Vote Now for Israel’s Future
There is a story that charms me from the annals of Zionist history at the turn of the 20th century. Arthur Balfour, a Member of the House of Lords asked Chaim Weizmann, who later would become President of Israel, “Why do you Jews insist on Palestine when there are so many undeveloped countries you could settle in more conveniently?” According to the story, Weizmann answered, “That’s like my asking you why you drove twenty miles to visit your mother last Sunday when there are so many old ladies living on your street. Mr. Balfour, if you were offered Paris instead of London, would you take it?” Lord Balfour was shocked and surprised by the question, “But London is our own!” Weizmann answered, “Jerusalem was our own when London was a marsh.” This same Member of the House of Lords famously crafted the Balfour Declaration in 1917 that made public British support of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
At the Orangetown Jewish Center, we talk about Israel, our Jewish homeland, proudly, passionately and with the assurance of safety. There is room for debate and discussion, but we all agree that our home had to be established in 1948 on that tiny strip of desert and marsh. Then Palestine, today Israel, is “our own.”
We also agree that while we advocate and educate about the need for secure borders and freedom from terrorism in Israel, we must also pay close attention to Israel’s soul. As Conservative Jews, we have a specific vision of Israel that is anchored in religious freedom. We yearn to be a part of an Israel that is a pluralistic Jewish and democratic state with which every Jew can proudly identify.
Rabbi Scheff and I often suggest ways to lift our voices in support of the official recognition in Israel of all the major streams of Judaism. We believe that the authority of rabbis from non-Orthodox movements should be respected regarding all issues of personal status and ritual. Rabbis of the Conservative and Reform movements should be able to officiate at weddings, conversions, divorces and funerals in Israel as they do here in America.
Today, there is one specific action you can take to be a part of the potential Israel you envision. It is time now to vote in the World Zionist Congress that will meet this year in Jerusalem. The World Zionist Congress has met since 1897 when it first laid out the principles of Zionism, the belief that the Jewish people of the world must have a homeland of their own, the land of Israel. Today the WZC elects the officers and decides on the policies of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency.
It is time now to vote. It is time to vote for Mercaz, the political arm of the Conservative–Masorti Movement of Judaism. According to the Mercaz mission statement, a vote for Mercaz is a vote for an Israel that is pluralistic and inclusive, egalitarian and unified, sustainable and diverse.
Go to http://votemercaz.org/ to get started, to get educated, and to cast your ballot. It costs just $10 for your opportunity to change the future of Israel. And while you are at the website, you can see a great photograph and statement by our own Josh Drill. He writes about what Mercaz means to him as a young man making aliya this August.
Mercaz has also made a series of short, informative videos that you can share to educate friends and family about the important vision we share about the soul of Israel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnfPe8s6VCU
With friendship, Rabbi Paula Mack Drill