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  • תמונת הסופר/תEsther Sperber

American Jews and Jewish Organizations Need to Join the Fight for Israeli Democracy


 


I grew up in Jerusalem, studied architecture at the Technion and came to New York in 1997 to do a Master's at Columbia. Like many at the protest today, I never planned to move to New York, but life happens, and I have been living here with my husband and two daughters for 25 years.


I am Israeli, I am Jewish, and I am American. Why am I protesting today? I am protesting because on Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu's extreme government abolished the Reasonableness Doctrine. This will limit the Supreme Court's independence and its ability to cancel extremely unreasonable legislation, executive decisions and corrupt appointments. This legislation undermines the checks and balances of Israeli democracy.

I am Israeli, I am Jewish, and I am American.

Why am I protesting today? I am protesting because on Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu's extreme government abolished the Reasonableness Doctrine. This will limit the Supreme Court's independence and its ability to cancel extremely unreasonable legislation, executive decisions and corrupt appointments. This legislation undermines the checks and balances of Israeli democracy.

I ask you - who would want to eliminate reasonableness? Only those who plan to do Unreasonable things!

This law was passed with a 64:0 vote. It was passed, disregarding the 30 weeks of huge nonviolent protest, disregarding the advice of the legal experts, disregarding the analysis of financial institutions, disregarding the sincere concerns of the security forces, disregarding President Herzog’s efforts to come to a compromise, and disregarding the pleas of Israel's friends around the world, including President Biden.

I am looking around at all the people who came out today. There are so many Israelis who have been fighting this fight for months but never attended a religious Mincha service. There are many American Jews who are joining this fight and will soon be chanting DeMoCratYa (democracy in Hebrew) and Busha (shame) for the first time.


I am looking around at all the people who came out today. There are so many Israelis who have been fighting this fight for months but never attended a religious Mincha service. There are many American Jews who are joining this fight and will soon be chanting DeMoCratYa (democracy in Hebrew) and Busha (shame) for the first time.

We are here during a severe heat wave with chances of thunderstorms, while fasting on Tisha B’Av because this is very important.

We have been protesting for the last six months. We protested in front of the Israeli Consulate. We protested almost every Sunday in Washington Square Park. We had 1000 people, the group, marching at the Israel Day Parade. We chased extreme right-wing Israeli ministers and Knesset Members everywhere when they visited the U.S. We rallied when President Herzog was here last week, and we marched across the Brooklyn Bridge last Sunday in solidarity with the thousands of protesters who marched from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But during these months I was frustrated because the American Jewish community was not vocally and visibly standing with us in protest. If missiles were falling on Israel, every Jewish synagogue, school, and JCC would be out to support Israel. As I see it, this IS a self inflicted legislative missile attack on Israel, led by an extreme right-wing, messianic and corrupt government.


During these months I was frustrated because the American Jewish community was not vocally and visibly standing with us in protest. If missiles were falling on Israel, every Jewish synagogue, school, and JCC would be out to support Israel. As I see it, this IS a self inflicted legislative missile attack on Israel, led by an extreme right-wing, messianic and corrupt government.

This legislative change, along with the huge unrest that it has caused, is putting at risk Israel's democracy, Israel's security, Israel's economic stability, and the fragile social contract between the tribes that make up the country’s population.



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But this protest is also giving me hope.

This is the first event in which we are joined by so many synagogues and Jewish community organizations. US.A. for Israeli Democracy and UnXeptable were joined today by: The Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, T’ruah, Torah Trumps Hate, NY Jewish Agenda , The Jewish Theological Seminary, Ansche Chesed Synagogue, Park Avenue Synagogue, Romemu, Kane Street Synagogue, Congregation Beth Elohim, and many other synagogues, including Orthodox ones, who shared the invitation to this event and encouraged their congregants to join the protest.

This is because we are not here to fight Israel; we are here to fight for Israel! We are protesting because we love Israel, because we care about Israel's future and because we support a Jewish and democratic Israel.


This protest is also giving me hope. This is the first event in which we are joined by so many synagogues and Jewish community organizations. This is because we are not here to fight Israel; we are here to fight for Israel! But I am here not only because I am Israeli, but also because I am an American Jew. We, American Jews, have something unique to contribute to this flight.

But I am here not only because I am Israeli, but also because I am an American Jew.

We, American Jews, have something unique to contribute to this flight. The Jewish community in America knows what it means to be a minority and to be protected by the law.

We, American Jews, have been on the front lines, calling out hate speech and hate crimes, protecting the separation of church and state, fighting women's rights, voting rights, religious rights, minority rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and supporting immigrants and asylum seekers.

We, American Jews, hold these values dearly. And we these are not only our secular, liberal democratic values, these are our Jewish values. This is not a time to be polite or deferential. We should be proud of our values and speak up clearly. Speaking up at a time like this IS supporting Israel.

Along with my anger, I also have hope. There is a new political and activist energy in Israel. There is a desire to shift powers and to make things more just. There is a realization that the Palestinian Occupation needs to end. There is a new religious left awakening and new clarity about the urgent need to strengthen Israeli democracy and curb corruption.


We, American Jews, have been on the front lines, calling out hate speech and hate crimes, protecting the separation of church and state, fighting women's rights, voting rights, religious rights, minority rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and supporting immigrants and asylum seekers. We, American Jews, hold these values dearly. And we these are not only our secular, liberal democratic values, these are our Jewish values.

Let’s fight together - American Jews and Israelis for Israel. Let's fight so Israel remains Jewish AND democratic.




 


Esther Sperber is an architect, founder of Studio ST Architects. She also writes and lectures about architecture, culture, religion and psychoanalysis. She was born in Jerusalem and currently ouves in New York. She studied at the Technion and Columbia University. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Lilith, the Jewish Week as well as many academic journals.




 

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