Tisha B’Av and Israeli Judicial Overhaul

עַל־אֵ֣לֶּה אֲנִ֣י בוֹכִיָּ֗ה עֵינִ֤י ׀ עֵינִי֙ יֹ֣רְדָה מַּ֔יִם כִּֽי־רָחַ֥ק מִמֶּ֛נִּי מְנַחֵ֖ם מֵשִׁ֣יב נַפְשִׁ֑י

For these things I weep, my eyes flow with tears; far from me is any comforter who might revive my spirit… (Lamentations 1:16)

As Jews around the world prepare to observe a day of mourning the various tragedies that have befallen our people over the course of our history on the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, this week’s vote in the Knesset weighs heavily on our minds and hearts.

Tisha B’Av has long been for us a commemoration of past moments of devastation and their tragic consequences; now, however, the devastation is happening in real-time, and we fear its consequences for the future of the democratic state of Israel we know and love. Our opposition is not to judicial reform; we would embrace judicial reform that is built on an inclusive and deliberative process, and which would include protecting minority rights, civil liberties, and judicial independence.

The Jewish people have always had internal religious and political conflicts. At times, these divisions have grown so wide that our sages would describe the feuding as sinat chinam, baseless hatred among our people. Tisha B’Av commemorates episodes of internal conflict that were just as devastating as any threat from without.

We fear that this week’s vote represents a new moment of sinat chinam. This judicial overhaul removes a basic check and balance in Israel’s democratic system. Without appropriate checks and balances, Israel is likely to suffer ever greater internal hatred as more citizens, inhabitants, and Palestinian neighbors are harmed by the self-serving priorities of the governing coalition.

As Israel’s streets fill with even more protesters, our hearts are with them, our prayers are with them. May we speedily and soon see the fulfillment of the Prophet Isaiah’s words from last week’s Haftarah reading: “Devote yourselves to justice (1:17) … Zion shall be redeemed with justice (1:27).”

Rabbi Esther Adler
Rabbi Morris Allen
Rabbi Jill Avrin
Rabbi Barbara Block
Rabbi Norman M. Cohen
Rabbi Alexander Davis
Rabbi Jennifer Hartman
Rabbi Rebecca Kamil
Rabbi Ricky Kamil
Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman
Rabbi Harold J. Kravitz
Rabbi Lynn Liberman, co-chair
Rabbi David Locketz
Rabbi Tamar Magill-Grimm, co-chair
Rabbi Tobias Moss
Rabbi Cathy Nemiroff
Rabbi Debra Rappaport, co-chair
Rabbi Jason Rodich
Rabbi Sharon Stiefel
Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker
Rabbi Aaron Weininger
Rabbi Daniel Young
Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman