A Message to Our Community from Shlichim Hanna and Oz

"Let me know right away
if I'm disturbing you.
he said
as he stepped inside my door,
and I'll leave the way I came.

Not only do you disturb me,
I answered,
You turn my whole world upside down.
~ Eeva Kilpi

The past few weeks have been very tense and frustrating for many people who love Israel, including us. Israel's new government is a big political change, and a variety of the new decisions that are being made make many of us concerned and uneased.

We hear the voices of disappointment and fear from members of our community, and we completely understand where they come from. First of all, we want to say that we are here with you wherever you are. It is OK to feel anger or sadness. This does not make you in any way less supportive of Israel, or anti-Zionist. Loving someone does not mean agreeing about everything or being silent when not. We believe it is the other way around – the more you care, the more these things matter to you. In fact, by expressing your concerns, you show how much this place, and these people, mean to you.

In this beautiful poem, we see exactly that – how the connection between different people can turn our world upside down. A real and honest relationship between people is a demanding thing to maintain. We are all different, and that is what makes the togetherness so wonderful and interesting, but that is also what makes our hearts shocked and agitated when the other side does something we do not understand.

After saying that, we want to invite you to not walk away when these feelings come up. To stay in the room and say "Welcome," just like the narrator says in the poem. We invite you to open your hearts and listen to the various voices coming from Israel these days. To embrace the moderate crowds in Israeli society who try to change the situation from the inside, and to learn about the huge protests in all the big cities in Israel. This coalition represents hardly half of the population, and the other half is very liberal and needs your support now.

We also invite you to do something even harder - to also hear the sides of those you disagree with, the ones who voted for the parties that are in the new coalition. We know many of them well, and we can tell you with all our hearts that they are good people. People who are willing to sacrifice everything, including their lives, for our people. We strongly disagree with them on many issues, and we prioritize values differently. But they voted from pain and fear that we must acknowledge. Knowing the problems that the average Israeli deal with will help you understand better what brought this government to power, and how we can all make the political environment better.

After listening to the different voices in Israel, we ask you to share yours. We call you to be the person who enters the room and steps inside the door. The Israelis need you to turn their world upside down, to make them understand how you feel. What are your fears and dreams for the only Jewish country in the world? What do you want the Israelis to have in their minds?

We are family. We do not choose our family or our people. Ehud Manor z"l, one of Israel's greatest songwriters, wrote years ago "אין לי ארץ אחרת גם אם אדמתי בוערת," I do not have another land even if it is on fire. We do not have another Jewish country, another Jewish people, or other brothers and sisters. It can make us sad sometimes, but what it should really do is motivate us to be involved and do our best to make sure we are heading toward a better future. We are here if you want to talk, share, and think together about the situation. We are here for you, as Shlichim and as friends.

And in an optimistic tone toward the end of our words, we want to share we are also incredibly happy that we do not have another Jewish state and another big family of Jewish people. We are in a challenging situation, no doubt about that, but we have a wonderful country, full of diverse groups learning to live in coexistence. We have a warm and special Jewish people, with a level of solidarity that does not exist anywhere else. We have already faced so many challenges together, and we genuinely believe that together, with our hearts open and our hopes high, we will succeed with this challenge as well.

Hanna and Oz

Oz Bin-Nun and Hanna Bloch are the Jewish Federation of Madison's Community Shlichim (Israeli Emissaries).

Share Your Thoughts
Hanna and Oz invite you all to stay in touch! You can email them at israel@jewishmadison.org with any questions or thoughts, or to schedule a cup of coffee with them.

Join the Discussion
Join Hanna and Oz's monthly "Let's Talk About Israel" discussion series facilitated in partnership with Beth Israel Center. All are welcome! See Details and Register >

Advancing Religious Freedom In Israel
The Jewish Federation of Madison annually allocates funding to iRep (the Israel Religious Expression Platform) to support advancing religious freedom in Israel. Through this platform, Federations work together to influence a range of issues to promote meaningful change to the religion-state status quo and advance pluralism. iRep supports grassroots Israeli-based organizations and Reform, Conservative, and Modern Orthodox programs that tackle critical topics, such as expanding the range of marriage options, backing egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, and encouraging equal status of open conversion initiatives. To Learn More >

Information and Resources on Israel's New Government
The new Israeli government’s potential changes to the judicial system have generated much concern. Click here for the letter sent out Friday, February 3 by Julie Platt, Chair of the Board of Trustees Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO at Jewish Federations of North America with the latest information and links to resources.

For more information on the new government, see JFNA's up-to-date resources page.

For additional questions about the Jewish Federation of Madison's support and the work of our Israel and Overseas partner programs, contact Alan Klugman, Executive Director, at executivedirector@jewishmadison.org or (608) 442-4070.