I made Aliyah just over two years ago. I came for so many reasons it’s hard to explain in words. I think an anecdote might help it become clear how I hold my progressive and Zionist values together in this choice.
A few weeks ago, it was a terrible week in Israel. A Haredi (ultra-orthodox) man attacked the Jerusalem gay pride parade and a young woman was killed because of the injuries she sustained. That same night, Price Tag – a Jewish terrorist phenomenon that attacks Arab-Israelis and Palestinians – burnt down houses, killing an 18 month old baby and seriously injuring the rest of the family. The child’s father later died from his injuries.
While these events were unfolding and the aftermath was discussed on the news, I was preparing to lead a youth movement seminar. I have joined the alumni movement of an Israeli youth movement – that Alumni movement is called Dror Israel. The seminar was a veida: plenary sessions where resolutions about the future of the youth movement would be voted on by the youth themselves.
The youth movement I work in conjunction with is called HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed. It is the most diverse youth movement in Israeli society and this veida was the first time ever that all the sectors would come together to make decisions. I led a discussion group of young people from across Israel who were Druze, Arab-Israeli, Jewish, Ethiopian and Russian, and came from cities, kibbutzim, kfarim and moshavim.
With the backdrop of these horrific events in Israel, it was unclear how this meeting would go. I was nervous as the seminar began. We had a day of arguing and discussing together the movement’s ideological center and the individual proposals that mattered to those in my group. It seemed to be going well and everyone was working hard to be respectful, understanding each other while saying what they truly believed. But I was still nervous regarding what would happen at the voting the next day. We were only 25 out of 1,500 who were going to be voting.
I had no reason to be nervous. The next day resolutions passed that showed the depth of the desire to be one movement, to be a force for connection and understanding in Israeli society. The chanichim (youth members) voted for a new semel (symbol) for the movement including Arabic and Hebrew to give more space for the various identities included in the youth movement. They chose to mandate more meetings between all the types of chanichim and to make more joint structures to help facilitate those connections. They also positively recognized many of the unique activities created to meet the needs of different chanich populations — such as focus on absorption of immigrants as well as demanding the social media presence of the movement include more Arabic. In the midst of the darkness and hatred plaguing Israel, brave young people came together with a vision for something else.
That something else is the Israel I came to be a part of. An Israel that is actively pursuing peace, educating children of all types and stripes that another way is possible and working for a just and moral society, as Herzl envisioned. Some weeks this Israel feels farther away than others, but in the midst of the darkness there is always a glimmer of light.