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Dear Friends,

Tomorrow evening there will be a huge gathering in Tel Aviv to speak out against changes the new Israeli government is seeking to implement. These proposed changes include:

–Weakening the power of Supreme Court, whose role as a check on the other branches of government is particularly critical in light of Israel not having a constitution.

–Declaring that the Jewish people have an exclusive right to all parts of the Land of Israel—which is in direct contradiction to the Israeli Declaration of Independence which defined the state as Jewish AND welcoming to those who are not.

–Elimination of the Grandfather Clause in the Law of Return, which guarantees citizenship to anyone with a Jewish grandparent—a first step toward redefining Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora and, eventually, marginalizing non-Orthodox Jews.

These are just three changes that are already under discussion and/or being implemented. (Bear in mind, the government has been in place for less than two weeks.)

The new Israeli government, which is the most right-wing government Israel has ever seen, is not representative of Israel as a whole. And the gathering tomorrow evening in Tel Aviv will make that clear. Unfortunately, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has already called upon police to take a tougher stance on protesters. (He specifically cited blocking roads—which he was previously in support of when he agreed with the demonstrators—or flying the Palestinian flag during the rallies, but such strong police responses rarely remain as narrowly focused.) The good news is that, thus far, the police appear to be rejecting his request.

In short, the new government has already demonstrated that their rhetoric was not merely rhetoric and they intend to put their ugly, anti-democratic policies in place. Israeli citizens are responding in large numbers and the first real confrontation between the new, far-right government and the largely centrist but security-minded populace will take place as Shabbat ends tomorrow.

We often recite the prayer for Israel on the Holy Days, asking that the Jewish State be protected from those outside of Israel who seek to destroy her. This Shabbat, I invite you to join me in offering a prayer that Israel be protected from those who seek to move the country toward authoritarianism, and expressing the hope that those standing up for equality are able to raise their voices in safety.

Adonai our God, Protector and Redeemer of Israel,
bless the State of Israel which marks the dawning of hope for all who seek peace.
Shield it beneath the wings of Your love; spread over it the canopy of Your peace; send Your light and truth to all who lead and advise, guiding them with Your good counsel.
Establish peace in the land and fullness of joy for all who dwell there.

Godspeed to those demonstrating tomorrow evening.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Daniel Cohen