We already have heritage trips to Israel, so why not Jewish heritage trips to the Diaspora? Israelis could learn about Jewish progressive politics and minority rights – and take the lessons home to boost their own democracy.
The Palestinian-Israeli Member of Knesset, Ahmed Tibi, used to enjoy saying that Israel is a democracy for Jews, and Jewish for Arabs. But lately Israel is raising questions about how democratic it is for anyone.
The Nation-State Law ratified in July provides an exclusive right of self-determination for Jews in Israel, denying the same basic right to about one-quarter of citizens who are not Jewish. Over the last decade, Israel has passed laws, such as the Nakba law of 2011, that discriminate against both the Arab minority and civil society groups that advance progressive positions. Israel’s Justice Minister seeks to strengthen political control over the Supreme Court, which is regularly accused of being an “unelected elite”.
These measures have caused great concern among diaspora Jews. Many American Jews, even those who are hardline on security issues wonder: what to do about the Nation-State law? How to explain the 5 a.m. detention and interrogation of a conservative rabbi in Israel for performing non-Orthodox weddings? Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism which represents over 600 Conservative congregations across North America, connected the two incidents in an angry post on Twitter:
“Bet you didnt know that performing a non orthdox[sic] wedding in Israel is punishable by 2 years in prison? And now with new nation law, why wouldn’t… we be worried about Israel’s direction as a democratic State? Hhm?...”