A personal perspective on Israel during the recent political crisis—March 2023

by | Mar 30, 2023 | Trending News

During my formative years, the 1960s, my parents instilled in me a love of both Judaism and Israel. As a college student, I volunteered on a kibbutz one summer, working in the fields and hitch-hiking around Israel. I married a non-Jew, who later converted to Judaism and together we raised a Jewish family. As an adult, I have served as a lay leader at my temples and for my local federation. My youngest daughter made Aliyah after college and is now raising her family in northern Israel. Israel has always been and will be a part of my life and a part of my soul.

I now travel to Israel once or twice a year to be with my Israeli family and so that my three grandchildren can know their grandmother (safta). I stay one to two months on the kibbutz where my family lives and enjoy the kibbutz lifestyle and the Israeli ruach (spirit).

This trip to Israel during March 2023, however, feels different and the reason why saddens my heart.

Why? Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms pose a serious threat to Israeli democracy by concentrating all power into the executive branch of the government. Since January, Israelis have been protesting weekly against these proposed judicial reforms. Grassroots organizations such as No Dictatorship organize these protests and disseminate information via WhatsApp groups. Netanyahu’s refusal to consider the concerns of the protesters and his firing of the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, for warning about the negative and de-stabilizing impact of the judicial reform on the army culminated in a national political crisis from Sunday, March 26, 2023, through Monday, March 27, 2023. Protesters across the country poured into the streets, universities and the worker’s union (the Histadrut) went on strike, and the airport closed. These actions forced Netanyahu to pause his proposed judicial reforms.

From my perspective, these protests have and are impacting daily lives. Examples of the impact on life that affected both my family and I include changing the time and day groceries are ordered so they can be delivered before local protests, changing times of work meetings with students, leaving for work early to avoid protesters, not being able to get to a protest because the roads are blocked, and having to cancel an anticipated lunch with a friend because the roads may be blocked by protests. It’s the day-to-day unknown that wears on the individual and the family. The ruach that defines the Israeli spirit is diminished. For now, it has been replaced by anger, frustration, tension, a growing mistrust of government, and a loss of spontaneity that even this visitor can feel and see.

What will happen to Netanyahu’s proposed reforms? I do not know, and I will not speculate. What I do know is that Israelis are a strong, proud, vibrant, and intelligent people. They fully understand what is at risk with these proposed judicial reforms and will fight for their democracy—the only democracy in the Middle East. I separate the country of Israel from the current Israeli government. I believe in the Israel I know and love. The Israeli ruach will return.

Barbara Dudley serves as chair of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Women’s Cabinet.

-Barbara Dudley