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Celebrating Israel's Foundational Values

Celebrating Israel's Foundational Values

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This Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day – May 11-12), there is so much to celebrate. We celebrate the 68th birthday of a thriving, Jewish and democratic state in our historic homeland. We celebrate Israel’s people: renowned for their tenacity, innovation, intellect and creativity. We celebrate Israel’s achievements: in science, technology, scholarship and culture. We celebrate the fact that Jews around the world, no matter the dire straits in which they may find themselves, have a place where they can call home.

Yom HaAtzmaut does not just commemorate Israel’s founding, though; it also commemorates the values upon which Israel was founded and offers us a chance to think deeply about what our deep love for Israel looks like. At our L’Taken Social Justice seminars last winter, students, eager to learn about Israel and define their relationship with the Jewish state, had the opportunity to look at texts and quotes that communicate these values and commitments, and decide what was most meaningful to them. Below are a few of their (and my) favorites.

  • “THE STATE OF ISRAEL … will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions.” This excerpt from Israeli Declaration of Independence sets out the Jewish state’s vision for equality on all levels and impresses upon us the importance of pursuing the virtues of freedom and equality.
  • “We believe that a Jewish State, manifesting the principles of our prophetic tradition, is one of the most significant sources of Jewish unity and inspiration in the world today.” This quote from a 1981 URJ Resolution on Israel and the Prophetic Vision reminds us of one of the reasons that we as Reform Jews support Israel. A state that reflects the values set out by our prophets thousands of years ago and established on the land where those prophets walked can inspire us and Jews all over the world.
  • “For Zion's sake will I not remain silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation like a burning torch.” Isaiah 62:1 teaches us to speak out and engage in support of a State of Israel that upholds righteousness and endures as a place of salvation.
  • “If tikkun olam begins at home, then it begins not only with our literal homes in communities across North America, but with our spiritual home in Israel. And that means it is incumbent upon us to help repair our beloved and embattled Jewish state.” URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs emphasizes that our commitment to tikkun olam extends beyond North America and indeed encapsulates our hopes and dreams for the State of Israel.

As we take this time to celebrate Israel and all that it stands for, I hope that these texts can inspire us to continue in the vital work of supporting Israel and giving voice to the deep connection we feel with the Jewish state. Learn more about the RAC’s work for Israel by visiting our issue page.

Jacob Kraus is the campaign organizer at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, leading the Reform Movement’s Urgency of Now campaigns for criminal justice reform and immigrant justice. Based at the Union for Reform Judaism offices in New York City, Jacob grew up in Cincinnati, OH, where his family is affiliated with Rockdale Temple. He is a 2015 graduate of Macalester College.

Jacob Kraus

Published: 5/11/2016