We join in solidarity with our Israeli colleagues and with the whole Israeli Reform Movement in opposing the Nation State Law just passed last night. The following is a statement on the law from our Israeli colleagues Rabbi Gilad Kariv and Rabbi Noa Sattath.
Friends and Partners Shalom,
Last night the Knesset passed the final version of the “Nation State” Law.
As all of you are aware, over the past weeks and especially the last few days we have organized and led the intense public and political “battle” to prevent this law from passing. Many of you aided us in this effort and we want to express our deepest gratitude. We believe that our efforts put Reform and Progressive Jews in the forefront of the struggle for Israel’s democratic and Jewish values based on our Zionist and Democratic world view.
During this public struggle we stated clearly that the “Nation State” Law can actually help us in legal claims regarding recognition of the non- Orthodox streams of Judaism from the very fact of the statement in the law that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people. At the same time we nonetheless fiercely opposed the law because of the worsening of relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel, and because the law does not mention Israel’s Declaration of Independence, or the principle of equality and democratic values of the state of Israel.
It is important to note that the version of the law that was ratified by the Knesset is very different from the original versions that were proposed. It does not include any statement in which the Jewish character of the state is more important than the democratic character (the democratic character of Israel is anchored in the Basic Law of Human Dignity and Freedom passed in the 90s). The law also does not include a statement giving an official status of Jewish law (halacha) as a source of inspiration, nor does the law give itself a higher status than the other Basic Laws. Additionally instead of the original line that stated clearly that people could be prevented from joining community settlements on the basis of religion, ethnicity, or nationality, the law now only makes a general statement in support of Jewish settlement as a national value that the nation should promote.
All of these points reduce the negativity of the original versions, but it’s still important to state that we feel that this is a terrible and unnecessary law which erodes the necessary balances among the core values of the state of Israel.
In the coming days we will distribute a detailed summery regarding the law including the lessons we have learned in the process of the struggle against the law, and thoughts regarding the future. We are convinced that our Zionist, Progressive and Democratic Voice is needed now more than ever to be heard. We believe that even after the law is passed, we should express our disappointment and concern to Israeli ambassadors and representatives throughout the world. It’s very important that Jerusalem be made aware that the passing of the law leaves a heavy burden on Israeli society and world Jewry and that large numbers of the Jewish people in Israel and around the world are deeply worried about erosion of Israel’s core values.
We want to thank all those who helped and continue to participate in the effort, both our professionals and our volunteer leadership in Israel and around the world.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv and Rabbi Noa Sattath