By Rabbi Michael L. Feshbach
The fourth cohort of the Hartman Institute Rabbinic Leadership Initiative recently convened in Jerusalem for their winter seminar. In addition to intensive learning at the Institute, the group took a trip to Bet Shemesh. Rabbi Michael Feshbach, a member of RLI IV and the rabbi of Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, MD, reflects on the trip.
I write these words towards the end of the winter week of my spread-out sabbatical in Jerusalem. It has been a challenging and deeply troubling year in the Jewish state. While security measures and circumstances have brought about a blessed and hopefully long-lasting reduction in terrorist attacks, internal Israeli issues and Jewish extremism have roared to the fore. From the massive social protest movements last summer (the front page of headlines here for many weeks before they broke through for any coverage in the American press), to desecration of mosques and even attacks on IDF soldiers by extremist West Bank settlers waging a private war called “price tag,” to the combined exultation and anguish over the return of Gilad Shalit and the high cost it took to seal that deal, we are a long way, today, from the easy pride and idealized vision of what was in any event a probably mythical past. At the same time a whole slew of seemingly anti-democratic legislation has come before (but not passed!) the Knesset, seeking to limit the rights of NGOs, minorities, media, and anyone who would dare speak out against governmental policy.