We are living in stressful, divided, indeed dark times. The sense of cohesive mission by many in Western democracies has fractured into angry divisiveness in which the views of others are not only to be disagreed with, they are to be reviled; those who hold such views are to be cancelled.
So, when we are privileged to see rays of light, evidence to the contrary, we should take stock and celebrate the moment.
Such a moment of light occurred this past week, as Im Tirtzu, Israel’s largest grassroots Zionist organization, conducted its first-ever all Israeli crowdfunding event. The idea was to match grassroots social and ideological convictions with financial support.
More remarkable than the final total, which exceeded our goals, was the fact that more than 2,100 of our citizens took part in the campaign. The fact that this occurred in the midst of Covid-induced economic distress makes the turnout of supporters that much more notable.
All of this begs the question of why there should have been such a widespread and generous turnout. I suggest that this is a testimony to our citizens, to their understanding that in supporting Im Tirtzu they are supporting their own vision for a proudly Zionist and democratic society.
In the face of the increasing self-denigration of Western values, ethics, and binding myths, Im Tirtzu and other Zionist organizations – and those who support them – proudly affirm the justness, decency and humaneness of Zionism as the guiding light of Israel’s destiny.
Despite a seemingly perennially dysfunctional government, these Israeli citizens demonstrate their clarity and understanding that ours is a society worth cherishing, defending and celebrating.
Millions of our citizens have internalized the meaning of Hanukkah, of resisting the siren song of assimilation into a society that discards its Jewish character, its Jewish essence, in the name of looking more presentable to Europeans and to others who have long ago cast off their own national identities.
Rather, they proudly assert their Jewishness, their Israeli-ness and the light and goodness that emanates from each. They recognize that with their financial support of organizations such as Im Tirtzu, they are giving voice to their own individual convictions.
In his last and perhaps his most powerful book, Morality, Rav Jonathan Sacks, z’’tl, talks about the critical role played by civic society. This sphere, intermediating between the individual and the State, is where people come together to give of themselves, to volunteer, to work together and to assure the civic health of a society.
Thankfully, Israel still possesses a healthy civic society, and Im Tirtzu is an exemplar of that society at work. We have no agenda other than to cherish and nurture the Zionist values that have sustained us.
We seek to include all, Jewish and Gentile, who see their future bound up in the continuing success of Israel, and we will confront those, whether they are in Israel, or financing them from overseas, who would seek to undermine those values.
We are about to begin a campaign that calls attention to the overreach of our Supreme Court, and its willful derogation of the separation of powers between the branches of our government.
Judicial overreach is a great threat not only to Israel’s democratic character by enabling the Court to act as an oligarchic super-legislature, but also potentially as a threat to its Jewish character.
On December 22nd, the Court will review the 2018 Basic Law which codifies that Israel is a Jewish State. The very idea that it could review such a law is akin to stating that a provision of the Constitution could be unconstitutional (Israel has no written constitution and its Basic Laws are seen in the aggregate as the representation of our Constitution.).
If this Law is overturned, the Court will show its complete contempt for our legislature, the Knesset, and could open the door to further challenges on the nature of Israel as a Jewish State.
To us at Im Tirtzu, and to the millions of Israelis who support us, this is wild overreach. We the People must assert ourselves and decry such behavior, sending a loud and clear message that our Jewish State is sacrosanct and not to be put into play to assuage political or ideological convictions.
This is why there is an Im Tirtzu, and this is why I believe that we speak to the hearts and minds of so many of our citizens. In supporting Im Tirtzu, Israelis have affirmed themselves and have expressed their conviction to be free and sovereign.
What better Hanukkah present could we give to ourselves!