless of its simplicity and problems, it can strike me as a true and important story.
The 2nd framework that the Declaration gives me as a Reform Zionist is one of critique and activism. Israel exists and it is our collective task to contribute to it being better. The 2nd half of the Declaration insists that the State will be built on the principles of “Freedom, Justice and Peace”; one may listen and hear, somewhere in the murky background, decades later, the calls of those without freedom of movement, calling for Justice, in the Occupied Territories. The State will:
The Declaration offers us the language of moral aspiration for and commitment to Israel. In its totality, the Declaration can remind me why it is important that Israel exists, and why we must continue to build it morally.
“ENSURE COMPLETE EQUALITY OF SOCIAL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS TO ALL ITS INHABITANTS IRRESPECTIVE OF RELIGION, RACE OR SEX; IT WILL GUARANTEE FREEDOM OF RELIGION, CONSCIENCE, LANGUAGE, EDUCATION AND CULTURE; IT WILL SAFEGUARD THE HOLY PLACES OF ALL RELIGIONS; AND IT WILL BE FAITHFUL TO THE PRINCIPLES OF THE CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS”.
Herzl called for the First Zionist Congress in order to plan for the Jewish State. Have your own Zionist Congress to enable the chanichim to plan their own state and what it would look like today.
Reading these commitments our thoughts might turn to women sent to one end of the bus to be segregated from men in Haredi areas of Jerusalem, or the “price-tag” vandalism of non-Jewish religious sites committed by Jewish settlers, and the seemingly inadequate state and civic responses to such phenomena.
A perspective on the moment of the declaration from 'A Tale of Love and darnkness' by Amoz Oz
...an otherworldy silence descended and froze the scene, a terrified, panic-stricken silence, a silence of hundreds of people holding their breath, such as I have never heard in my life either before or after that night. Then the thick, slightly hoarse voice came back, shaking the air as it summed up with a rough dryness brimming with excitement: Thirty-three for. Thirteen against. Ten abstentions and one country absent from the vote. The resolution is approved.
My father and mother were standing there hugging one another like two children lost in the woods, as I had never seen them before or since, and for a moment I was between them inside their hug and a moment later I was back on Father’s shoulders and my very cultured, polite father was standing there shouting at the top of his voice, not words or wordplay or Zionist slogans, not even cries of joy, but one long naked shout like before words were invented.
On May 14, 1948, on the day in which the British Mandate over Palestine expired, the Jewish People's Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum, and approved the following proclamation, declaring the establishment of the State of Israel. The new state was recognized that night by the United States and three days later by the USSR. And here is an extract...
ACCORDINGLY WE, MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLE'S COUNCIL, REPRESENTATIVES OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF ERETZ-ISRAEL AND OF THE ZIONIST MOVEMENT, ARE HERE ASSEMBLED ON THE DAY OF THE TERMINATION OF THE BRITISH MANDATE OVER ERETZISRAEL AND, BY VIRTUE OF OUR NATURAL AND HISTORIC RIGHT AND ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, HEREBY DECLARE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, TO BE KNOWN AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL.
WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People's Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People's Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called "Israel".
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
THE STATE OF ISRAEL is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.
WE APPEAL to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to receive the State of Israel into the comity of nations.
WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.
WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.
WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the ageold dream - the redemption of Israel.
PLACING OUR TRUST IN THE ALMIGHTY, WE AFFIX OUR SIGNATURES TO THIS PROCLAMATION AT THIS SESSION OF THE PROVISIONAL COUNCIL OF STATE, ON THE SOIL OF THE HOMELAND, IN THE CITY OF TEL-AVIV, ON THIS SABBATH EVE, THE 5TH DAY OF IYAR, 5708 (14TH MAY,1948).
Yitzchak Ben Zvi
Rabbi Wolf Gold
Dr. Abraham Granovsky
Rabbi Kalman Kahana
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Levin
Meir David Loewenstein
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Hacohen
David Zvi Pinkas
Ben Zion Sternberg
Starting a new relationship
Travelling to Israel as someone who grew up in the Jewish community is like going on a blind date that a good friend or a family member set you up with. You're not quite sure why, but you trust that you’ve been set up with someone suitable. Knowing so little about this person from someone else's perspective can be a bit confusing but there is no better way than just going for it and seeing for yourself. Taking a risk and meeting this person. You might have heard about Israel at a Shabbat service, at camp or synagogue, read somethings in the news or been told by your family, but this is your time to see for yourself and explore your relationship with the homeland of the Jewish people, our people.
Starting to date a new person can be a bit embarrassing sometimes. You might try to search for some information on Facebook and get a bit of an idea of who they are, but as you might know, Facebook profiles are not real life and people are more complicated than pics or hashtags.
Meeting in person, talking, sharing moments and getting to know them in depth is what it is all about. We are all trying to show our best selves online, our happiest moments and our smartest moments. Meeting a person in real life gives you the opportunity to see lots of sides and levels of a personality and only with that – deciding if this is the right person for you. You can see Israel from pics online or even travelling with google maps to see places, but there is nothing like seeing things for yourself.
Seeing the difference between the thousand year old holy city of Jerusalem and the more modern upbeat Tel Aviv, Just 40 minutes away from each other. You can see pics of Marzipan's rugalach on Machne Yehuda market in Jerusalem or just taste it yourself, and God forbid, you might see that you don’t even like it (there’s no way it could happen by the way). There is nothing better than meeting in person and understanding the complex and beauty of them, the highs and the lows.
Exploring the north of Israel, seeing the green land and feeling the humid air, traveling only 2.5 hours south and feeling the sand of the desert in your feet and the burn of the dead sea's salt on your skin when you are floating on the water with a book in your hand (for a good Instagram pic obviously).
After dating for a while, like in every good Jewish family, you'll have to meet your partner's family. Meeting them, you'll see where this person came from, the values they grew up with, their language and so much more.
Meeting them on skype wouldn’t be as real as coming to their home, meeting the weird uncle, the funny sister or trying the grandfather's food. When you come to Israel, you will meet so many different family members with so many opinions of how Israel is and how it should be and not everyone will agree with one another all the time, not even you. But eventually, all of these opinions come from love and care. Knowing this person from different sides will make you see different things about your partner and make your relationship deeper. Israel is more than just nice sites and great food.
Meeting different Israelis and listening to their stories and their ideas about the country that they are living in is priceless. Connecting to the culture and feeling belonging to the family is only real when you actually want to, and not because someone told you that you should.
As you progress with your relationship you understand that nobody is perfect, you might fight a bit or disagree on different things. We all have our good sides and the less good ones. You should see Israel from your point of view, explore the land and see places with your own eyes, hike the desert, swim in the sea, pray at the western wall, taste the food, smell the spices in the markets listen to the music and the people.
Get to know Israel and establish your own relationship. When you really get to know someone - you make a choice, you choose to love them because of who they are, with their good sides and less good ones, and if you love someone with all their flaws, that's TRUE LOVE.
The total area of the State of Israel is 8,630 sq. miles (22,145 sq.km.), of which 8,367 sq. miles (21,671 sq. km.) is land area. Israel is some 470 km. (290 miles) in length and about 85 miles (135 km.) across at the widest point. The country is bordered by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, Egypt to the southwest and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.
Mountains and plains, fertile land, and desert are often minutes apart. The width of the country, from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Dead Sea in the east, can be crossed by car in about 90 minutes; and the trip from Metulla, in the far North, to Eilat at the country's southern tip takes about nine hours.
The coastal plain runs parallel to the Mediterranean Sea and is composed of a sandy shoreline, bordered by stretches of fertile farmland extending up to 25 miles (40 km.) inland.
In the North, expanses of sandy beach are occasionally punctuated by jagged chalk and sandstone cliffs. The coastal plain is home to more than half of Israel's 7 million people and includes major urban centers, deep-water harbors, most of the country's industry, and a large part of its agriculture and tourist facilities.
Why not transform a space into an immersive map of Israel so your chanichim can explore the different sides to Israel's geography?
Several mountain ranges run the length of the country. In the northeast, the basalt landscapes of the Golan Heights, formed by volcanic eruptions in the distant past, rise as steep cliffs overlooking the Hula Valley.
The hills of Galilee, largely composed of soft limestone and dolomite, ascend to heights ranging from 1,600 to 4,000 feet (500 to 1,200 m.) above sea level. Small perennial streams and relatively ample rainfall keep the area green all year round. Many residents of Galilee and the Golan are engaged in agriculture, tourism-related enterprises, and light industry.
The Jezreel Valley, separating the hills of Galilee from those of Samaria, is Israel's richest agricultural area, cultivated by many cooperative communities (kibbutzim and moshavim). The rolling hills of Samaria and Judea (the West Bank) present a mosaic of rocky hilltops and fertile valleys, dotted with groves of age-old, silver-green olive trees. The terraced hillsides, first developed by farmers in ancient times, blend into the natural landscape. The population is concentrated mainly in small urban centers and large villages.
Israel may be divided into four geographical regions: three parallel strips running north to south and a large, mostly arid, zone in the southern half.
The Negev, comprising about half of Israel's land area, is sparsely inhabited, its population supported by an agricultural and industrial economy. Further south, the Negev becomes an arid zone characterized by low sandstone hills and plains, abounding with canyons and wadis in which winter rains often produce flash floods.
At the tip of the Negev, near Eilat on the Red Sea, sharp pinnacles of gray and red granite are broken by dry gorges and sheer cliffs, with colorful layers of sandstone glowing in the sunlight.
Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), nestled between the hills of Galilee and the Golan Heights at 695 feet (212 m.) below sea level, is 8 km. (5 miles) wide and 21 km. (13 miles) long. It is Israel's largest lake and serves as the country's main water reservoir. Along Lake Kinneret's shores are some important historical and religious sites, as well as agricultural communities, fisheries and tourist facilities.
The Jordan River, flowing from north to south through the Rift, descends over 2,300 feet (700 m.) in the course of its 186 mile (300 km.) route. Fed by streams from Mount Hermon, it runs through the fertile Hula Valley into Lake Kinneret and continues winding through the Jordan Valley before emptying into the Dead Sea. While it swells during the winter rainy season, the river is usually quite narrow and shallow.
The Arava, Israel's savannah region, begins south of the Dead Sea and extends to the Gulf of Eilat, Israel's outlet to the Red Sea.
*This map shows the geographical features of Israel and the territories beyond the Green Line in the West Bank and Gaza
THE NARRATIVE OF ISRAEL'S BORDERS
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single country in possession of a good deal of independence must be in want of a border. At a most basic level, countries are defined by their borders – by the territory that is part of them, and by the territory that is not. Think of the Second World War, fought, initially, over German infringement of Poland’s borders. Think of Donald Trump’s “plan” to “build” a “wall” to keep Mexican immigrants from crossing the southern border of the United States. Think, however, of Israel, and the whole question of borders suddenly becomes much more complicated.
