Last week, the Israeli Embassy in Washington hosted an Independence Day reception, featuring Vice President Kamala Harris as the keynote speaker. Her speech was incredibly supportive, highlighting Israel's numerous achievements and reaffirming the United States' commitment to Israel's security and the promotion of peace in the region. She also took a strong stance against antisemitism.
However, the most significant line from Vice President Harris's speech was the one featured in the title of this newsletter. Mrs. Harris quoted from the Talmud, stating, "It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it." In her words, the United States and Israel have accomplished a great deal together, but there is still much more work to be done.
This statement perfectly encapsulates the principles of liberal Zionism, and aligns with the Israeli-Democratic Alliance's narrative of Pride and Progress. Liberal Zionism emphasizes taking pride in Israel's achievements while striving for a better, more equitable, and more just society. Our patriotic love for the state of Israel does not come at the expance of others, and it definitly does not mean that Israel can do no wrong - it means that we're struggling to make Tikun Olam.
A remarkable example of this spirit was evident in the Pride events held last week, including the Tel Aviv Pride. These events served as both a grand celebration of the liberation and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community and a vocal demand for full and equal rights and protection. Despite the current government in Israel being criticized as the most homophobic, transphobic, and bigoted in the country's 75-year history, the Israeli public responded by participating in the Jerusalem Pride (with 40,000 marchers) and the Tel Aviv Pride, demonstrating their support: recent polls suggest that 77% of the Jewish population in Israel, including 71% of the Likud voters, support gay rights.
Just as the LGBTQ+ community, with allies from various sectors of Israeli society, will continue to fight for their rights, liberals and progressives in Israel will persist in advocating for justice on multiple fronts. This includes gender equity, climate action, religious pluralism, combating hate and racism, and working towards peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.