Yesterday began at Beit Shmuel, the center of Reform Judaism in Israel, housing many of our movement’s offices in Israel. Coming back there always feels a bit like coming home; during both the years I have lived in Israel it was my central base; both during my Shnat-Netzer year and when I was an HUC student. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since my last visit, Beit Shmuel is a place where I always feel comfortable.
Our first meeting was with Anat Hoffman, the head of the Israel Religious Action Center and also head of Women at the Wall. Anat is truly our modern day pioneer, fighting to build a Jewish State for all of her citizens, and one which will adhere to values of democracy, pluralism and equality. She is on the front line of the fight for the future character of the State of Israel. She told us about the vital work they are engaged in, but I was especially struck by the work that IRAC do to support Orthodox women in their struggle for rights and equality. It is not simply about advancing Reform Judaism in Israel; it is about a set of values which call all of us to action.
From there we went north (I cannot even imagine how many miles we will be covering in total on this trip) to explore the Galilee and the Golan. If Sunday was about communities on the front line today, with hostilities across the Gaza border, Monday was about visiting an area once bombarded from Lebanon and Syria, but now largely quiet.
Hearing the stories from Israel’s past it is clear that these communities experienced what the people of Netiv HaAsara and Kibbutz Kfar Aza are going through today (it is sad that eyn kol chadash tachat hashemesh – there is nothing new under the sun). When you visit the Galilee and the Golan you get a real sense of the geography and the way that Israel truly faced an existential threat while Syria held the high ground overlooking the country. Since 1973 the border with Syria has largely been quiet and since the withdrawal from Lebanon the same can be said of that border.
The north, flourishing and vibrant, offers us hope and inspiration for what may be possible one day in the south. A secure border with our neighbor, and a community which is able to grow and thrive without the constant threat of war and attack.