Wednesday, December 06, 2017

If not now, when?

In six weeks from now,  Carm, Nava, Eitan and I will be moving to Jerusalem. Our plan is to live there for the next two years, in order to see how our lives can be enriched from the experience.
Our reasons for making this move at this time in our lives are as follows:

1. For many generations, the Jewish people had no state of their own, which brought about a great resilience in our people, but also led to same great catastrophes. We feel blessed to live in a period of history where Jews can exercise their right to self determination in the form of a state, and we very much want to be a part of this special moment in the epic history of our people.
2. The modern State of Israel is very much a part of the answer to our “Why be Jewish?” question. We don’t want our children to have a Jewish identity based on victimhood, and antagonism against the world because Hitler killed their ancestors. To quote Haim Watzman,"Our history, tradition and culture are rich and powerful and provide adequate reason to want to be a Jew and an Israeli even if Hitler had never been born and the swastika never had reigned.”
My hope for the future is that my children grow up and be people who think “I’m a Jew because the Jewish people produced the Bible whose stories and poetry have become the common heritage of mankind…..I’m a Jew because of my people’s ethos of learning, argument and dialogue, because of the Talmud, midrashim, and thinkers ranging from Maimonides to Spinoza and Yeshayahu Leibowitz….I’m a Jew because my people preserved its language and culture through centuries of dispersion and reestablished and recreated them in the modern State of Israel” (Source: Jews despite the Holocaust)
3. As cultural Jews who embrace humanistic expressions of religious identity, we acknowledge that Israel (closely followed by New York, which we also considered for this adventure) is one of the best places on earth to be a secular Jew. Living in a state whose history is bound up with the history of the Jewish people, whose principal language is Hebrew, and whose main holidays reflect its national mission is a blessing for us. Knowing that in less than a year from now, our children will be singing, playing and of course arguing with each other in the same language in which the Mishna of Rebbi Yehuda, the poetry of Amichai and the lyrics of Alma Zohar are written is a dream come true for us.
4. When Israel was founded in 1948, the Declaration of Independence aspired that the state should be one that is “open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; fostering the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants”. The wish of the founding fathers and mothers was that Israel would be “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it 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; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
Looking at the Israel of 2017, whilst it is possible to observe many aspects of this vision as being realised, there is a still a long way to go. This year marked the 50th year under which the Palestinian people have been living under IDF military occupation, that has denied them basic rights of freedom and self determination that our own people celebrate each year on Yom Haatzmaut. Furthermore, Israel’s current government has alienated millions of Israelis and diaspora Jews from religious Judaism by giving power to an Orthodox Rabbinate that has long ceased to interpret halacha in a manner that serves the interests of the majority of Israelis. The policies of the government have also exacerbated economic inequality, with Israel’s child poverty rate now surpassing that of Mexico and Chile. When Israel becomes our home, we hope to join with the many progressive forces in Israel that are working tirelessly to reverse these trends in order to help the Israel of today realise the vision of her founders.
5. This move is an opportunity we can best offer our children while they are young, and while we are all open to adventure. Acknowledging the significant differences between an Australian and an Israeli childhood, we hope we can offer them the best of both. We are blessed to have grown up in a loving and supportive community in Melbourne, filled with amazing friends, family and the incredible Shira Melbourne and Kehilat Kolenu - קהילת קולנו communities which we will both miss greatly. We hope that leaving for a while will give us greater perspective on what it means to be an Australian, which is also a country that to has an unreconciled past.
Thanks to everyone in advance for all your support, guidance and advice as we embark upon this journey. 
אם אין אני לי, מי לי? וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי?
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
But, If I am only for myself, what am I
And if not now, when?

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