How the Israeli Election Impacts American Jews

By Rabbi Locketz

Israel’s election this week ended neck-and-neck with the political party, Likud, which is led by the sitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Blue and White party led by Benny Ganz almost too close to call. Voting was very close, separated by only 15,000 votes, and both parties claimed 35 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. But victory goes to the party with the greatest ability to create a coalition with other political parties to claim the majority of the 120 seats in the Knesset. The coalition with the majority names the Prime Minister. In this case, Blue and White does not have a clear path to a coalition, while the Likud does. Thus, Netanyahu enters his fifth term as Prime Minister.

As with any election that the Jewish people watch closely and care about, in Israel and in the global Jewish community, there are people who are elated with the results, and there are those who are not. There is tremendous disappointment for those who saw Benny Ganz, and his left of center Blue and White party, as a harbinger of change after ten years of Netanyahu’s conservative coalition. For certain, Netanyahu is emboldened by the results and seems on the path to an even more stable coalition than before with right of center and far right leaning partners who support his nationalist agenda.

There will be plenty of time to digest, analyze, and debate the implications of this election cycle in the months to come. Even so, I can’t help but fear this is a further blow to religious pluralism in Israel, as well as to productive dialogue on peace between Israelis and Palestinians, among other concerns.

A few weeks ago we were visited at Bet Shalom by former Minneapolis Shaliach, Shlomo Weinish, who shared a preview of this election with us. While he discussed a number of the important issues of the day, he repeatedly implored us to find our voice with regard to Israel. As an Israeli, and as someone who intimately knows our community of American Jews, he acknowledged that we should have a voice in Israel on issues important to us.

There are many ways for us to express ourselves. There are national and international advocacy organizations such as the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and J-Street. Locally, we have the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council. It starts with knowledge.

Many of you in our Bet Shalom community have shared with me your desire to better understand the current situation in Israel. That you want to have a deeper relationship with this part of our Jewish identity, sitting here in the West, with hearts tugged toward the East. You want to grapple with Israel in the modern world, and its place in the identity of Jews in America. Let’s all be part of this great discussion and debate.

I commit to you that we at Bet Shalom are going to make safe space in the coming months and years for you to explore these concerns through study, prayer and sacred community. Stay tuned as we develop these opportunities. In the meantime, consider joining us for Shabbat morning services on May 4th when we will begin the conversation. And if you are interested in joining Bet Shalom’s next trip to Israel (no date set yet), join me for an organizational meeting at Bet Shalom on June 4th at 7pm.

May the wholeness of peace on high be here for us too.

Rabbi David Locketz