Nearly two months ago, our Just Zionism group landed in Israel as the election to cement a far-right government in the Knesset was taking effect. When we landed, I had a surface-level understanding of Israeli politics but was about to get a crash course on the election's implications for the activists who were heartbroken by the results.
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On November 2, 2022, I landed at Ben Gurion Airport for the first time. Filled with many emotions, this being my first trip to Israel, I decided to keep an open mind as I joined twelve young adult leaders on a journey to learn more about Israel, Zionism, and why Jews in the Diaspora, especially in the United States, should be engaged.
There are a few days in my life that stand out. There are the big milestones: my first days of school, going to camp for the first time, and my first homerun. Another one of those dates that stands out is December 28th, 2015. That was the day that I made aliyah and became an Israeli citizen.
As I boarded the plane to Israel in the summer of 2002 for my first year of rabbinical school at HUC in Jerusalem, my mother said, "Please, just don't meet an Israeli." As soon as the plane touched down at Ben Gurion airport, I knew that I was home. A few months later, I met that Israeli. From our first conversation, he understood that I was studying to be a rabbi, and I understood that he wanted to live only in Israel.
In meetings with the President of Israel, Isaac Herzog, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, and Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid, we discussed the crisis in Ukraine, the future of the Kotel, ensuring more funding and rights for non-Orthodox Jews, combatting racism, and stopping extremist violence against Palestinians, in addition to other pressing issues.
It's rare to find a documentary set in the Middle East that isn't mired in politics and discord. Rarer still is one bathed in the kind of optimism and goodwill found in Beth Elise Hawk's new film, Breaking Bread. An inside look at a three-day food festival in Haifa, Israel, pairing Israeli and Muslim Arab chefs, Breaking Bread pursues peace through the power of creating top-notch cuisine.
On Sunday, Israel’s Knesset narrowly voted in Israel’s 36th government with Naftali Bennett as the nation’s 13th prime minister, unseating the incumbant Benjamin Netanyahu.
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, its secular founders envisioned a nation that would be both Jewish and attuned to the values of liberal democracy. They were confident that a country with an overwhelming Jewish majority could maintain a Jewish character and ensure civic equality for all its inhabitants.
When my dream came true, and I was accepted to a PhD program at Harvard, I expected to struggle at times as a Zionist and former IDF officer.
Much of the rhetoric coming out of an American understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian interrelationship seriously lacks nuance. Nuance is cavalierly sacrificed on the altar of the soundbite and the hashtag. Those who preach liberal politics and tolerance based on their American experience seem unwilling to understand the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.