Israel’s founding was endorsed by the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which called for the establishment of 2 states – one Jewish, one Palestinian Arab – in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine.
The plan was, at its most basic, a map, with a relatively complicated series of borders between the two would-be countries.
However, the borders established by the partition plan were never more than lines on pieces of paper. Arab leaders and authorities rejected the plan and any form of territorial division and civil war broke out.
In accepting the plan, the Zionist movement was already compromising in ways that would have political ramifications later. The right-wing Revisionists abhorred compromise, and saw the entire area between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordanian border with Iraq as the “Jewish homeland”. Even significant parts of the Labour movement, the centre-left leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine, opposed anything less than the full land from the river Jordan to the sea.
In practice, the outcome of the 1948 war of independence – after the establishment of Israel, end of the mandate & immediate invasion by neighbouring countries – meant that the point at which Israel stopped and ‘not-Israel’ started was already quite different. The 1949 armistice lines – the so-called Green Line, named after the colour they were drawn in on the final, agreed-upon map – has become recognised internationally as Israel’s legal border.
Everyone living inside the Green Line was given Israeli citizenship, irrespective of their religion or national identity. The areas of the British mandate that were beyond the Green Line – the West Bank & Gaza – came under the control of Jordan and Egypt, respectively, although neither actually became part of Jordan or Egypt as they didn’t want them. Both were populated exclusively by Palestinian Arabs; the small numbers of Jewish settlements in these areas were destroyed in the war.
This period of relative certainty came to a relatively swift end in 1967. The 6-Day War (so-called because it was 1. A war & 2. 6 days long) ended with Israel in control of the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights. This also included East Jerusalem, containing what is often termed Judaism’s ‘holiest site’ and one of Islam’s ‘holiest sites’, the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif as well as The Western Wall, the closest spot to the Temple Mount where ultra-Orthodox Jews are permitted to pray. For the first time, Mt. Zion – where Zionism gets its name – was under Israeli hands.
You could create a map of Israel on a field and have the chanichim stand inside. You could demonstrate the changing borders with partitions and hand out passports to represent changing citizenship
In 1982, Israel would give the Sinai back to Egypt as part of the Camp David Accords – the first peace deal between Israel and a neighbouring country – and in 2005 Israel would decide to leave Gaza, without negotiating with the Palestinians, evacuating several thousand Israeli settlers and all Israeli military from the region. Memories of the Gaza evacuation, where settlers had to be forcibly removed from their homes in order to fulfil the agreement to dismantle Jewish Settlements in Palestinian territory, continue to inform Israeli opinion on the idea of evacuating settlements in the West Bank. The political vacuum left by Israel in Gaza led to war, both between Palestinian groups and between Hamas and Israel.
However, over 2.6 million Palestinians continue to live under military occupation in the West Bank. Even with the territory divided in terms of control under the 1995 Oslo II Accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians do not have any meaningful borders of their own. In the 1990s, the great hope for Palestinians and Israelis was for – at its core – a firm border. With ongoing cycles of violence since, that need for a border has never seemed more urgent, but the political will to make concessions, like Israel made with Egypt, has never seemed further away.
Over the next few decades, hundreds of Israeli settlements are established in the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan and the Sinai, and several Israeli neighbourhoods are built in East Jerusalem. Only East Jerusalem and the Golan are formally annexed by Israel – meaning that Israel did not, and still does not, legally recognise the other territories it controls beyond the Green Line such as Area C in the West Bank, as “within its borders”. The international community does not recognise any territory beyond the Green Line as legally “Israel”, and the West Bank, Gaza and Sinai were governed under direct military occupation by the IDF.
What happens next is emblematic of Israel’s priorities at the time to assert its position and would profoundly shape the situation on the ground to this day. Israel annexes Palestinian East Jerusalem, including the Old City, meaning it adds Palestinian territories to its own and expands the city’s borders to include large tracts of land around the city and dozens of Palestinian villages. No countries recognise East Jerusalem as part of Israel.
The great task of Zionism and the Israel-Palestine peace process in the 21st century is to build that political will. Without it, the continued occupation of the West Bank and refusal to engage with Gaza threatens Israel’s long-term future.
REFORM JUDAISM'S RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAEL
By the turn of the 18th Century, the world was a changing place, and for the Jewish people it was the beginning of a new era. The emancipation (abolition of discriminatory laws) and naturalisation (process of granting citizenship) of the Jews all over Europe throughout this period brought with it a series of choices for the Jewish People. Whether to keep living the shtetl life they had been accustomed to, or now that the option was available, integrate more with the national identity of the country and communities they were a part of. Reform Judaism came out of this struggle, of trying to fit a Jewish identity, along with a National one.
When the idea of Zionism struts into the picture in the mid 1800’s, this presented another option for Jewish People. People no longer had to choose between the state and religion in a Jewish State and they would be free from the historic anti-Semitism of Europe.
This sets the scene to look at Reform Judaism’s relationship with Israel. Starting off, you can see why it may be a little icy
In the build up to and after the Shoah, Reform Judaism’s attitudes towards Zionism and Israel began to change. The isolation and alienation of the Jews within mainland Europe reinforced the idea that the Jewish people would never be safe or able to live alongside their non-Jewish counterparts in Europe and around the world. The idea of a Jewish State and homeland became more appealing.
At the time when Israel was being founded, Reform Judaism didn’t have much presence or influence in the global Jewish community, and as such there was little or no representation for Reform Jews in the country that was formed.
The British Reform Movement accepted Zionism in the 1980’s and as Israel develops as a nation, Reform Jews and Reform Zionist relationships with Israel have grown complex.
As the Reform Jewish voice within Israel and from the Diaspora has grown, Israeli society and laws have incorporated some of these views as their own. A recent example of this was the success of the Women of the Wall campaign to ensure a place for egalitarian prayer at the Kotel.
Building on our Reform Jewish Values and our relationship with Israel is of paramount importance for Reform Zionists. It’s also important to remember that Reform Zionism encompasses a large spectrum of beliefs and opinions, with varying degrees of support and criticism. It’s our job as educators on camp, to help other young people find and understand their Reform Jewish Values and their relationship with Israel.
– ‘why do you need to move away, start from scratch? We can be Jewish here, if we practise our Judaism differently’.
• Reform Judaism initially rejected Zionism
• It was thought Jews may have had their loyalty to their home states questioned due to allegiance to another national movement
• For example, Rabbi Posnanski of Temple Beth Elohim, Charleston, South Carolina declared ‘This country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple!’
• Following the trauma of the Holocaust, Reform Jews began to recognise the need for Zionism, though it was a slow process…
• … ‘We are committed to Medinat Yisrael…we affirm the unique qualities of living in Eretz Yisrael, and encourage Aliyah, immigration to Israel’ – statement at the 1999 Pittsburgh Convention of the Reform Movement
BACKGROUND from Annie Levy:
A HISTORY OF REFORM ZIONISM
The history of Reform Zionism? Well, in order to study a movement/group/ideology’s history, we first need to ask the question… What is Reform Zionism?? In answering this question, we will consider ideological, historical, religious and political factors, which, along with the rest of this magnificent choveret will give us a fuller insight into our movement’s ideology…
The question of “What is Reform Zionism?” was actually first addressed to me while I was on Shnat-Netzer. During one of the Machon tiyulim (trips), each of the 5 different youth movements had 10 minutes to present their movement to the rest of the group. Being the ideological keen-beans we were, our RSY-Netzer group was thrilled at this opportunity! However… when we got to explaining exactly what Reform Zionism is, we found ourselves stuck for what to say!? Shnatties! Keen ideological beans! We had the vague feeling… liberal Zionism, Tikkun Olam, Women of the Wall, balancing democracy and religion… you know… But a definition? a history? We couldn’t quite get it together.
That experience led me to seek out a variety of ideas from different organisations, movements and individuals that might be able to help us out…
Reform Zionism is an ideological and a political movement, and works through organizations such as ARZA (Association of Reform Zionists of America), ARZA Canada, and the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. Although Reform Judaism was originally anti-Zionist, it has completely turned around and is now at the forefront of Zionist advocacy. Through its focus on Tikkun Olam, Reform Zionism places a greater emphasis on social justice and a betterment of society within Israel.
From the NFTY website (our Netzer snif in North America):
From the Scriptures of Wikipedia:
Reform Zionism is the ideology of the Zionist arm of Reform Judaism. The Association of Reform Zionists of America, ARZA is the American Reform movement's Zionist organization. Their mission “endeavours to make Israel fundamental to the sacred lives and Jewish identity of Reform Jews. As a Zionist organization, ARZA champions activities that further enhance Israel as a pluralistic, just and democratic Jewish state.” In Israel, Reform Zionism is associated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. In 1978, ARZA began working to conceptualize a Zionism that took the universalistic ideals of Reform Judaism, as well as the particular needs of all Jewish people, into account. Through the ideal of Tikkun Olam, Reform Zionism sees the role of the State of Israel as the means by which the messianic era can be achieved, by acting as a "light unto the nations", a national example of ideal prophetic principles of justice and peace. For the Reform Zionist, this means that by working to make Israel a better place, one can lead the world in working towards a state of perfection. Due to this, the Reform Zionist movement is heavily involved in social activism in Israel. As a religious, rather than political, ideology, Reform Zionism and its organizations do not see themselves as inherently political, and do not align with any Israeli political party or movement.
From ARTZA (Association of Reform Zionists of America):
Reform Zionism is Zionism infused with the values and principles cherished by Reform Judaism, including religious equality for women and men, a commitment to Tikkun Olam, the creation by individuals of meaningful Jewish lives through informed choice, and so on. Some of those characteristics are shared by other forms of Zionism while others are unique to Reform Zionism.
So NFTY says it’s a political thing, but Wikipedia claims we are apolitical. Everyone agrees it has something to do with Tikkun Olam, but no one can decide if Reform Zionism is the Zionist arm of the Reform Movement or an ideology in and of itself, about values, critique of Israel and vision??
Rabbi Haim Shalom provided me with one of the most compelling and engaging definitions, which particularly speaks to the history of the movement:
By the time the modern era was in full swing, around the end of the 19th century, a number of different Jewish responses to this massive change in the way of the world had emerged. Amongst many ideas, two of these were Reform Judaism, and Zionism. Reform Judaism aimed to make “being Jewish” a modern thing, by integrating modern life and Jewish religion. Zionism took something inherently modern (building a nation state), and made it a Jewish thing… Initially these 2 seemed to to directly oppose one another, and, as such, the universalist, European Reform movement was originally pretty non-Zionist, and there was basically no Reform Judaism in the very particularist, nationalist early state of Israel. However, in time, some saw a way to merge the two…
being Jewish in a modern way AND being modern in a Jewish way.
