Our hearts are in Israel today, as we remember the late Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. We hope you will join our Shaliach, Abraham Belilty, for a program Sunday evening in memory of Rabin.
On this day thirty-seven years ago, American Jews joined a shocked nation of Israelis in mourning the loss of Israel’s Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin, and lamenting the dangerous territory into which Israeli politics had veered.
At a rally against the Olso Accords a few weeks before Rabin’s assassination in 1995, amid chants of “death to Rabin,” a group of rightwing extremists surrounded Rabin’s car as an act of intimidation. One of the extremists, who was seen handing out posters of Rabin in an SS uniform, spoke to television cameras on the scene with the hood ornament of Rabin’s Cadillac in hand, saying, “We got to his car, and we’ll get to him too.” He was right.
That extremist, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was a longtime member of Kach, Meir Kahana’s political organization that was outlawed and deemed a terrorist organization by both the Israeli and American governments. And yet, after this week’s election Ben-Gvir stands to be one of the most powerful officials in the new Knesset. Technically, Kach was disbanded, allowing Ben-Gvir to run for office, despite his forty-six indictments (and 8 convictions), including for rioting, vandalism, incitement to racism, and support for a terror organization. He has made a name for himself as the premier lawyer for Jewish extremists suspected of terrorism and hate crimes, including as the lawyer for the openly racist organization Lehava.
Ben-Gvir continues to incite violence against Arabs, as recently as his victory speech this week. (His history is well documented. I encourage you to read about him further.) But that didn’t stop Netanyahu from striking a deal allowing him a seat in Knesset in 2021. And it didn’t stop Netanyahu from collaborating with his party in these elections, building a coalition that ensures that Ben-Gvir will become one of Israel’s most influential lawmakers.
We love Israel and the people of Israel. And because of that love, we are deeply concerned with the makeup of what is almost certainly the coalition that will lead the next Israeli government – four parties whose stated platforms include: rolling back freedoms for non-religious and non-Orthodox Israelis, revoking funding for protecting LGBTQ+ citizens, revoking laws to oversee the massive kashrut industry, and rolling back existing regulations of settlement building. Of dire concern is the consensus among the parties to prioritize rolling back the authority of the supreme court, giving politicians broad power to override laws.
We will continue to dream of an Israel that affirms the dignity of all lives, regardless of race or ethnicity, religion or religious practice, sexual orientation or gender identity; an Israel that has zero tolerance for violent extremism in any camp; an Israel that supports an independent judiciary as a pillar of a democratic society. We dream of a homeland that reflects the ideals of justice, compassion and peace, where all of her inhabitants are safe and free.