Pursuing a Just Society in Israel

Last Shabbat we read the Torah portion of “Shoftim” (Judges) which contains the famous verse “Justice, Justice, you shall pursue”. This was particularly fitting this past weekend, as Israelis took to the streets in the largest demonstrations in our history in favor of a just society, with nearly half a million people in attendance in cities all over Israel. This represents about 6.3 % of our population, which would be equivalent to a demonstration of 19,600,000 people in American society!

All summer long in Israel, young people have been leading the protest movement for a more just society in Israel.  They have rekindled hope in the hearts and minds of Israelis young and old, secular and religious, Sephardi and Ashkenazi, middle class and poor, Arab and Jewish.  This has been a multifaceted, multi-dimensional, diverse campaign which is trying to be as inclusive as possible in an often highly divided Israeli society.

The idea of Israel as a just society is not new; it is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence:

“The state of Israel… will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisioned by the prophets of Israel.”

Indeed this idea dates back to the prophets of Israel, especially Isaiah.

A few weeks ago, I gave a sermon on Shabbat “Hazon”, the Sabbath of Vision, which gets its name after the Book of Isaiah (chapter one), which is read in synagogues all over the Jewish world on the Sabbath when we begin reading the book of Deuteronomy, known as “Parshat Dvarim”. In that very famous chapter, the prophet talks about the restoration of the Jewish People to Jerusalem and says “Jerusalem will be delivered with justice and those that return to live there with righteousness.”

And we were reminded once again this past Shabbat—both by the Torah reading and the haftarah (prophetic reading, again from Isaiah), about the centrality of pursuing justice in our land.

It was therefore altogether fitting and uplifting that almost 500,000 people came out to issue a clarion call to the government of Israel—and to the world—that we are seeking to create a just society in the land, which will be fair and equitable for all the citizens in this country. It is inspiring that so many people in Israel share this fundamental value, and expressed this last night in such a meaningful way, without any violent rhetoric or actions.

May this be the beginning of a new era in which Israel returns to its fundamental values, and in so doing returns to itself, both in creed as well as deed!

5 Responses

  1. i think you are correct in what you are saying. Here in the uk we are going through change whether for good or bad. Change has got to happen for society to accept change. We must not be judgemental
    however look at what can be offered from all sides of all tables.

    The funder mental point is that as a society the must be peace to exist upon nations if not peace then tolerance

    Best wishes
    Annedenise Diamond

  2. Dear Rabbi Kronish,

    Thank you for keeping me on your mailng list. I continue to appreciate what you send out in your communications, and we continue to seek and pray for a justice solution and a lasting peace in the Holy Land. This was a particularly helpful article, especially the quote from the constitution. The Middle East Ready Bench of the ELCA will be gathering together again in Washington DC in December. Together we strive for and pray for a new way and a new day.

    Bishop Murray D. Finck
    Pacifica Synod
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

  3. Being based upon freedom, justice and a peaceful society in Israel: Does this imply you are willing to give up even more land hoping for a peace that has become false? Every time Israel has given up land (Gaza, Sinai) it has paid for it in deaths, bombs, fear and sorrow for our people. We must not divide Jerusalem nor give back any land at all. The wall Israel built to protect itself has been working better than anything, and that wall stands for freedom for our people, who are pro-active for security. Security first, then peace will follow. Freedom must be earned, and those who are not secure ultimately have no freedom. Negotiate only with people who are willing to negotiate within the blanket of security, not with a terrorist-backed people who demand land without first earning real security for all people involved. The ideal is freedom, justice and peace, as decreed in Torah. However, it makes no mention of security, which is foremost in today’s world. Security first, then peace will follow.

    • Revised from above reply:
      Being based upon freedom, justice and a peaceful society in Israel: Does this imply hoping for a peace that has become false? Every time Israel has given up land (Gaza, Sinai) it has paid for it in deaths, bombs, fear and sorrow for our people. We must not divide Jerusalem nor give back any land at all. The wall Israel built to protect itself has been working better than anything, and that wall stands for freedom for our people, who are pro-active for security. Security first, then peace will follow.
      Freedom must be earned, and those who are not secure have no real freedom. Negotiate only with people who are willing to negotiate within the blanket of security, not with a terrorist-backed people who demand land without first earning real security needed for all people involved. The ideal is freedom, justice and peace, as decreed in Torah. However, it makes no mention of security, which is foremost in today’s world. Security first, then peace will follow.

  4. Kol HaKavod! This is really excellent!

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