The Reform movement did come round to the Zionist idea. In America this happened at the rabbinic conference in 1937. This change came in large part in the aftermath of the Shoah. Jews thought they had received full rights and equal status at the dawn of modernity. However, it was clear this promise had not lived up to Jewish hopes. Jews were still seen as, to a certain extent, different. This led to an acceptance and embracing of Zionism and clear acknowledgment of the centrality of Israel within Jewish identity today. The British Reform movement was heavily convinced of Zionism by its youth movement, our very own RSY-Netzer, in the 1980s.
We can see there are lots of definitions of ‘Reform Zionism’ around...
We focus on Tikkun Olam, social justice and the betterment of society within Israel. Our Reform Jewish values define our vision for the State of Israel. Political Zionism may have finished in 1948 with the founding of the state of Israel, but Reform Zionists believe that there is still work to be done...
Israel must still grow and develop to live out the biblical ideal of acting as a "light unto the nations", as the Israeli declaration of independence says, “it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
WHAT DOES RSY-NETZER SAY???
From the Abridged RSY-Netzer P, B and A
We choose to define Reform Zionism as being Zionist – believing there should be a Jewish state in the Land of Israel – with our Reform Jewish values, including the ideals of peace, equality and justice, made central to how we create a truly Jewish state. Love and care for Israel are central, but we also are not afraid to wrestle with problems we feel are present in Israel and believe we are more responsible friends of Israel if we try to act on these problems instead of ignoring them. It is our hope that Israel can be a “light to the nations”, as it says in the Prophets.
We recognise there are many viewpoints within our movement and we value and encourage that diversity of opinion because we believe that there can be dialogue between these perspectives rather than just conflict.
Through the general beliefs of our Reform Zionism, we believe:
• Peace is the highest priority and a two-state solution (Israel and Palestine) is the best hope for safety and security, even if it requires painful compromise.
• In the principle of religious pluralism in Judaism and that Israel should be a home for all streams, not just a selection.
• All people in Israel should be equal, regardless of their religion.
Our beliefs and vision for Israel shape how we engage with Israel on all events. To this end, we:
• Encourage our chaverim to make Aliyah Nimshechet (continuous Aliyah) – moving to Israel to live out our Reform Zionist values whilst there – and support those who wish to do so.
• Promote the use and importance of the Hebrew language on events.
• Support and work with causes and organisations which are in line with our beliefs to try and encourage change in Israel.
• Include many perspectives in our education, including Arab perspectives, and encourage debate between those in the movement who have different views.
• Keep links between ourselves and Reform communities in Israel.
• Sing the Israeli National Anthem – Ha’Tikva – at the beginning and end of all our events, with a paragraph of explanation alongside it.
• Promote spending time in Israel on programmes such as Shnat Netzer.
What does Reform Zionism mean?
What is our vision for Israel?
What does our Reform Zionism mean in RSY-Netzer?
Why should you be a Reform Zionist? Can you get your chanichim to create a Reform Zionism advertising campaign with television adverts and posters, Twitter accounts and Facebook and Instagram feeds? What values would they include in their Reform Zionist campaign?
21ST CENTURY ZIONIST HEROES
What makes a Zionist hero?
For people with different ideologies their Zionist hero would most likely be a different person. As RSY-Netzer I think we can define our heroes in line with our ideology and definition of Reform Zionism. They could be someone who makes Aliyah or who already lives in Israel and works on the basis of their Reform Jewish values to improve the land of Israel so that it can live up to the state as defined by the Declaration of Independence.
So who are they? The truth is that there are way too many for us to list here, so we have selected just a handful that show the wide variety of very recent Reform Zionist Heroes:
Haim was born in Manchester and is a seventh generation Reform Jew. He attended RSY-Netzer growing up and went on lots of events including Shnat Netzer. He then made Aliyah and after working for Netzer Olami was ordained as a Rabbi by HUC-JIR. Haim may argue in another article that he hasn’t done a great job of Aliya nimshechet, but we think differently. We are proud of Haim and all he does for HUC and training new rabbis. As a Rabbi his actions are clearly based on Reform values and we believe the important work of training new Reform rabbis to service new and growing Reform Synagogues in Israel is vital to changing the face of Israel. By increasing the number of synagogues and having more Rabbis, we as Reform Jews become a stronger voice that has to be listened to. This impact can already be seen by the work of IRAC and Rabbis for Human Rights.
Katie grew up in RSY-Netzer, culminating in her going on Shnat Netzer and being a madricha on Israel Tour. Katie made Aliyah not long after graduating from University and began her own Aliyah nimshechet. Katie regularly organises volunteer campaigns in Israel to help those less fortunate. She has also continued to remain involved in RSY-Netzer, helping to support and promote our work. This has most recently taken the form of being a mekasheret (coordinator) for Israel Tour. She has an impact on a daily basis through being a counsellor, improving individual’s lives – through her volunteering and Tikkun Olam work her Zionism is built on a strong Reform Jewish basis.
Dr. Michael Livni (Langer) is a Zionist educator and a member of Kibbutz Lotan. Born in Vienna, Austria in 1935, Michael Livni grew up in Vancouver, Canada. At university he was active in the Student Zionist Organization. From 1975-1977, he was the first shaliach (emissary) to the Reform movement in America and he then worked for the Israeli Reform Youth Movement and for the World Zionist Organisation. He moved to Lotan in 1986 and continued to work in Jewish and Zionist education there, whilst also writing articles. Michael Livni is a Reform Zionist hero, not only because he has written extensively on the matter and is a leading thinker in it, but he continues to live on Kibbutz Lotan, which is one of only 2 Reform Kibbutzim, specialising in eco tourism and recycling.
Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel. Previously, she held a seat on the Jerusalem City Council, where for fourteen years she stood in opposition to the policies of the city’s right-wing and ultra-Orthodox administration. She has dedicated her adult life to the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, which is a central value in Reform Judaism.
Currently a number of our bogrim are researching and considering making Aliyah (if not already making it this summer) and we view each and every one of them as our Zionist Heroes. They are in discussions about what they can do to make their Aliyah within an ideological framework. They are considering setting up an Ir-butz, which is a city based communal kibbutz structure and generally how to make the changes that they want to see in Israel a reality. We are proud of them and would like to support them in whatever way we can. If anyone is interested in joining this group, please do let us know!
Can you be a Zionist hero and not live in Israel?
Based on the definition of a Zionist hero being someone who works to improve Israel on Reform values I think you could argue that you can be a Zionist hero in the diaspora. The more important question though is perhaps whether you can have a significant impact on Israel from such a distance? Some people may be able to do that by being activists and campaigners, but being at such a distance does make it harder. A key example of this is looking at the Israeli elections and the fact that as much campaigning and activism that we can do from the diaspora, if we can’t vote in the Israeli elections then it makes it harder for our voice to be heard.
• Reform Judaism initially rejected Zionism
• It was thought Jews may have had their loyalty to their home states questioned due to allegiance to another national movement
• For example, Rabbi Posnanski of Temple Beth Elohim, Charleston, South Carolina declared ‘This country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple!’
• Following the trauma of the Holocaust, Reform Jews began to recognise the need for Zionism, though it was a slow process…
• … ‘We are committed to Medinat Yisrael…we affirm the unique qualities of living in Eretz Yisrael, and encourage Aliyah, immigration to Israel’ – statement at the 1999 Pittsburgh Convention of the Reform Movement
Meanwhile, in Palestine/Israel:
• Labour Zionism was being manifested in Eretz Yisrael, as the ideology arrived with the Second Aliyah (1903-1914)
• Key thinkers such as A.D.Gordon gained influence, spreading their ideas, that:
• Jews were socially inferior as they were landless, and did not do ‘productive’ labour (agriculture and basic industry)
• Jewish ‘restoration’ had to be brought about by changing the economic and social reality of the Jewish people. A political solution would only be possible when Jewish workers and farmers held the economic power to influence events
• The agency of the working class is KEY to Zionism
• In 1927 this ideology culminated in the creation of HaKibbutz HaMeuhad (The United Kibbutz), a predecessor of the Kibbutz Movement
• Kibbutzim were created across the length of Eretz Yisrael, primarily founded by Socialist Zionist youth movements such as Hashomer Hatzair
Reform Zionism and Kibbutzim:
• In the 1970s, groups of young Reform Jews from the United States, Britain, Australia and elsewhere, decided to move to Israel and actualise their Zionist dreams
• The majority of these young people were bogrim of snifim (branches) of Netzer, including RSY-Netzer
• They identified with the mission of likeminded left-wing Zionists, in particular the Labour Zionists who had formed early Kibbutzim
• In 1976 young Reform Jews founded Kibbutz Yahel, and in 1983 Kibbutz Lotan, initially named Yahel ב
• A key aim of these Kibbutzim was to demonstrate how to be a hagshama (embodiment of ideology), living out the ideology of Reform Zionism, by living in tight-knit, co-dependent communities in Israel and practising Reform Judaism. Values of Reform Judaism are woven in to the ideology and mission statements of the Kibbutzim, which work towards creating a progressive expression of Jewish religion and culture in rituals and day-to-day life
• The first Reform Kibbutz
• Located in the Arava, in the Southern Negev desert
• Founded November 1976, as a joint venture of the United Kibbutz Movement and the Movement for Progressive Judaism
• Currently has 65 members aged 25-45 and 80 children of members
• 60% of members are Israeli-born ‘sabras’, and 40% are ‘olim’ (new immigrants) from the United States, South Africa, the United Kingdom, South America, Romania, France and Russia
• Kibbutz Yahel makes a profit, due to its successful farming of dates, pomelos, onions, watermelons and peppers, its exotic fruit processing plant, 500 dairy cows and its tourism branch – many Kibbutzim have not been able to create a viable means by which to make a profit
• The Kibbutz’s ultimate authority lies in asephot, meetings of all members, and various va’adot (committees) dedicated to all areas of Kibbutz life, from education to absorption of new members, to care for the next generation, currently in university or the army
• The Kibbutz has a Reform synagogue, which holds services on Friday night, Saturday morning and chagim
• Supplemented with Jewish education delivered by a Rabbi and a youth leader
• Founded in 1983 by idealistic Israeli and American youth
• Also located in the Arava, in the Southern Negev desert
• Based on pluralistic, egalitarian and creative Jewish values, as well as a commitment to environmentalism
• A member of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, and the location of a snif of Noar Telem (Israeli Netzer)
• 150 people live on Lotan, including 20 members’ families, rent paying residents, volunteers, shinshinim (Israeli 18 year olds on a pre-army gap year), educational groups and (sometimes) shnatties!
• Main income is from the cultivation of Medjoul and Dekel Noir dates, dairy cows, eco-tourism, training courses in permaculture and sustainable design, and external work in the region
• The Kibbutz is home to the EcoKef, an ecological campus which pioneers techniques of permaculture, sustainable design and urban farming.
