OPINION: Diaspora-Israel relations won’t be rocked by one divisive election

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OPINION: Diaspora-Israel relations won’t be rocked by one divisive election

Louise Jacobs, chair of UJIA, on why we must look beyond the division and disagreement of the Israeli election and focus on what's truly important and long-lasting.

Israeli far-right lawmaker and the head of "Jewish Power" party Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Israeli far-right lawmaker and the head of "Jewish Power" party Itamar Ben-Gvir.

I am writing this in Tel Aviv, at the end of a visit to Israel with UJIA Trustees. A new Israeli government is yet to be fully formed but we already have a fair idea which politicians will hold senior ministerial positions. For many in our community, and indeed in Israel, the rise of figures regarded as far-right has been a source of sadness and alarm. Others feel these concerns shouldn’t be voiced, that the recent elections are a matter for Israelis alone. Division and disagreement abound.

But for those of us who lead or are engaged in organisations that work in Israel there is one thing on which I am absolutely clear: our work will carry on regardless of the ups and downs of Israeli politics. Israel is far too important to the heart and soul of our community and the wellbeing of Jews around world for it not to.

Louise Jacobs at UJIA Annual Dinner

That is why UJIA will always work to deliver vital projects to support the most vulnerable in Israel and to inspire British Jews to develop their own connection to our homeland and people, whoever is in government.

During our visit, we have tried to understand better what happened in the elections and hear from Israelis – Jewish and Muslim, LGBTQ+ and straight, religious and secular; bus drivers, business leaders, waiters, thought leaders, political negotiators, social entrepreneurs, Ukrainian Olim supported by UJIA, Arab and Palestinian citizens of Israel who participate in UJIA’s employment programmes…the list goes on and on.

Opinion, unsurprisingly, is not uniform but there are concerns that we have heard repeatedly.

Some are worried about the security situation and rising crime and believe those elected will solve these problems. Others worry that possible changes to the Law of Return will mean that Israel will no longer be a haven for those fleeing Russia and Ukraine and other vulnerable places. Some are worried about the erosion of checks and balances on the Israeli government.

Fewer seem concerned about the future of diaspora-Israel relations, a question that keeps me awake at night.

We must not lose sight of the fact that our fates are inextricably entwined.

Many statements have been made since the election and clearly no single statement represents everyone. But at the root of most of them lies a deep-seated desire to maintain our strong relationship with Israel: its institutions and especially its people.

I myself grapple with how to protect the relationship between the state of Israel, home to the largest and most diverse Jewish population in the world, and the Jewish diaspora, particularly for our young people and those with a passion for social justice and human rights.

We must not lose sight of the fact that our fates are inextricably entwined.

Even with rising antisemitism, we are fortunate as British Jews to lead comfortable lives in Britain. We have a thriving community that expresses our Jewish identity with confidence. It would be unwise for us to disregard the relationship between our confidence in a safe future in the UK and the existence of a thriving Jewish state.

It would be unwise to disregard the relationship between our confidence in a safe future in the UK and a thriving Jewish state.

Choosing to disconnect from Israel is a luxury that vulnerable Jews seeking refuge from wars and instability do not have. For Jews from places like Ukraine, Russia, Venezuela and Ethiopia, Israel remains a safe haven and an aspiration. Their relationship with Israel transcends whether they see their values reflected or not in the current government and so should ours.

Israel remains the hard-earned homeland of the Jewish people, and I urge our community not to abandon it, especially during challenging times.

Instead, let us continue to talk, listen and better understand Israelis and their many concerns, even as we voice concerns of our own. And let us continue to channel our efforts into work in Israel that ensures that all its citizens have the opportunity to lead lives of peace, prosperity and security within a Jewish and democratic state.



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