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Reconstructionist Educators' FAQs on Israel

“What is the Reconstructionist attitude towards Israel?”

The founder of Reconstructionism, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, was very supportive of Zionist settlement in Israel. He felt that nowhere else could Jews live so completely a Jewish life as they could there. And that is still the case today: Jews in Israel speak a Jewish language (Hebrew), their calendar is a Jewish calendar, their holidays are Jewish holidays, etc. There is even a well-developed Israeli culture that is a Jewish culture, but not necessarily a religious one, which embodies the idea that Judaism is a peoplehood, not simply a religion.

Some early Zionists felt that nowhere else in the world but Israel could people truly live as Jews, that Jewish life in the Diaspora would disappear and that there would be no place except Israel to make a Jewish life. Reconstructionists have never felt this way, and feel even less this way today. Despite the advantages of living in Israel, there are some real advantages to living outside of Israel as well. For example, there is much more room for religious experimentation in America than there is in Israel. Liberal forms of Judaism have a hard time in Israel because “church” and state are not separated there like they are in America, and the Orthodox rabbinate controls life-cycle events like weddings and divorces. Woman rabbis are still fairly rare in Israel.

Despite all this, Reconstructionist Jews are supportive of Israel. They mostly support liberal positions in Israel -- on the peace process, on religious pluralism, on civil rights, on the environment and on many other matters besides. And although Reconstructionism still has a small presence in Israel, it’s getting bigger all the time.

“How can I support Israel when it does such terrible things to the Palestinians?”

The situation of Jews vs. Arabs in Israel has been going on for 100 years, and both sides have done terrible things to each other. Reconstructionists have been supportive of efforts at coexistence and reconciliation between the two sides, including supporting the peace process developed at Oslo. It is our hope that by supporting these peacemaking efforts, we can help Israel become the kind of country that we would all like it to be, a place that first of all is at peace with its neighbors.

But just like we keep loving America when it does things that we don’t like, and just as we continue to love members of our families when they do things that we don’t like, so it is important that we keep in mind the love that we have for Israel, even when it does things that we don’t like. It is only our supportive love and efforts for change that will help make the situation there better. [Note: This type of response could also apply to issues of religious pluralism or other areas where we are disappointed with what happens in Israel.]

Type: FAQ

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