The fast and furious push to radically change Israel ASAP!
At a time when Israeli society is already hemorrhaging from the many attempts of the government’s extreme religious coalition to bring about reforms which will dramatically change the character of Israel, one Knesset member thought it would be good to pile on even further.
Knesset Member Avi Maoz of the far-right Noam Party, has submitted a bill which would do away with the “grandchild clause” contained in the 1970 Law of Return addendum, which allowed for the grandchildren of at least one Jewish grandparent to also be eligible for citizenship.
In Maoz’s estimation, “the purpose of this amendment is to reduce the rights of family members who fall within the scope of the law in such a way that the descendants entitled to it will only be the children of a Jew and not his grandchildren.”
Is there such a thing as too many changes within a very short period of time? You bet! Let’s recap.
There is the new law which forbids leaven to be brought into hospitals during the holiday of Passover. A bill was introduced concerning how a woman dresses by the Western Wall. There was the Gafni bill which wanted to imprison those sharing their Christian faith with Israeli Jews. There is the approval of a National Guard under the command of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. There is the aspiration of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who hopes to annex more of the territories, offering Palestinians incentives to leave. There is the looming threat by Arye Deri, who says that “they can enforce judicial reforms whenever they want.” And the list goes on.
It's enough to make your head spin, wondering what’s next? What other bills will be introduced which will negatively impact how ordinary, non-religious Israelis live their daily lives? And what if there is blowback from too much impending change?
You have only to look at Noa Tishby, Israeli actress, writer, producer and activist, who was fired by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen from her position as Special Envoy for Combatting Antisemitism and the Delegitimization of Israel. Her reaction was that “the role of an Israeli advocate should not include the suppression of her own opinions regarding events unfolding in Israel.” Apparently free speech only extends to those who tow the party line.
So, the message being sent by coalition members is: “Be prepared to accept whatever we push, because if you don’t, we will make sure that you are suppressed in some way.”
But the Israeli public is not caving into such intimidation.
Despite a pause on the reforms, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently announced in the hopes of quelling the deep unrest which has spilled out onto Israeli streets over the last three months, protestors are not deterred and still coming out in full force, as evidenced by last Saturday night's numbers, estimated in the hundreds of thousands.
Israelis, as any other people, are measured and sedate. They don’t take well to sudden upheaval and change, which is why our wars are very short-lived. Lengthy and thorough discussion is preferred to jumping into a new and quick reality, especially if it will affect their lifestyle and the balance of daily activity. Israelis are notorious for being traditional, and that accounts for the enjoyment they derive from their weekly Friday night family dinners to celebrating the holidays.
It is this consistent and familiar rhythm which has worked well throughout the years with each change of government. Until now.
Only since this latest coalition, have Israelis been forced to confront the disturbing reality – that their way of life might suddenly come to a swift end. And this is what has motivated the ever-growing numbers of Israeli citizens who have exercised their right to disagree and weigh in. They truly believe that all of these rapid changes will be devastating to their country, as well as badly impact the minority populations who already feel disenfranchised at every turn.
It’s important to remember that Israel, although established as the Jewish homeland, is also home to Christians, Muslims and other minorities. It is, perhaps, because of that reality we have sought to honor the scripture which commands us in Exodus 22:21 “not to mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for we were also foreigners in Egypt.”
Ironically, the laws currently on the fast-moving conveyer belt – waiting to make their way into our daily lives – are tailored and designed to cater to one small segment of the population, which does not even comprise the majority. Nonetheless, it’s a powerful and dominant segment which is not interested in anyone’s feelings but their own. Hardships or loss of freedoms, that will be faced by others does not come into account.
A pure and unadulterated Israel is the endgame for those in power at the moment. And the faster they can accomplish that goal, the better. But just as they underestimated the reaction of Israeli citizens and the harsh outside backlash, they should stop and realize where this is all headed.
The once beloved prime minister will, likely, never again be elected, and members of his Cabinet have made a name for themselves. Voters in the next election will determine if that name is a good one or a bad one, but with hundreds of thousands filling the streets each weekend, they shouldn’t be too quick to settle in comfortably. A collective message is being sent by the country, which says: “We will not allow you to change the character and unique nature of the land.” And why should they since it represents so much of God’s mercy to all mankind!
That is a lesson yet to be learned by these extreme religious parties, which tend to err on the side of judgment, intolerance, elitism and bigotry. They seem to be incapable of extending the same generosity they have received, causing them to fall short of being the light to the nations which they were intended to be.
For now, their light is extinguished, but Israel is much greater than them. It is home to a diverse and resilient people who have one thing in common – the knowledge that freedom will always triumph over bondage.
The people of Israel still believe the words of the psalmist who said, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” Yes, we are all so different, but somehow, despite those differences, we managed to live together in unity before they decided it would be their way or the highway.
Well now look at those highways – they are loaded with fellow countrymen who are committed to taking back their nation – even as we prepare to celebrate its 75th birthday!
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.