The Protests in Israel – Responses from Our Twin Congregation

by Larry Englander, March 31, 2023

Dear Solelniks,

We have all been very concerned about recent developments in Israel. As the protests continue to mount, I reached out to leaders in our twin Israeli congregation Darchei No’am in Ramat Hasharon. The chain of correspondence below begins with my letter to them and then continues with three replies. I hope their comments will help us to understand what is at stake, and what we must do here in Canada to support those Israelis striving to protect democracy and civil rights. Our Reform and progressive compatriots in Israel have chosen to speak out rather than remain silent or simply walk away. We should make the same choice.

Dear Friends

I want you to know that we in Canada are thinking of you during these trying times in Israel, and that we are doing what we can to raise our voices against the tyrannical measures being planned. For the past few Sundays there have been rallies in the major cities, and last Sunday I attended the rally in Toronto. Over 100 people showed up, waving Israeli flags and singing Hatikvah.

At present, there are two major positions within the Canadian Jewish community. One voice, championed by the “Establishment” (e.g. UJA Federation), urges us to keep the discussion “beyneynu” and not to demonstrate in the streets. The second position urges us to raise our voices. When I spoke at the rally, I mentioned that my Israeli friends (including you, of course) tell us: “We are such a minority here — we need you to add your voice to ours, to show that Jews around the world want to preserve democracy in Israel.” It’s not the same as being “on the ground” with you, but we hope that our efforts will have some effect.

It seems now that Bibi will make a pause in the legislative process to let the energy of the “leftists” diminish, while at the same time giving Ben Gvir his own storm troops. If you have any light to shed on these developments, we’d be grateful if you could share it with us. And if you wish, I would ask that your comments be published in the Solel newsletter.

In the meantime, we send our love and support.

עוד לא אבדה תקוותנו

Rabbi Larry Englander

From Brenda Alony, founding Executive member of Darchei No’am

Thanks for thinking of us. Yes, it’s really hard times here. It is quite depressing – don’t know what will happen.

To tell you the truth, this pause in the legislation may possibly be just to calm down the atmosphere. Netanyahu is known for not telling the truth so many times. I don’t trust him at all. Unfortunately, most of the coalition members care more about their personal political situation than about the country. ..and Bibi….cares only about his court case and not about the country. He was a different person in the past.

I have usually been optimistic about situations here in Israel, but I can’t really say that right now. I’m not sure that all of them sitting down together and trying to find a good solution will really succeed. I’m not even sure that the coalition even wants to find a solution.

Sorry to sound so pessimistic but unfortunately this is the reality. We have to hope for a miracle. Ben Gurion once said something like…”If you don’t believe in miracles, you’re not being realistic”.

Let’s continue to hope for the best.


From Rabbi Eli Levin (translated from the Hebrew)

Thank you for your thoughts and deeds in Toronto. This is indeed a period of great distress, a period of threatening darkness.

Not just for the Reform Movement here in Israel but also for vulnerable groups like the LGBTQ community, for women, etc. This is an about-face for the state and a 180-degree turn from the Jewish and democratic Zionist vision. It is not democracy for judges to be appointed solely by politicians (some of whom are guilty themselves of crimes of corruption).

This is a threatening attempt by Ultra-Orthodox and messianic nationalists to take control over the institutions of the state.

I think that you should now go out and protest, saying with a loud voice that this is also an issue for Diaspora Jews – and not to keep this “between ourselves.”

This is perhaps the most critical time since the War of Independence and the most dangerous since the Yom Kippur War.

The days ahead will tell whether this respite will simply serve to sedate the protesters so that the dictatorial vote will come quickly within another month.

Let us hope for better days.

From Ilana Dothan, President of Darchei No’am

Thank you so much for your concern. As my friends wrote to you we are really not very optimistic that things will change in the near future, but even as I write this I must confess, there is a small light in this great darkness. As I commented yesterday during a Zoom Meeting with leaders of the movement, we see an astonishing amount of friends of Darchei Noam of all ages participating in the demonstrations in Ramat Hasharon and surroundings. I am especially thrilled with the vast number of young people that take off time from their busy schedules and became active. I also mentioned a strange phenomenon, during the past few months there has been an incredible increase in the number of young girls who are interested in celebrating their Bat Mitzvah in our synagogue, is this a coincidence or are even youngsters trying to make a point ??

I reinforce Eli’s words, we need as much help as possible. Anna told us that lots of material are being translated now to English and will be sent to you upon request.

Filed under: Reflections

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