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When It Comes to Israel, Separating the Hand-Wringers from the Doers

When It Comes to Israel, Separating the Hand-Wringers from the Doers

I have been in Europe these past two weeks talking with people in Germany, England and now Holland. I love having the opportunity to meet with communities and people across the globe and to share with them stories about IRAC's (Israel religious Action Center) work.

I sometimes begin my presentation with a simple exercise. I ask participants to talk about the first emotion that comes to mind when they think about Israel. The responses I get are typically divided into two groups.

First, there are the "hand-wringers." These people are overcome with sadness and despair. "What has happened to Israel's sense of justice and human dignity?" they ask. "What's happening over there is breaking my heart." By wringing their hands these well-meaning people disengage from Israel. They feel powerless to contribute to change, and that feeling becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Then there are the "doers." These people are filled with passion and hope. They know that there is lots (and lots, and lots) of work to be done to help Israel reclaim her ideals as a diverse and democratic Jewish state. But they focus less on asking "what happened?" and more on asking "What can we do?" They are prone to say things like "let's roll up our sleeves and get Israel back on track."

It is a proven scientific fact that you can't wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time. Rolling up your sleeves stops you from wringing your hands, and visa-versa. What leads a person to be one over the other? I have come to realize that there is one major contributing factor:

"Doers" tend to personally know one or more Israelis who hold beliefs and values that are similar to their own. They update each other about their personal fears and aspirations, and their dreams about Israel's future. Together they feel ashamed when Israel strays from the path, but harness that shame into a commitment to create change.

Israeli and diaspora Jews are a powerful force when they share a vision of a Jewish democratic state committed to equality, diversity, tolerance and justice. When you have kindred spirits on the other end of the telephone, you have someone to call when disappointment arises. You have someone to call to share pride in Israel's accomplishments.

It's clear to me that those who have friends and personal connections to Israel can stand on their feet and can weather the storm even when a strong wave hits them, and even when others lose their foothold. These people don't need to wring their hands because they have someone to turn to for a dose of proportion, perspective, and promise.

We at the Israel Religious Action Center can be your connection to Israel. When something is bothering you, don't wring your hands. Email us. Talk to us on Facebook. Together let's harness the force that is in each and every one of us to be the change that we want to see in Israel and in the world.

Then let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in Israel. She is also the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, a group of Jewish women and men from around the world who strive to achieve the right of women to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Anat Hoffman
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