• The Kibbutz’s facilities have been used to demonstrate methods of farming to local Jordanian villages, and to bring together Palestinians and Israelis in pursuit of dialogue and coexistence
• The Kibbutz privatised in January 2015 due to deep financial trouble, meaning individuals now receive personal wages based on the work they do, and can own their property
• Michael Livni, a resident of Kibbutz Lotan and influential Reform Zionist thinker, said of his life on Lotan ‘I feel connected to an aim that is over and above myself…that gave significance to my day to day life’, and that ‘we relate here through our landscape to our history’
‘What’s next?’ ‘So what?’ ‘What can we do?’ and other big questions:
• 72% of Kibbutzim are now privatised – whilst they are still something to be proud of, are they the most relevant way to be Reform Zionists in Israel today?
• What does this mean for Reform Zionist hagshama looking forward?
• Food for thought: Youth movements such as Habonim Dror have started founding Irbutzim, urban Kibbutzim, which do not rely on agricultural means of production and are a meaningful way to live communally and live out their ideology by working to better the area they are in – local projects include running after school clubs for Arab-Israeli and Jewish-Israeli children, or running the local snif of their youth movement
• Netzer could theoretically follow a similar model, as a new way to embody our ideology, enabling Reform Judaism and Netzer in Israel to flourish – what are your thoughts?
• What is the ultimate purpose of our movement?
• Should we be encouraging and facilitating Aliyah?
• Are Kibbutzim still relevant to us?
• Should we be encouraging chaverim to move to Kibbutz Yahel and Kibbutz Lotan?
What about getting your chanichim to build their own Reform Zionist community. What would their Kibbutz look like? Would it be a kibbutz or an Irbutz (city kibbutz)? The chanichim could build their own ideology and Brit Kehilla.
thE World ZIONIST CONGRESS
Today the WZC sets the agenda for the World Zionist Organisation’s work. It’s a big organisation that has a lot of layers including a zionist supreme court, a presidium, an executive, a general council on top of the parliament (congress). A full congress where Jews from all over the world are represented meets every five years and inbetween a smaller executive group called the va’ad ha’poel makes decisions.
There are lots of different groups in the congress. They combine together based on ideological lines to create factions.
The different groups in the mix are:
The composition of the congress is decided after elections. Seats for Israeli political parties are allocated based on the most recent Israeli election. Each country holds an election where anyone who is a member of a Zionist organisation can vote and seats are awarded proportionally. The groups form into factions that vote together to get their motions passed. The progressive faction (that’s ours!) is currently the biggest voting bloc but that doesn’t mean we always win :(
What does the WZC do today?
Who makes up the congress?
Israeli political parties (Likud, Meretz, Labour, Shas, Kadima)
Zionist organisations (like Hadassah and WIZO)
International Jewish organisations
These are grown up versions of our ideological zionist youth movements, and include groups like ARZENU (Progressive and Reform) Mercaz (Conservative/Masorti), Mizrachi (Orthodox), Shas (Ultra Orthodox), HaNoar HaTzioni, Labour Zionists (Habonim)
(World Union for Progressive Judaism, World Union of Jewish Students, Bnai Brith, Maccabi, etc)
These are the groups that set agendas for various activities ranging from shlichim (emissaries) and funding for youth movements to the way that Bedouin are treated. The atmosphere in committees can get very tense and sometimes even violent as people argue fiercely.
The different committees include:
This group deals with establishing settlements and developing communities inside Israel. This generally but not always means within the green line- one of the jobs of the progressive movement has become to ensure that, in line with WZO policy, money isn’t spent in the west bank in settlements that might be exchanged as part of a peace deal.
This group deals with work that the WZO does to support Zionist activities outside Israel. This includes sending young Israelis called shlichim to represent Israel in communities, supporting education through youth movements, engaging synagogues and community centres and supporting Zionist federations
Israel activities and anti-Semitism
This group works to strengthen Israelis’ Zionist identities and also to challenge anti-Semitism around the world.
This group supports religious groups around the world and engages with all the different streams of Judaism. This is an important department as it equally funds the worldwide orthodox, conservative and reform movements and our communities worldwide rely on this support.
To see examples of resolutions debated at congress you can look here www.wzo.org.il/congress
Take your chanichim in to the future and ask them to convene a meeting of the World Zionist Congress. What would different countries think about Zionism and what are the challenges that Zionism faces?
Aliyah Nimshechet is the belief that the best expression of Netzer’s ideology is to try and shape the state of Israel as the home of the Jewish people by moving to Israel and making it into the kind of society which we could genuinely call an – a light unto the nations. Aliyah Nimshechet is not something one can achieve – it is only ever something one strives towards, and hopes that if we fail enough, we may fail really successfully eventually – a kind of ever shifting horizon. I have spent 12 of the last 14 years doing my best to fail well at Aliyah Nimshechet, and I want to share a little of my experience with you.
When I moved to Israel (in 2002), I was convinced that I would spend my life fighting on the front lines of social justice issues in Israel – leading the fight for a better, more moral Israel, which would live up to the promises we made ourselves in the declaration of the establishment of the state.
I wanted to make a more equal society, a more open society, one in which minorities (either ethnic, or sexual, or religious) were treated as equals, and granted all the rights that I would receive as part of the majority. Needless to say, I have failed pretty miserably.
I am not sure I can even claim to have failed well. Israel has become more racist, less open, less equal and much darker in the time I have lived here. So many ask – why stay? Why keep fighting for a land which seems intent on destroying itself? There are some easy answers and there are some harder answers.
But we know that the easy answers are never the right answers – the above two arguments may be true, but they are irrelevant.
– I have no other land! Israel is far from perfect, but it is the only state of the Jews. Nowhere else do we get to try out this incredible experiment of “Jewish public culture”. Nowhere else is the TaNaKh (the Hebrew bible) the national book, is Hebrew the national language, are the holidays of the people of Israel the holidays of the country. Nowhere else is Jewish culture alive and kicking.
Since I left the UK, Jewish life outside of Israel has become much more complex and a little darker itself. Do I want to live in the UK when the president of the National Union of Students believes that Hamas and other Palestinian “resistance fighters” should be encouraged? Do I want to live in the UK, when the head of the Labour party (a party which my father served as Lord Mayor of Manchester) refers to Hamas and Hizbollah as “friends”?
The much sadder easy answer:
The real answer is much more personal – it is exactly because it is so hard to see the descent of Israel that I must stay and fight. It is the struggle – the great challenge – which makes the work worthwhile.
We are reminded in masechet Avot: We are not commanded to finish the job, but nor are we free to desist from it. It’s a catchy song – but more so it is a reminder – we gain value not from the easy achievements, but from those in which we almost despair. No great Hollywood movie lacks that point at which the hero comes seconds away from great failure only to lead the way to redemption. This is true of all great drama, and that is because it is true of life.
Much of this may seem irrelevant – since as the RSY-N A notes – there are very few bogrim making Aliyah Nimshechet. But even though I am talking about my own situation of living here, the same is true for the pioneers and activists of RSY Netzer who work to make Israel a better place from wherever they are. There will be times that you want to despair, that Israel’s descent makes you want to wash your hands of the enterprise. There will be voices who say that Jewish identity in the diaspora does not require us to hug and wrestle with Israel.
There will be times when it simply seems so much EASIER to not be in this relationship with this promising land. It is exactly because of Israel’s flaws – because of her failings that she needs you. That we need you.
To keep on, or in Hebrew: להמשיך – l’hamshich – from the same root as Nimshechet. You must forever be going up, looking up to that horizon of a better Israel, which you, the Jews of the Diaspora, and we, the people of Israel, can create together. From an RSY Netzer boger failing at Aliyah Nimshechet: Thank you for keeping on…
You could introduce your chanichim to different areas of Israel and what life is like there as well as the opportunities that are there for Tikkun Medinah (building the state of Israel). You could ask your chanichim to decide where they would live in Israel and why and to decide on how they would fulfill aliyah nimshechet
לא עליך המלאכה לגמור ולא אתה בן חורין להיבטל ממנה
So I’ve been asked to write about Israeli culture and boy oh boy what a madly large topic that is. How can I condense a whole nation’s culture into 500 words? Do I focus on food, theatre, art, history, dance, film, coffee or any other aspect that expresses this country?
Originally I was thinking of doing an article about Israeli food culture because it is something that many of us have experienced first-hand while being a synthesis of European, Arabic and world food. But although this might be fascinating it would be hard to transmit this with authenticity to chanichim on camp. So for now maybe we’ll bite our teeth into something a little meatier (not suggesting meat though folks, I’m thinking something like Sabich).
Films, especially documentaries, are a fantastic way to gain an insight into different cultures and luckily Israeli film is experiencing some fantastic success at the moment, which is cool!
Over the last few years Israeli film making has been growing and improving – especially in the field of documentaries. The quality of the medium has become incredibly high and the subject matter varies widely, but that’s because Israel is an interesting and complex place. The documentaries coming out are of such a high quality these days that many of them have won awards in international film festivals. There is a crazy wide variety coming out but I thought that I’d highlight a few that are not only critically acclaimed so interesting for you to watch, but also some might be useful on camp. I don’t advise screening the films in total, firstly some of the material is not appropriate for all ages and also it’s not particularly engaging for young people to just watch a documentary. But it’s a great way to spark discussion.
is an animated documentary film about trauma and the first Lebanon war of 1982. Here the film’s director attempts to reconstruct/revive his lost memories of being a soldier during the war through visiting and interviewing several of the people who were in his unit. Fascinating and touching, the animation lends a certain softness to a very difficult period of Israel’s history – bringing into focus the trauma present in nearly every generation of the country who have served in the IDF.
Suitable for 18. Some disturbing images of atrocities, strong violence, brief nudity and a scene of graphic sexual content.
A Film Unfinished (2010) re-examines the making of an unfished 1942 German propaganda film (titled Das Ghetto) which depicted the Warsaw ghetto two months before it was destroyed and its inhabitants killed. It uncovers the depth and complexity of the propaganda machine within Nazi Germany and its attempt to create a false image of Jewish life of reality within the ghetto. Suitable for 18. Some disturbing images of atrocities, strong violence.
Suitable for 18. Some disturbing images of atrocities, strong violence, brief nudity and a scene of graphic sexual content.
Yisrael Beitenu recently (May 2016) joined the Netanyahu government, having been left out after the 2015 elections despite working very closely with Likud in the past. The party is on the right-wing of Israeli politics. Most of its supporters are from the large population of Russian Jews in Israel, so some of their policies reflect the needs of this group.
They are most well-known for their approach to security and relationship with Palestinians. They ran one election with the slogan “no loyalty, no citizenship” – directed at Arab citizens of Israel who they believed to not be loyal enough to Israel, controversially threatening to revoke their citizenship of Israel based on their behaviour. They would strongly encourage Arabs to move to any future Palestinian state and have proposed a two-state solution with extensive redrawing of the borders.
