More than 1,600 Jewish immigrants petition Israeli government to halt judicial overhaul

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More than 1,600 Jewish immigrants petition Israeli government to halt judicial overhaul

Appeal comes from olim covering religious spectrum and from the US, the UK, Europe, South Africa, Australia, Russia, Ukraine and South America

Zelda Harris, originally from the East End of London, protesting outside the embassy in Tel Aviv.
Zelda Harris, originally from the East End of London, protesting outside the embassy in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli olim community has called on the government to halt proposed radical legislation to the government’s judiciary.

In a letter copied to President Isaac Herzog, immigrants from the US, the UK, several European countries, South Africa, Australia, Russia, Ukraine and South America, have also tasked the Jewish Agency with taking a clear stand.

We write to you as Olim and Olot, devoted Israeli citizens by choice, who made an active decision to leave everything that was familiar to us in our countries of origin and weld our destinies to the destiny of this country,” the letter says. “We are writing this letter with heavy hearts. The Zionist vision that inspired us – and all the Olim who came before us – has been hijacked by extremists who threaten the very fabric of this country as a Jewish and Democratic state.

Concerned ‘olot’ (immigrants to Israel) protesting outside the British embassy in Tel Aviv, March 2023.

The letter goes on to point out that the judicial overhaul package being advanced by the governing coalition threatens to irrevocably damage Israel’s delicate system of checks and balances, and leave Israeli society vulnerable to a tyranny of the majority.

It says: “Coming from Jewish communities around the world, we know what it’s like to feel prejudice and discrimination as a minority group. For us, it is inconceivable that the State of Israel, where Jews are the majority, could so gravely threaten the basic rights of women and minority groups including Arabs, members of the LGBTQ community, and others.”

Kalela Lancaster, an Olah from the UK and one of the letter’s initiators, said Monday that “Olim who came to this country following the Zionist dream are in a state of despair. They didn’t uproot their lives in their home countries to find themselves living in a dictatorship! The judicial overhaul being rammed through the Knesset will destroy not only Israel’s democracy but also the very essence of the purpose of this country: kibbutz galuyot. We are taking a stand and saying we won’t let that happen.”

The letter is signed by olim of varied backgrounds, including orthodox, secular, reform, conservative and charedi Jews, and represent the full spectrum of Israeli political opinions.

The letter goes on to note that Israel’s Law of Return pledges that Israel will be a safe haven to all Jews facing persecution; yet today, despite rising anti-Semitism worldwide, the legislation currently being advanced forces Jews to choose between living in a society where they may  suffer hate crimes, or moving to a country with restricted freedoms and a compromised justice system. Moreover, coalition partners have threatened legislation that will strip those with Jewish grandparents of their Jewish status and aliyah options.

“We add our voices to the alarm that has already been sounded by Israeli legal, financial and economic experts, hi-tech leaders, women’s groups, decorated military officers and our foreign allies,” the letter states.

The letter was addressed to:

  • MK Ofir Sofer, Minister for Aliyah and Absorption
  • MK Amichai Chikli, Minister for Diaspora Affairs
  • Major General (Res.) Doron Almog, Chair The Jewish Agency for Israel
  • Ms. Amira Aharonovitz, CEO The Jewish Agency for Israel
  • Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, CEO Nefesh B’Nefesh

Another of the letter’s initiators, Deborah Meghnagi Bailey, said: “At the first demonstration I went to, I saw someone holding a sign that said, “I thought I made aliyah to a democracy,” and I nodded. “That’s what I did, twenty-seven years ago; that’s what all of us did, whether we came last year or fifty years ago. Democracy is inherent in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and that is what we all signed up for.”

No response from the government has been forthcoming, and none were available for comment.

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