As a senior member of MRJ’s staff responsible for Israel relationships, I was delighted to represent The Movement and its 43 communities in a meeting with Mr. Miki Levy MK, Speaker of The Knesset, and Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely. The aim was for the Speaker to get to know the Reform Movement better and to discuss the joys, issues, and challenges that The Movement for Reform Judaism in the UK faces in all of our relationships with Israel. This was the first time we had been invited to a private meeting on what was an official visit.
The Speaker expressed his condolences for the passing of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and shared with us how everybody in Israel was glued to the TV on Monday for the funeral. He then moved to acknowledge that Jewish communities around the world face many troubling issues but that Israel is there to offer support wherever it can.
Referring to the question of who is a Jew and religious pluralism, the Speaker reiterated his deep belief that members of all Jewish denominations are considered to be Jewish. And that the Reform Movement has a key role to play in the fabric of the Jewish people.
He showed frustration with the deadlock over the situation in the Kotel but remained convinced that a solution can be found, whilst calling the current position untenable.
Finally, he shared with us that although he considers himself to be an orthodox Jew, his daughter had her Bat Mitzvah in Kamtz Reform community in Mevaseret Zion, near Jerusalem. This he said was his commitment to true pluralism in his own house as well as Israel.
The Speaker commended the fantastic achievement of the Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv in becoming the first Reform Rabbi MK, and the importance of his representation.
On behalf of the Movement, I thanked him for the opportunity to meet, acknowledging that it is part of our effort to strengthen the relationship between MRJ and the State of Israel. This began in June 2022 when a delegation of Clergy held meeting with the Deputy Ambassador where it was agreed that trust and truth must be at the heart of our association.
I reiterated The Movement’s love, pride, and commitment to the State of Israel, but also, in order to have a strong and meaningful collaboration, we must ensure that both the Speaker and the Ambassador understand the progressive Zionist values that we hold. We are proud to be a critical friend of Israel and believe that we will all benefit from honest and robust conversations including religious pluralism, full equality for Israeli Palestinians, among other ongoing debates.
We also discussed the worrying trend among the younger generation to disengage from Israel and this is something that we all agreed to address with honest conversation and education across our communities and youth movements.
The meeting was productive. The Speaker understood our differences and difficulties and suggested we produce a paper with the Ambassador that fleshes out our needs, aspirations, and relevant beliefs in a way that allows a compromise or solution to be reached.
I have agreed a follow-up meeting with the Embassy together with the Clergy team, after the High Holy days to continue the dialogue. This will also include ways of setting up a series of conversations between the Embassy and our Reform communities ahead of Israel 75th Yom Ha’Atzmaut.