Russian Jews who support Yisrael Beitenu often face the problem of not being recognised as Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate, making it hard for them to get married or buried. The party has supported reducing the power of the Israeli rabbinate to counter this – giving people more freedom to choose the Rabbi under whose authority they are married (not just the local Rabbi) and making conversion in Israel more easily recognised.
Meretz is a secular, liberal, left-wing party formed by the merger of three other parties in 1992. It’s guiding principles are social justice and equal rights for all. In 5775, RSY-Netzer committed at Veidah to trying to work on education with Meretz, believing they shared many of our values as Reform Zionists.
The Meretz party strongly advocate for a two-state solution, opposing the occupation of the West Bank and preventing further building or expansion of Jewish West Bank settlements. They believe in the rights of Palestinians, both those in the West Bank and those who are citizens of Israel, campaigning for equal rights and against discrimination.
They are firmly secular, believing religion and state need to be clearly separated in Israeli society. They want to take a lot of power away from the Orthodox Rabbinate and prevent people from having to go through religious structures in their lives, such as allowing non-religious marriages and stopping the imposition of Jewish laws such as Shabbat on society as a whole.
Meretz also believe in equal economic opportunity, including increasing welfare to those who are in need of it and providing more housing to reduce the cost of living for middle-class Israelis.
Yesh Atid was founded very recently, in 2012, by a well-known newsreader – Yair Lapid. His aim was to represent the secular Jewish population who make up a large proportion of Israeli society and who often feel their real needs are not met. They achieved very quick success, becoming the second largest party in their first election. Despite falling a little since then, they are still a major centrist force in Israeli politics.
All Israeli Jews are conscripted into the army, except for Haredi Jews who are exempt from serving if they go to yeshiva. Yesh Atid have made opposing this exemption one of their defining policies – seeing it as a symbol of how the needs of the religious are put ahead of the secular. They similarly oppose special benefits which are paid to Haredi Jews to allow them to spend their lives studying rather than working and other ways in which religion is forced on most Israelis, such as public transport and shops being forced to close on Shabbat.
Yesh Atid was also formed soon after large Social Justice campaigns across Israel were launched. These activists wanted to reduce inequality between rich and poor and more houses built to reduce the very high cost of buying a house in the centre of Israel. Yesh Atid picked up many of these policies themselves and generally support measures to help ordinary Israelis become more prosperous.
Yesh Atid envision a future for Israel separate from Palestinians with defined borders between two states, focusing on guaranteeing Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
Before 2015, there were three parties which represented Arab citizens of Israel, all of which were small. The new rules about how many votes are needed to get into the Knesset forced these parties to run as a joint list. At the election they did historically well, becoming the third-largest party in the Knesset. Arab citizens of Israel make up roughly 20% of the population, but many do not vote, which is why parties representing them have never held that many seats.
The Joint List supports the establishment of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution, opposing settlement building in the West Bank. Many Arab citizens of Israel have close connections with Palestinian Arabs and support their cause. This also includes support for the right of return – that Palestinians who left their homes or were removed from Israel, becoming refugees, in 1948 should be allowed to return again.
The Joint List also campaign against the discrimination of the Arab population in Israel. They believe the Arab community is victim to many forms of discrimination and prejudice and campaign for them to receive the same level of services and support which the Jewish population receives.
The Joint List also oppose Orthodox Jewish control placed on Israel, especially in relation to Shabbat, where Arabs in Israel are restricted despite the day having no specific meaning for them.
The Zionist Union (Machane Ha’Tzioni) was formed from cooperation between two parties from the previous Knesset – the Labour party (Ha’Avoda) and Ha’Tnua (“The Movement”). They agreed to run a joint set of candidates and have joint leaders – Labour’s Isaac “Buji” Herzog and Ha’Tnua’s Tzipi Livni – as they tried (and failed) to defeat Netanyahu in the 2015 election. They are the largest left-of-centre party in the Knesset and the second largest overall. In recent months they considered joining the government to form an historic National Unity government, but these talks didn’t succeed. The Labour party can trace its origins back to Mapai – the party of the first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, and the early Labour Zionist movement.
The Zionist Union supports finding peace through a two-state solution and working with international partners to reignite negotiations. As part of this, they oppose the continued building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
The party is also committed to solving economic woes and reducing the cost of living. They believe the gap between rich and poor is too large and needs closing. They seek to reduce the cost of healthcare, education and basic goods.
On these pages you'll find a summary of some of the parties' main policies. Make sure to look up more informaion as this is just a glimpse...
Likud is the largest party in the Knesset and has been in the government since 2009 with various coalition partners. Their leader, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, may soon become the longest reigning Prime Minister in Israel’s history.
The Likud party currently prioritises issues of security above all others. Whilst it is their policy to support a two-state solution, they have said that creating a Palestinian state right now would be giving land to “Islamist extremists” who would attack Israel. In government, Likud has supported settlement expansion and take a very cautious view of any progress with Palestinian leadership which would reduce security measures, such as checkpoints or the security wall (also known as the separation wall/barrier).
On other issues, Likud believe in free-market economics and giving businesses freedom – arguing that workers’ unions have too much power. Despite being a secular party, Likud has consistently worked with religious parties in government and are willing to support policies which favour the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) community and increase the influence of Orthodox Judaism on the way the country is run.
Founded in 2014, Kulanu is a centrist political party led by Moshe Kahlon which prioritises cost-of-living issues and the economy. The party was founded in 2014 after Kahlon split from Likud, and is now a part of the coalition Government.
Kahlon appeals to both Lower and Middle class voters, he himself coming from a lower class Libyan family. The party specifically targets Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews. The party also focuses on poverty, income inequalities, and housing crises.
The party has a pragmatic view to peace. Kahlon claims Kulanu would support a diplomatic approach to peace, working with Palestinian authorities. Kulanu is also anti-settlements, but values social issues more than relations with Palestinians.
Kulanu supports the increase of state benefits to non-Orthodox denominations of Judaism. They also support civil marriage in Israel (both heterosexual and homosexual), and would go as far as making some public transport available on Shabbat, something that does not currently exist.
The Jewish Home (Ha’Bayit Ha’Yehudi) was formed from the merger of several religious parties and mainly receives support from Modern Orthodox Jews. They joined the government in 2012 and remained as part of it after the 2015 elections.
As a party founded on Religious Zionism, Jewish Home believes the State of Israel should be a Jewish state by abiding by Jewish law (Halacha). This means they believe Shabbat should be made to be the day of rest and no transport should run or shops open. They also believe in strengthening the power of the Orthodox Rabbinate and its control on matters such as marriage and holy sites, for example the Kotel. This does not mean they always agree with all the other religious parties, though. They believe that serving in the IDF to protect the Jewish State has immense value and importance, so they oppose the Haredi exemption from conscription.
The Jewish Home’s religious outlook extends to believing in the importance of controlling the whole land of Israel – including the West Bank. The party has many supporters who are Jewish settlers in the West Bank and supports their right to settle that land. Their leader has called for Israel to annex the areas currently under Israeli control in the West Bank and opposes concessions to the Palestinians in any negotiation.
The party’s name is an acronym, meaning “Guards of the Torah”, and they represent religious Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews. They were originally formed by a former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel and continue to hold the majority of support from the communities they were founded for.
Shas has called for Israel to be governed according to Jewish Law (Halacha). This means keeping the power of the Orthodox Rabbinate over issues such as marriage and burial, closing shops and transport on Shabbat and opposing the normalisation of the LGBT+ community, including the banning of events like Gay Pride.
They have also, on religious grounds, supported continued settlement building in the West Bank and passionately believe in the need for a United Jerusalem – that the city should remain entirely in Israeli hands and never be divided between Israel and a future Palestinian state. They also want Israeli control over yeshivot and holy sites in the West Bank. If there were to be a peace deal, Shas has demanded that Mizrahi Jews who were forced to leave their homes in the Arab world after the foundation of Israel be compensated.
Mizrahi Jews in Israel are, as a whole, less prosperous than average and are often discriminated against by the larger Ashkenazi community. Shas has long supported the rights of this community – setting up their own education system in poor areas and fighting for more rights and benefits.
UTJ is an alliance of the Haredi, Ultra-Orthodox parties – one guided by heads of the Yeshivot and another led by followers of Hasidism. They were forced to work together to ensure they got enough votes to get seats in the Knesset.
The main priority for UTJ is that Israel should be a Jewish state governed by Jewish law. They support increased power for the Orthodox Rabbinate in Israel on matters affecting people’s life cycle events (marriage, burial etc.). They also want Shabbat to be kept in Israel, with no public transport or shops operating.
The UTJ believes the most important service possible in Israel is the study of Torah. For this reason, it very strongly supports the current exemption which allows their men to avoid conscription into the army as long as they go to Yeshiva. In addition, they support the continuation and increase of benefits which their community receive to allow them to devote themselves to study without needing to work a job.
UTJ don’t have a defined policy towards the conflict and the Palestinians – considering matters of religion to be far more important than security or diplomacy.
To make sure the Israeli Knesset is representative of Israel's varied society, Israel uses a system of proportional representation to elect its MKs. Any party which gets 3.25% of the votes cast in an election gets seats in the Knesset, which are given out in the same proportions as the votes cast (so 20% of the votes gives a party roughly 20% of the seats). This means lots of parties get seats and it is almost never the case that one party can form a government on their own - coalitions where 2 or more parties work together are the norm. There was controversy recently because previously parties only needed 2% of the vote to get seats. This was seen as potentially a way of getting rid of smaller parties - especially those which represent minority groups such as Arab citizens of Israel. As a result, several smaller parties representing the Arab population merged to make sure they would all meet the new threshold.
Knesset - the Israeli Parliament.
MK - Member of the Knesset.
Government parties - parties which agree to work together to form a government and each take positions controlling different parts of the government.
Opposition parties - parties which aren't part of the government, but scrutinise what the government is doing.
You can get your chanichim into the spirit of Israeli politics by getting them to play out the negotiations and compromises which are necessary to make the country function. There are more resources to help you in making a simulation peulah like this online at http://rsy-netzer.org.uk/israel-politics/
Israel’s population divides into three main groups: the Jewish population; Arab Israelis – including Muslim, Christian Palestinian-Arabs, Bedouin, Druze; and the last one, the minority of 4% that consider themselves to be “Others” (Residents with no religious affiliation or really small religions groups like Samaritans, Circassians etc.)
The reasons for the inequalities between Israel’s Arab and Jewish populations are multiple and complex. The government, civil society and the private sector can all play their part in helping to narrow the socio-economic gaps between the two communities.
Arab citizens of Israel make up 20.7% of Israeli citizens or approximately 1.7 million people.
Despite ongoing progress, significant gaps between Arab and Jewish citizens still exist.
This has been contributed by Itai Arik from the UK taskforce. To find out more visit www.uktaskforce.org to find resources and materials related to Arab citizens of Israel. There's even an RSY-Netzer specific resource available that has been created for our madrichim.
