The Proposed Jewish State Bill - Summary of Shabbat Sermon - 12/13/14

The portions from the Torah these past few weeks highlight our passionate and challenging connection to the land of Israel. For example, in last week's portion Vayishlach, Jacob was anxious about returning to the land because of the impending reunion with his twin brother. He was unsure of the attitude his brother would have toward him. Once he resettled in the land he faced the tragedy of the rape of his daughter and the death of his beloved wife during child birth. In this week's portion Joseph was sold as a slave to a caravan that brought him to Egypt setting the stage for the rest of the family to soon follow. Just like that - in three generations - Abraham and Sarah arrived in Israel and Jacob and his sons left. But with that departure is still the dream to someday return.
Fast forward 3,000 years to the Zionist movement and the establishment of the State of Israel. Over all those centuries we Jews faced oppression, persecution and death as we forever hoped and prayed for a return to Zion. Once that opportunity arose we could understand that David Ben Gurion and the rest of Israel's founders might have been arrogant and defiant. The declaration of Israel's independence could have stated that Israel is a Jewish state for Jews only to fulfill the Jewish destiny. But instead the "founding fathers" recognized that the Jewish mission is to be an אור לגויים - a light unto the nations. No matter how we might have felt at that moment in May, 1948 we knew that we had to represent higher moral, ethical and religious ideals.
Therefore Israel's declaration states - among other things - that "the State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture..."
The proposal by Netanyahu's government to introduce a bill that would protect self-determination in Israel for Jews only and to ensure that only Jews have national rights is an act of defiance and arrogance. It isn't necessary since the declaration already ensures that Israel is a Jewish state. And it only causes more ruptures in the ever souring relationship with the Palestinians. Which is why the Rabbinical Assembly - the organization of Conservative rabbis - voiced opposition to this proposal and instead urged Netanyahu to revert to the prophetic ideal for Israel to be a light unto nations.