To Unify a Nation
By Dov Lipman
Published by Urim Publications
MK Rabbi Dov Lipman has an amazing story. He was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, became a rabbi and educator, made Aliyah, and became the first American-born Knesset member in decades. Even more remarkable, he has quickly become a symbol for bridge building. In his early 40s, he represents a broad vision for what Israel could be.
His new book, To Unify a Nation: My Vision for the Future of Israel is a must read for all concerned with the future of Israel. Less than 100 pages, the book can be read in just an hour or two. Significantly, President Shimon Peres wrote the opening statement, and Yesh Atid party founder Yair Lapid wrote the Foreword.
While Lipman comes from an ultra-Orthodox background and is an Orthodox rabbi, he offers a breath of fresh air when he suggests that “polarization caused by extremism and isolationism in the religious community may be the greatest internal threat to the future of the Jewish people” (16). In fact, it was on the streets of Bet Shemesh that he emerged in Israeli leadership. Many Israelis were horrified in 2011 when an 8-year-old Modern Orthodox girl was called a “whore” and spat upon while she walked to school, allegedly because her dress was not modest enough for the ultra-Orthodox. The terrified girl said that she was “so scared…that they were going to stand and start yelling and spitting.” Rabbi Lipman stood up to protect the girls against the abuse. Rabbi Lipman also speaks out against religious coercion in Israel, seeks to build bridges between the religious and secular, advocates for the Ethiopian community and for the African refuges, seeks to transition the ultra-Orthodox into the army and workforce, advocates for vegetarianism and animal welfare, speaks out against corruption, argues for women’s rights, a pluralistic society.
Rabbi Lipman belongs to the Yesh Atid party and is a member of the Knesset. From its founding in 2012, Yesh Atid was intended to be a centrist party (to balance the merger of the rightwing Likud and Yisrael Beitenu parties). Under the leadership of Yair Lapid, it officially supports “a democratic, Jewish state,” and its platform calls for “equality under the law,” regardless of “religion, race, gender or sexual orientation.” It also would guarantee that every child be entitled to a quality education (which can be seen as a challenge to certain religious schools). In the January 2013 elections for the 120 seats of the 19th Knesset, Yesh Atid won 14.3 percent of the vote and 19 seats, second to Likud/Yisrael Beitenu (23.3 percent and 31 seats). Since 12 parties earned enough votes to win seats, it appears inevitable that coalitions will continue to be necessary for the government to function, and it is to be hoped that Rabbi Lipman will play a useful role in forming those coalitions.
This book is not only about Israel, though. Lipman brings in personal stories about his own childhood epiphanies and spiritual journeys and a particularly touching story about his father’s impact upon a postman.
I was very touched by something Lipman recently wrote:
“…despite the daily challenges, serving in the Knesset is a great honor. I wake up every day with energy to work hard and make a difference and go to sleep tired at night with a feeling of satisfaction at the day’s accomplishments. Every day, as the car turns the corner and I see the Knesset building in front of my eyes, I am filled with awe regarding the serious responsibility which I have accepted. I also thank God for the opportunity which has been afforded to me and I re-dedicate myself to using this role to lead our country to a better future, to generate greater unity and to sanctify His name.”