Israel has more ethnic and religious groups. Here are the main ones:
Members of a religion that developed from Shiite Islam in the 11th century, and whose adherents are concentrated in Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Some 134,000 Druze currently live in Israel, in 17 settlements on Mount Carmel, in the Galilee and on the Golan Heights.
Druze have traditionally rejected Arab-Palestinian nationalism and it is compulsory for the Druze community to serve in the Israeli Army, the IDF.
Members of a Moslem, non-Arab people whose came from the Caucasus. When their country was captured by the Russians in the 19th century, many Circassians immigrated to the Ottoman Empire, and some arrived in the Land of Israel, where they established the villages of Rikhaniya and Kafr Kama.
Members of a national-religious community whose religion is very close to Judaism. The Samaritan community developed following the Assyrian conquest of the Kingdom of Israel, when members of the Kingdom of Israel who remained in the land combined with members of peoples exiled by the Assyrian kings to the region.
There now remain some 700 Samaritans, half of whom live in Nablus (Shkhem) and half in Holon (Kholon.)
The term “Bedouin” derives from the Arabic word “desert” and refers to tribes of traditionally nomadic, patriarchal, desert-dwelling Arabs. The majority of the Bedouin are Sunni Muslims. Bedouins are mainly found in the Negev in the south.
On an RSY-Netzer event you could simulate a 'Game of Life' style board game where different chanichim are from different Israeli denominations.
Walking the pale golden streets aglow with Jerusalem stone to Kehillat Kol HaNeshamah on a Friday afternoon invites me into an embrace with the eternal: not only with regards to our history but also in terms of our values. To sing, pray, eat, sleep and live Progressive Judaism in Israel and to build the very values that are part of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, “…the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets…” is a unique privilege.
Progressive Judaism in Israel is growing.
Not only through the lilting harmonies of innovative prayer spaces such as Kol haNeshamah, through its two kibbutzim, Lotan and Yahel or its academic and rabbinic centres at the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, but through its continued and committed social activism, its involvement in the Israeli Religious Action Centre and the myriad of ways Progressive Judaism is transforming the daily lives of Israelis. With forty congregations and an equal number of kindergartens, Progressive and Reform Judaism is providing Jews living in the Jewish State with a viable alternative to live a meaningful, contemporary religious Jewish life.
Few Jewish experiences can be as potent as when a love of Israel – its people, language, culture and history – is fused with a passion for Progressive Judaism.
The first Reform congregation, Har-El in Jerusalem, was founded in 1958 and the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism as an institution was founded in 1971. Since then, the fledging movement has carved out its place in Israeli society and gone from strength to strength, despite (or perhaps because of) the many challenges it faces as an alternative, non-Orthodox voice in Israeli public discourse.
These last few years have been particularly formative for the IMPJ and its commitment to a pluralist and progressive Zionist vision. Supporting the organisation ‘Women of the Wall’ in their struggle for an inclusive and egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel haMa’aravi (the Western Wall) has galvanised Israeli Reform Judaism. As this article goes to press, we have seen both victories and defeats at the highest levels of government and Supreme Court, including plans to build an alternative and fully egalitarian Wall Plaza where non-Orthodox Jews can worship according to their sacred convictions and customs. Other battles have centred around state pay of Reform rabbinic salaries and access to state-run mikva’ot (ritual baths) for conversion.
Reform Judaism in Israel brings a compelling message of pluralism and authenticity that goes beyond the boundaries of its own parochial interests. Israeli Reform institutions have fostered a culture of inclusion, ranging from crafting B’nei Mitzvah ceremonies for special needs children to supporting the LGBT community. Many Israeli Reform rabbis fulfil their commitment to tikkun olam (repair of the world) through being part of the International Religious Action Centre (IRAC) or Rabbis for Human Rights who stand up for the concerns and rights of Palestinian Arabs.
Challenges of an ideological and practical nature will remain for years to come: the IMPJ needs our financial as well as spiritual support. With every gain, there will be push-back from those quarters of Israeli religious society that do not welcome pluralism. Yet, there is much to be optimistic about: Progressive and Reform Judaism in Israel is growing in the mainstream and is drawing more and more Israelis in. Our authentic Jewish voice draws on the wisdom of the past yet fearlessly faces the future. And more than that: Reform values have a lasting impact on Israeli culture and religion, shifting perspectives on what a living, breathing covenantal Judaism can look like, on what a ‘Torat chesed’ (a Torah of compassion) is and on how we treat both self and other with the dignity as befitting human beings created ‘b’tzelem Elohim’.
The IMPJ has given Israel the great gift of a Judaism that is vibrant, exciting, nurturing, kind, intellectually rigorous and transformative. May our movement go from strength to strength.
• Means living in a traditionally Christian country with many faiths and cultures around
• Jewish people have varying levels of practice, some may be non-practicing, some may be traditional orthodox or Liberal or Reform.
• In order to identify as a Jew in the UK many people feel a compulsion to join a synagogue
• Choosing to be Reform is one of the ways people choose to express their Judaism.
• Social conditions in England that encourage many people to join Reform Synagogues are that this form of Judaism is more modern and fits into the British lifestyle.Whilst the majority of Jews in the UK identify as modern orthodox, Reform Judaism is growing in the UK.
• Means Living in a Jewish country where the majority of people are Jewish and celebrating big festivals is part of the countries culture anyway
• Most people generally identify as Jewish and celebrates big festivals (Purim, Pesach, Chanukah, Yom Kippur etc) in the same way that in England, the majority of Christian or non-affiliated people in society no matter what their religiosity celebrate Christmas as it is ingrained in our culture.
• In Israel there is therefore not the same societal pressure to join a synagogue in order to identify as Jewish
• People choosing to be Reform in Israel are doing it because they feel that this is the best way to express Judaism for them.
• Reform Judaism in Israel is special because its congregants are a minority that are thoroughly committed to the enactment of progressive Jewish values in Israel
• Many Israelis do not recognise Reform Judaism or understand what its purpose is.
• Female Rabbis, sitting together in a synagogue and singing and using guitars on Shabbat is quite new to Israel.
• Reform Judaism is a very small movement in Israel but is growing quite quickly. Many of the Reform synagogues’ members are from outside of Israel – including rabbis!
Tikkun Kehilla - Community
As you may know, RSY-Netzer’s ideological pillar of Tikkun Olam is based on a model of five concentric circles. When we sing the Netzer song on summer machanot we hear the line:
Know yourself, help the people, and create tikkun olam
This is the essence of how the concentric circles work: first we strive to ‘repair’ ourselves, then move outwards to our communities, and finally the world. One of the levels that this model operates on is ‘Tikkun Medina’ – repairing the state, by which we mean the state of Israel.
It’s not only RSY-Netzer that believes in the importance of Tikkun Medina. In 1948, Israel’s Declaration of Independence stated:
‘The State of Israel will foster...
...it will be based on
...as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure
...to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will
...of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.’
the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants;
freedom, justice and peace
complete equality of social and political rights
The Declaration of Independence isn’t a long-forgotten document. Israelis heed its call in their everyday lives – recent surveys suggest that 20% of Israelis regularly volunteer. But for RSY-Netzer chaverim currently living in the Diaspora, how exactly we can ‘foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants’ remains a challenge.
In fact, RSY-Netzer’s commitment to Tikkun Medina is so strong that it’s a central component of our activities in Israel. We volunteer on Israel Tour and on Shnat Netzer because we want to improve Israeli society from within, and also to form links with Israelis already involved in striving for social justice.
Some of these NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) or projects which RSY-N has been involved in might be familiar to you from your movement experiences; others might be new.
You can check out their websites or their Facebook pages for more information to inspire your chanichim with their stories!
Leket is the largest food bank in Israel. In 5775, when our annual theme was Shmita – which meant a focus on sustainable living – all our Israel Tours picked and packaged food for the needy with Leket.
An umbrella organisation with a UK branch which sponsors a range of projects in Israel, granting funds for social change and civil rights organisations, consulting with social change advocates and providing professional services. NIF runs educational events about their work for RSY-N madrichim and other members of the Jewish community.
Hand in Hand is an organisation which runs mixed Jewish-Arab schools, which are very rare in Israel, to promote coexistence. Many Shnat participants volunteer at the Yad B’Yad school in Jerusalem.
An NGO based in Tel Aviv which works to support the African refugee community in Israel. Back in 2011, RSY-Netzer shnatties organised a fundraising party to help the ARDC in their efforts.
Founded by Australians, Peace Team runs Australian Rules football matches between Israelis and Palestinians, using sport as a vehicle for one side to get to know the other. You can ask returning bogrim of Shnat Ma’ayan for more details!
But all of this can seem remote from the standpoint of Radlett, or Bala, or wherever else our summer machanot are located. How can we, as madrichim (and therefore as Israel educators) inspire chanichim to take an active interest in Tikkun Olam in Israel?
- Design a social media campaign to support an NGO based in Israel
- Allow older chanichim to suggest what Tikkun Medina they’d like to do on Israel Tour (maybe a friendly Movement Worker will put their plan into action!)
- Yom Veidah motions about strengthening our commitment to Tikkun Medina
- Hold a debate on ‘Tikkun Medina vs. Tikkun Olam’ – should we prioritise Israel above the rest of the world?
- Research some of these organisations and find out how to support them from the UK, e.g. fundraisers, spreading education etc.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Ultimately, enacting Tikkun Olam in Israel enables us to support Israel and work to ensure that it is a state built on Jewish values, making this a true expression of Reform Zionist principles.
The War of Attrition 1967-1970
Involved fighting between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, PLO and their allies from 1967 to 1970.
Following the 1967 Six-Day War, no serious diplomatic efforts tried to resolve the issues at the heart of the Arab–Israeli conflict. In September 1967, the Arab states formulated the "three nos" policy, barring peace, recognition or negotiations with Israel.
Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser believed that only military initiative would compel Israel or the international community to facilitate a full Israeli withdrawal from Sinai, and hostilities soon resumed along the Suez Canal.
These initially took the form of limited artillery duels and small-scale incursions into Sinai, but by 1969 the Egyptian Army judged itself prepared for larger-scale operations. On March 8 1969, Nasser proclaimed the official launch of the War of Attrition, characterized by large-scale shelling along the Suez Canal, extensive aerial warfare and commando raids. Hostilities continued until August 1970 and ended with a ceasefire, the frontiers remaining the same as when the war began, with no real commitment to serious peace negotiations.
See page 16 for more informaion.
Also known as the 1973 Arab–Israeli War, was a war fought by the coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria against Israel from October 6 to 25, 1973. The military combat actions during the war mostly took place in the Sinai and the Golan Heights, territories that were occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967. Egypt and Syria wanted to regain the Sinai and the Golan Heights respectively. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat wanted also to reopen the Suez Canal. Neither specifically planned to destroy Israel, although the Israeli leaders could not be sure of that.
