On Wednesday last week, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and the Council of Progressive Rabbis (CPR) in Israel issued a statement on the social protests that are currently taking place on the streets of all Israeli major cities.
The people’s voice is as God’s voice
This year, the period of “Between the Straits” (bein ha-meitzarim) has seen an outpouring of protests throughout Israel. Citizens have moved into tents to protest the housing shortage; physicians have marched to Jerusalem; and young parents have taken to the streets together with their children. All these voices are evidence of considerable frustration, but they are also a source of hope. Israelis still believe in their ability to change the reality of their lives, and Israeli democracy is not limited to a trip to a polling booth once every few years.
Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land (Deuteronomy 16:20)
The communities of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) have always seen the struggle to build a moral and just society as a key goal of their religious and communal action. Over the past decade, together with many partners, the IMPJ has spoken out against dangerous social and economic problems that threaten to undermine the moral fiber of Israeli society. Widening social gaps, the erosion of the safety net of social security, and the burden facing middle-class families are among these problems.
The current wave of social process emerged spontaneously, showing that many citizens have come to realize that such phenomena endanger the future of Israeli society. The scope and strength of the protests have created a window of opportunity to establish a more balanced social and economic order that is more responsive to citizens’ needs. Shaping such a society is an imperative facing the present generation of Israelis and Jews!
How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! (Numbers 24:5)
The wave of protest is important not only in terms of the messages it seeks to convey, but also in its potential to renew confidence in public and political action – confidence that has been eroded over recent decades. From the protest tents to the Knesset, the personal and public commitment of Israeli citizens to the developments in their country provides the foundation for the continued existence of the State of Israel and for nurturing the resilience of Israeli society.
All Jews are responsible for one another (Babylonian Talmud, Shavuot 39a)
We support the current protests. We also emphasize that the social and moral fiber of the State of Israel also depend on the willingness of the different sectors that comprise Israeli society to take part in maintaining, defending and developing the nation. Full participation in the work force, an equal distribution of the burden of national service, and the proper allocation of public resources must all be part of the Israeli agenda, even if these issues are not currently at the forefront of the protests.
It is not your duty to complete the work, but neither are you free to refrain from it (Mishna Avot 2:16)
We admire and support those who are initiating, leading and participating in the current public protests. The Reform Movement will take part in these protests, alongside other organizations and bodies, and will provide help as needed. We urge the members, friends and supporters of the movement to take part in the protests according to their abilities and interests. We also urge Reform communities and like-minded bodies to promote dialogue, prater and action relating to the important social protests, and to go out from the prayer house to the street. In the words of the Blessing of Love we recite during the morning prayers, this will help us “to understand and to discern, to hear, learn and teach, to heed and to do… so that we be never put to shame.”
IMPJ Rabbis conducted services at the tents sites in Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Kfar Saba during this past Shabbat. On Tisha B'Av eve, they will read the Megilla with the protesters in Tel Aviv. This photo was taken during the construction of the IMPJ's Sukkat Tzedek in Tel Aviv.