March 13, 2023 — Jews throughout Canada, and certainly worldwide, are watching the current political situation in Israel and the resulting polarization it is causing, with tremendous concern and consternation.
The now regular mass protests on the streets of Tel Aviv, and throughout the country are indicators of deep division in Israeli society, and concern over proposed judicial reforms and the complexion of the country’s future. The demonstrations are also a sign of Israel’s vibrant democracy, and we must not lose sight of that.
As with Canada and the United States, the voices and the will of the people are critical to the health of any true democracy. It is with our eyes keenly focused on Israel that we, as Jewish communities in the diaspora, can encourage Israelis, as neighbours, as friends, as family, as politicians, to find common ground, to find compromise, and to find something that represents a bright future for all Israelis; Sephardic and Ashkenazi, religious and secular, Arab and Jew.
Over the past two weeks, I had the honour of serving as Calgary‘s representative on the CIJA Board of Directors mission to the United Arab Emirates and Israel. The two weeks were filled with face-to-face discussions with diplomats, politicians, think-tanks and ordinary citizens, to gather information about the state of affairs throughout the region, and to dig incredibly deeply into some of the enormous political challenges that the country is currently facing.
In speaking both with members of the ruling coalition (some intimately involved in the judicial reforms), as well as members of the opposition, many of the concerns that members of our community have raised directly with Federation and with CIJA were shared firmly and directly. At the same time, we heard quite explicitly, even notably by members of opposition parties, that the most effective role the diaspora Jews can play in this, is that of a family member. A family member has difficult conversations yet doesn’t have them publicly, and certainly not without extreme caution.
We must also remember that, despite our own significant cares and concerns about Israel, our personal views as individuals may differ from other members of the community, who care equally about Israel, and are as invested in the country’s future as we are.
This is not the first time the country has been divided and, G-d willing, not the last. Likewise, representing a Jewish community here in Calgary with a diversity of opinions, means that our role as a representative of the Jewish community as a whole, needs to be one of caution when weighing in on the politics of Israel. Many will say that the proposed judicial reforms will qualitatively change what the country stands for. While that may be true, our role is to support a nation that reflects our Jewish values. We hope and urge the government and the coalition to work together to find common ground, to marginalize voices that stoke division and hate. Supporting Israel transcends supporting any particular government at any time, but rather supporting the country and the very best that it can be, irrespective of politics.
I look forward to sharing my experiences in learning about the Abraham Accords, the judicial reform, ongoing challenges with East Jerusalem and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Stay tuned to the Jewish Calgary community calendar for more information about an upcoming program about this past CIJA Board mission, as well as several virtual events with content experts from CIJA and The Jewish Agency for Israel.
Jared Shore is from Calgary, Alberta. He is a a current member of CIJA's Board of Directors and former President of Calgary Jewish Federation.
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