The war began when the Arab coalition launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli positions in the Israeli-occupied territories on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, which also occurred that year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Egyptian and Syrian forces crossed ceasefire lines to enter the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights respectively.
The war had far-reaching implications. The Arab World, which had experienced humiliation in the lopsided rout of the Egyptian–Syrian–Jordanian alliance in the Six-Day War, felt psychologically vindicated by early successes in the conflict. In Israel, despite impressive operational and tactical achievements on the battlefield, the war led to recognition that there was no guarantee that Israel would always dominate the Arab states militarily. These changes paved the way for the subsequent peace process. The 1978 Camp David Accords that followed led to the return of the Sinai to Egypt and normalized relations—the first peaceful recognition of Israel by an Arab country.
Operation Litani- South Lebanon Conflict 1978
Operation Litani was grounded in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From 1968 on, the PLO, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other Palestinian groups established a quasi-state in southern Lebanon, using it as a base for raids on civilian targets in northern Israel, as well as worldwide terror attacks on Israeli and other targets.
In March 1978 Palestinian terrorists hijacked a bus on the coastal road near Haifa. After a lengthy chase and shootout, 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, were killed and 76 wounded. This massacre was the proximate cause of the Israeli invasion three days later.
In response to the invasion, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 425 and Resolution 426 calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon. These were both adopted on March 19, 1978.
Resolution 425 didn't result in an immediate end to hostilities. The Israelis continued military operations for 2 more days until they ordered a ceasefire. The PLO's initial reaction was that the resolution didn't apply to them because it didn't mention the PLO. The PLO leadership finally ordered a ceasefire on March 28, 1978. The agreement was described as "a turning-point in the history of the Palestinian resistance moment" because it was the first open acceptance of a ceasefire agreement with Israel that was endorsed by all official PLO bodies.
The Camp David Accords were signed by Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on 17 September 1978, following twelve days of secret negotiations at Camp David.
The biggest consequence of all may be in the psychology of the participants of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The success of Begin, Sadat, and US at Camp David demonstrated to other Arab states and entities that negotiations with Israel were possible—that progress results only from sustained efforts at communication and cooperation.
The Lebanon War (Operation Peace for Galilee) 1982
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invaded southern Lebanon, after repeated attacks and counter-attacks between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) operating in southern Lebanon and the IDF which caused civilian casualties on both sides of the border. The military operation was launched after gunmen attempted to assassinate Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Heavy Israeli casualties, alleged disinformation of Israeli government leaders and the Israeli public by the Israeli military, as well as political advocates of the campaign and lack of clear goals led to increasing disquiet among Israelis. This culminated in a large protest rally in Tel Aviv on September 25, 1982, organized by the Peace Now movement. Organizers claimed 400,000 people participated in the rally.
The Israeli army gradually withdrew southwards from Beirut, but still kept a ‘Security Zone’ in southern Lebanon that was controlled by the IDF and its allies, until its total withdrawal in 2000.
First Intifada (uprising) 1987-1991
The Intifada was a Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The uprising involved
1. Resistance and civil disobedience: general strikes, boycotts of Israeli Civil Administration, an economic boycott, refusal to pay taxes etc.
2. Widespread throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails, including at the IDF and its infrastructure within the Palestinian territories.
The Intifada was recognized as an occasion where the Palestinians acted cohesively and independently of their leadership or assistance of neighbouring Arab states.
The Intifada broke the image of Jerusalem as a united Israeli city. There was unprecedented international coverage, and the Israeli response was criticized in media outlets and international fora.
The success of the Intifada gave PLO leader Arafat and his followers the confidence they needed to moderate their political programme: At the meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algiers in mid-November 1988, Arafat won a majority for the historic decision to recognise Israel's legitimacy; to accept all the relevant UN resolutions going back to 29 November 1947; and to adopt the principle of a two-state solution.
The impact on the Israeli services sector, including the important Israeli tourist industry, was notably negative.
Hoping to stop the uprising and the vicious bloodshed, Israel and the Palestinians started to negotiate a possible solution.
The Madrid Conference of 1991 was a peace conference, held from 30 October to 1 November 1991 in Madrid, hosted by Spain and co-sponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union. It was an attempt by the international community to revive the Israeli–Palestinian peace process through negotiations, involving Israel and the Palestinians as well as Arab countries, including Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
On 3 November, the conference was followed by bilateral negotiations between Israel and respectively the joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, Lebanon and Syria. Subsequent bilateral meetings took place in Washington from 9 December 1991. On 28 January 1992, multilateral negotiations about regional cooperation were started in Moscow, attended by Israel, the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and the international community, but without Lebanon and Syria.
The Madrid conference represents the first time all these countries had been gathered "face-to-face” At the end of the Madrid conference all participating countries appeared hopeful that the conference had resulted in a future road-map for reconciliation
The Oslo Accords are a set of agreements between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). They marked the start of the Oslo peace process, a peace process that is aimed at achieving a peace-treaty aimed to fulfill the "right of the Palestinian people to self-determination." The Oslo process started after secret negotiations in Oslo, resulting in the recognition by the PLO of the State of Israel and the recognition by Israel of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and as a partner in negotiations.
The Oslo Accords created the Palestinian Authority in 1994, whose functions are the limited self-governance over parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and, it acknowledged that the PLO is now Israel's partner in permanent status negotiations about the remaining issues. The most important issues have been the borders of Israel and Palestine, the Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem, the question of Israel's military presence in and control over the remaining territories after the recognition of the Palestinian autonomy by Israel, and the Palestinian right of return. The Oslo Accords, however, did not create a Palestinian state.
Ongoing terror attacks and the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin in 1995, together with ongoing suspicion and fear resulted in failure of full implementation of the agreements.
Although not an alternative to the accords themselves, a one-state solution would be an alternative to the two-state solution envisaged in the accords. This would combine Israel and the Palestinian territories into a single state with one government. An argument for this solution is that neither side can justly claim a state on all of the land. An argument against it is that it would endanger the safety of the Jewish minority. These are a couple of arguments amongst others that you may like to familiarise yourself with.
Israel-Jordan Peace treaty 1994
Following the positive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over the Oslo Accords, the U.S. President Bill Clinton pressured Jordan to start peace negotiations and to sign a peace treaty with Israel. The efforts succeeded and Jordan signed a agreement with Israel. The Declaration says that Israel and Jordan ended the official state of enmity and would start negotiations in order to achieve an "end to bloodshed and sorrow" and a just and lasting peace.
Jordan was the second Arab country, after Egypt, to sign a peace accord with Israel.
The treaty settled relations between the two countries, adjusted land and water disputes, and provided for broad cooperation in tourism and trade. It included a pledge that neither Jordan nor Israel would allow its territory to become a staging ground for military strikes by a third country.
Israeli Army withdrawal from South Lebanon 2000
An enormous pressure from Israeli public, led by The Four Mothers movement, a protest movement led by four mothers of soldiers serving in Lebanon, was able to influence Israeli public opinion, and ultimately the IDF withdrew from Southern Lebanon unilaterally, in compliance with U.N. Resolution 425. Syria and Lebanon insisted that the withdrawal was incomplete, claiming the Shebaa Farms as Lebanese and still under occupation. The UN certified full Israeli withdrawal.
Second Intifada (uprising) 2000-2005
The Second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, was the second Palestinian uprising against Israel – a period of intensified Israeli-Palestinian violence. It started in September 2000, when Ariel Sharon made a visit to the Temple Mount, seen by Palestinians as highly provocative; and Palestinian demonstrators, throwing stones at police, were dispersed by the Israeli army, using tear gas and rubber bullets.
Both parties caused high numbers of casualties among civilians as well as combatants: the Palestinians by numerous suicide bombings and gunfire; the Israelis by tank and gunfire and air attacks, by numerous targeted killings, and by reactions to demonstrations. The death toll, including both military and civilian, is estimated to be about 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis, as well as 64 foreigners.
Some consider the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit in 2005 to be the end of the Second Intifada, when President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed that all Palestinians would stop all acts of violence against all Israelis everywhere and, in parallel, that Israel would cease all its military activity against all Palestinians everywhere. They reaffirmed their commitment to the Roadmap for Peace. However, the violence did not stop in the following years.
Disengagement from Gaza 2005
Refers to the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, and the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005, after the realisation that the army cannot protect the Israeli settlements in such a dense Palestinian populated area. The disengagement was proposed in 2003 by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Israeli citizens who refused to accept government compensation packages and voluntarily vacate their homes, were evicted by Israeli security forces over a period of several days. The eviction of all residents, demolition of the residential buildings and evacuation of associated security personnel from the Gaza Strip was completed by September 12, 2005.
After Israel's withdrawal, the Palestinians were given control over the Gaza Strip, except for the borders, the airspace and the territorial waters.
Israel and Gaza post 2005
Since the disengagement the Hammas controlled government in Gaza kept on firing rockets in to Israel, firstly to southern towns and then increasingly to Tel Aviv, Haifa and outskirts of Jerusalem. The operations have resulted with hundreds of dead and thousands injured in Gaza and whilst the rockets cause some casualties there has been a significant psychological effect on many in Israel, especially children who have to run to shelter within a few seconds of hearing the siren.
The operations post 2005 have been named the following:
2006 Summer Rains
2008 Hot Winter
2008-2009 Cast Lead
2012 Pillar of Defence
Wave of Terror/ Intifada of the Individuals – 2015
An increase of violence occurred in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict starting early September 2015, known by Israelis as the "Wave of Terror" or "Intifada of the Individuals", or the "Knife Intifada" or "Stabbing Intifada" by international media, related in part to tensions between Palestinians and Israelis regarding the status of the Temple Mount. A major escalation occurred after Hamas militants murdered a Jewish couple, followed by a wave of individual attacks and widespread protests by Palestinians, sparking fears of a Third Intifada.
Some commentators have attributed the increase in Palestinian violence against Israelis either to a viral social-media campaign that may have influenced and motivated the Palestinian attackers, or ongoing frustration over the failure of peace talks to end the decades-long occupation and the suppression of human rights. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been accused of incitement to violence. The Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, encouraged "licensed gun owners to carry their weapons to increase security."
To keep up to date with the current peace process you can follow the news through the Times of Israel
For older chanichim you could create a 'war room' where you simmulate the different operations and responses on this timeline.
HOW TO BE A REFORM ZIONIST: WHAT'S MY ZIONISM?
Looking in one direction you often see something that makes you feel pretty uncomfortable. It’s all yom hatzmaut events, ‘we have to stick up for Israel because nobody else will’, and ‘any criticism of Israel is anti-semitism’. And yet you look the other way and it’s often equally uncomfortable if not more. With recent developments in the British Left you might actually start to think actually this is starting to feel pretty anti-...
And you’re left in the middle wondering which way to go as you have not found a comfortably politically central ground by any means, but an ideological limbo that forces you to choose within this impossible dichotomy.
