rac-smct-text-block

 Press Room | Facebook | Twitter | DONATE

Israel

The legislative assistant offices at the RAC have a strange feel to them today—all of the zany pictures and decorations adorning our desks have been removed, the usual desktop clutter has vanished and there is a strong scent of cleaning solution flowing through the air. After 50 weeks at the RAC, it’s our last day, and an opportunity for us to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve witnessed during our time here.

Human rights and Bedouin advocates are breathing a sigh of relief this week, now that the elementary school in the Bedouin village of Al-Sayyid has been connected to the power grid, four decades after it was built. The four other schools in the village will be hooked up to the power grid by the time school starts in September. This movement comes in the wake of a petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice, which convinced the Israel Electric Corporation to connect these schools to the power grid.

The air stood still in Jerusalem’s Zion Square last night.

More than a thousand teens and young adults gathered there to attend a memorial service organized by the Jerusalem Open House. They came to grieve the loss of Shira Banki, the 16-year old girl who died yesterday afternoon days after being stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox man at last Thursday’s Jerusalem LGBTQ Pride March.

When we last checked in with the Israeli governing coalition in June, we found fractures in the coalition dealing with Israel’s secular-religious divides, such as Religious Minister David Azoulay calling Reform Jews a “disaster for the nation of Israel”. Recently, however, the coalition has found itself embroiled in controversy that is perhaps the most divisive issue in Israel: the settlements. Here are some the stories we’ve been following:

Our hearts are heavy today after learning of a vicious act of terrorism in the West Bank, in which Israelis are suspected of setting the home of a Palestinian family on fire. Tragically, the fire claimed the life of a toddler and badly injured others. Rabbi Jonah Pesner offered thoughts on the tragedy:

By Joelle Leib

During my time at Scripps College, a women’s college in Claremont, California, I have learned much about feminism and the critical fight for gender equality. Luckily for me and my female millennial peers, American women have made tremendous strides in the past few decades, so much so that Hillary Clinton is now a frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary. Yet as someone who also identifies as a Zionist as well as a feminist, a great deal must still be accomplished before these two identities can be completely reconciled.

Reform Jews in Israel and around the world are still feeling the wounds of a string of hurtful comments by Israel’s Minister of Religious Affairs, David Azoulay. In June, Minister Azoulay called Reform Judaism “a disaster for the nation of Israel,” and earlier this month, stated that Reform Jews were really not Jews at all. The comments have been met with widespread condemnation, including from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but we know all too well the parable of the feather pillow: once something is said, the hurt never fully goes away.

Negotiators from the P5+1 and Iran have concluded their 20-month long negotiations process with an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program, but the agreement still faces major hurdles and a divided country as it moves towards implementation. Chief among these is the 60-day review period mandated by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (often known as the Corker-Cardin bill), which the Reform Movement supported.

Early this morning, P5+1 and Iran announced an historic agreement aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, while simultaneously providing Iran with relief from nuclear-related sanctions. The deal, which has been the result of nearly 20 months of negotiations, comes in at a sleek 159 pages, and many top experts, including those in the Reform Movement, are still parsing through the details.

It’s the first day of July, which means that the original deadline for a final agreement between the P5+1 and Iran has now come and passed. Yet, negotiators are still working diligently: in a widely-expected move yesterday, negotiators agreed to a seven-day extension of the talks to iron out the final details of the agreement. The extension comes at a time when the political will for an agreement, especially on the Iranian side, is being questioned: Supreme Leader Khamenei is now asserting that sanctions must be lifted before Iran starts dismantling its nuclear program, a non-starter for the countries in the P5+1. Over this next week, we will find out how serious the Supreme Leader’s demands are.