The recent Israeli election brings forth a stark reality, that not only must the Jewish community be vigilant against attacks from the outside – anti-Semitism – but also against attacks from within, Jews against Jews.

In an article published by The Jewish Post and News, Judy Maltz asks “Will Israel Become a Theocracy? Religious Parties are Election’s Biggest Winners.” This is not a story directly about Benjamin Netanyahu, but rather the nature of Israeli politics, where leaders are tasked with forming a coalition – 61 seats out of 120) – that brings into play difficult partners with unsavoury demands that are clearly unpalatable to the majority of Israeli citizens…and those of us who live abroad.

I should note at the outset that we can’t apply or force our Canadian values regarding separation of church and state onto the rest of the world. There are many countries that are framed as Arab states with value systems and laws drawn from the Koran, and Israel is likewise a Jewish state, imbued uniquely and shaped by Jewish values. But in both cases, there isn’t a singular idea of what Muslim values or Judaic values are.

And so, we fight and push back from within. Maltz warns us that in the next years, we may see a push to dramatically limit the Law of Return that grants Jews the right to citizenship by rewriting the definition of who is a Jew. We may see the outlawing of non-Orthodox conversions within Israel. We may see pushes to ban public transportation on Shabbat, broadening the ban on civil marriages in Israel to include now-allowed online marriages, or the reduction of support of LGBTA2+ rights. And good luck in opening up pluralistic prayer and Torah at the Western Wall.

Incoming Prime Minister Netanyahu will be pressed hard by the religious far right for these concessions so that he can stay in power despite what the vast majority of Israelis and Diaspora Jews want and need of Israel. But I am grateful for the diversity of strength of so many Jewish organizations who are already stepping up to this challenge and who will act as our voices to ensure that Judaism, as expressed in Israel, moves forward and not backward.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Allan