One of the foremost contributing factors is that Zionism, as a legitimate and meaningful Jewish ideological expression, is in a profound crisis in the UK. Zionism in the UK is dominated by the remnants of a Political Zionism which can now only be post-Zionism, as its goal has been reached, the establishment of a modern state. It can therefore only provide a very static paradigm in which there is only one legitimate way to relate to Israel. This is not the Zionist paradigm that is needed. In fact it is not Zionism. It is a rudimentary pro-Israelism, the shame of which is not its existence per se, but the lack of an established alternative.
The paradigm of Cultural Zionism stands as an alternative to Political Zionism and historically always has. Looking at the original development of Zionist thought, thinkers like Herzl advocated a Political Zionism in which the goal was the establishment of a modern nation-state. In contrast, Cultural Zionist thinkers like Martin Buber and Ahad Ha’am believed the potential of Zionism was for social and spiritual enrichment. Cultural Zionism therefore advocates a Jewish state with a unique, purposeful character. Ahad Ha’am set the mission for Cultural Zionism as ensuring the continued creative survival of the Jewish people. This means a national home, with a uniquely Jewish character and purpose whose influence radiates out to the Diaspora. The use of the word ‘continued’ is very important here because it is the word that separates Cultural Zionism from Political Zionism. The latter is characterised by a finite goal, a state like all other nations. This has been achieved. However Cultural Zionism has an infinite goal to build and maintain the character of the Jewish State.
Within this paradigm if we are to ask ourselves how to be a Zionist then it’s about the ongoing attempt to answer three interconnected questions:
1) What will be the national values of the Jewish State?
2) On the basis of what principles and norms are these values to be realised?
3) What will I do establish these principles and norms?
- one interpretation of Cultural Zionism, is a vibrant and challenging ideology that requires us to critically ask ourselves what we see as our vision of Israeli Society as a Jewish State, and importantly challenge ourselves as to how we can work towards achieving that vision.
In practice this means promoting activities of repair/transformation (tikkun) in the spirit of the prophets, thereby addressing the relations between people and God (i.e. the religious Jewish nature of the state) and relations between people and people (i.e. the socio-legal basis of the state). And these are not mutually exclusive: the Jewish State should become a society in which the prophetic ideas of Judaism will be integrated with the democratic idea of worth of all.
There are opportunities to branch out by becoming involved in Pro-Zion, the UK constituent of Arzenu, the international Reform Zionist organisation. You can support the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and its legal and advocacy arm, the Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC). Both the IMPJ and IRAC do inspirational work in affecting Israeli society by helping the most vulnerable and campaigning for religious tolerance and pluralism.
What about the vision for peace? What does it mean to look beyond the pro-Israelism that services the status quo?
One consideration is redrawing the lines of conflict away from religion and nationality and towards a conflict between moderates and extremists. There are civil society organisations such as OneVoice and the Bereaved Families Forum that reach across those traditional lines to help break down the barriers and work towards repair of the division.
How to be a Reform Zionist?
Importantly, the point of departure is taking responsibility for the ongoing building of a Jewish state. Anything less is not Zionism. Reform Zionism is a method by which you can do so which helps to redefine the boundaries of what it means to support the Jewish State, and what it means to be a Zionist, into a meaningful and fulfilling vision and practice.
Never mind being a Reform Zionist, it’s not easy being a Zionist.
HOW TO BE AN ISRAEL EDUCATOR
In the late 1990’s I was at my movement (Habonim Dror) veida when we decided to leave Machon on Shnat in favour of a more focused, movement specific, ideological programme. At the time I was a younger member of the movement and it seemed to make sense to me that it was better, educationally, to have a programme that had a more narrow lens specific to my movement’s (and therefore my own) ideology. I didn’t quite realise the impact of the decision then and to be honest, the impact is only really dawning on me now.
Today, as Director of Informal Education and Israel Engagement at UJIA it is my job (and passion) to absorb what is happening in the community, identify trends, speak to people young and old in order to identify interventions that may be helpful with regards to informal Jewish education and Israel.
Israel as a topic is polarising the community more than in the past and younger generations feel less of a connection to Israel (according to recent studies). The emergence in our community of more vocal “left-wing” organisations committed to Israel and Israel education, such as Yachad and the resurgence of the UK branch of the New Israel Fund, are visible expressions of fundamental generational shifts bubbling under the surface.
We see effects of these changes in our work all the time. A few examples:
• Witnessing running battles on Facebook/Twitter between left-wing Jews and right-wing Jews that is a mixture of argumentation, sarcasm and borderline (or actual) abuse.
• Shouting matches at pro-Israel conferences between older members and young people. We have sat in sessions where adults have interrupted and heckled young Jews because they disagree with their politics.
• Siloisation of education in a variety of educational spaces such as schools and youth movements which leave no room for nuance one way or the other. One young person we interviewed, for instance, said that his youth movement seemed to be a “left-wing bubble” and his Jewish school a “right-wing bubble”; and as such, he didn’t really feel comfortable to engage with his own complex feelings about Israel in either space
In my movement experience I feel that we fell victim to siloisation and my sense is that it something that is holding us back as a community and as educators. Therefore when asked to write a piece about how to an Israel educator it is important for me to name that we have a challenge and a responsibility to break out of the silos to give the opportunity for every young person to absorb, challenge, debate, engage, process and react to different educational narratives.
In order to do this, I propose some practical things to consider in advance of writing programmes for your chanichim:
Give space for all chanichim to articulate their thoughts, even if you/others disagree with them. Make sure all voices are heard, not just the most articulate/loudest.
Embrace open-mindedness as a virtue and experiences that challenge pre-existing views as educative.
Israel education needs to move beyond the political and therefore educators have a responsibility to ensure that chanichim have the chance to experience Israel as more than a set of abstract ideological values and concrete political positions.
During debates/discussions it is often seen as a sign of weakness if someone backs down or changes their mind or position – I don’t agree. I believe that we have the capacity to learn from all interactions. Therefore when someone makes a point, chanichim should be encouraged to take a step back and think: where is the other person coming from? Do they have a point? If so, how does this change my understanding of the situation? And where can I find out more? Discussion and different opinions are the foundations of how we communicate with each other as Jews. In the Talmud, minority opinions are recorded and it is through dialogue that the text is formed.
My final thought is that young people today do not share the same compass as ourselves and therefore we need to take a step back and think where young people are coming from rather than see them as “mini-mes” when writing educational programming. By thinking about who the young people are in addition to seriously considering what (and when) to educate them on and how to do it, is the best guidance I can give on how to be an Israel educator.
B’hatslacha (good luck)!
RESPONSIBLE ISRAEL EDUCATION CHECKLIST
Educating about Israel is a hugely important task. If done responsibly, good Israel education can enable your chanichim to take part in and lead respectful dialogues, foster their personal Jewish identities, deepen their commitment to universal human rights, create a sense of excitement about the beautiful land full of history, symbols and meaning, and be educational and enjoyable too.
Israel education can be both emotional and emotive. This is partly because there are numerous assumptions that chanichim, madrichim and organisations bring to the topic. Try and answer these questions before you start:
• What are my assumptions about Israel?
• What is my connection? Personal? Familial? Political? Cultural? Religious? The fact that other people presume I have a connection just because I’m Jewish? Just RSY-Netzer?
• What are your chanichim’s assumptions about Israel? What is their connection? Where else will
they have learnt about Israel and what stance will that education be coming from?
• What are RSY-Netzer’s assumptions about Israel? If you’re running RSY-Netzer Israel sessions in a synagogue, also find out what the synagogue’s position is. This isn’t so that you simply adopt this position, but so that you can recognise the framework you are teaching within. I like the metaphor of an English teacher teaching Shakespeare – the teacher is eager to teach a love of Shakespeare, much like we do when we teach about Israel. But a good teacher doesn’t expect everyone to agree, and can recognise that some sections of Shakespeare’s plays may be not as good as others, and will always present different readings of the text.
To teach about Israel we need to know about Israel, not just feel about it.
• There are certain key stages in Israel’s history, the wars, the peace process, cultural development, there is demography and politics, geography and borders... Make sure you’re up to speed!
• Also remember that there are many layers of the Jewish connection to Israel, biblical, rabbinic, mystical, etc. – different stories to hear and share, different ideas to explore.
• In getting yourself educated, make sure to use multiple sources. There is no one-stop shop for all your Israel information needs. Check different websites, with different slants. Look at Yachad and JStreet, who have some really useful educational resources – but don’t stop there. Look at BICOM, AlJazeerah, Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, different blogs from Israelis, Palestinians and international commentators, speeches from politicians from different Israeli parties, numerous books from reputable sources, etc. Making sure you have researched a topic in depth, from multiple perspectives, will raise the quality of any programme.
To educate responsibly, we need to educate with integrity. Being a responsible Israel educator requires a loyalty both to Israel and to your own values. There are moments when these two loyalties may lie in tension, and finding a way to navigate with both of them is crucial. One helpful thing to do is whatever the specific tension, there is probably an organisation in Israel doing the values work on the ground. Find them, learn what they do and link in and support them if you want to.
• Ignoring the difficult stuff won’t empower your chanichim – equip them to have conversations about Israel with information, sensitivity and values but ensure that it is age appropriate and based on their level of knowledge.
• There are ongoing fierce debates in Israeli society – share the debate with your chanichim rather than feeling compelled to take a side. If you feel like any individual or group hearing how they are being described would feel demonised, try to change how you are presenting their views.
• Short of discriminatory perspectives and language, no opinion should be beyond discussion. It is important our chanichim (and madrichim!) have a place to voice their concerns, opinions and questions about Israel, whatever these are.
• Remember that you don’t have to know everything; it is OK if the chanichim ask you questions and you aren’t sure – it can be a great opportunity to do some fact-finding with them, and model how to look for information on Israel as described.
present multiple perspectives
There are great ways to ensure that multiple perspectives are included. It can mean teaching using the poetry, history books and articles of prominent Palestinian and Israeli authors. It can mean presenting interviews with various different “characters” who live all over the region as part of a pe’ulah. It can mean organising debates or fake negotiations where different groups are encouraged to identify with different perspectives. The creative methods are up to you, but only offering one story, as Chimamanda Adichie so beautifully articulates in her awesome TED talk (go check it out!), is dangerous.
There are loads of films which can be helpful for this, you just need to ask the right people to help you
There are so many brilliant people and organisations around and eager to help think through ideas and
sessions, as well as to get yourself educated. Check your ideas by someone else, even someone you
might disagree with, to check you are educating responsibly.
Don’t forget that this is hadracha: being creative doesn’t mean over-simplifying, you can be creative
without reducing the quality of what you do – your brilliance and inventiveness should communicate
the content, not replace it. Remember a pe’ulah doesn’t become about Israel just because the
chanichim ate falafel!