JCRC Update: Israeli Elections Analysis, Buy Israel Week, Matanot Le’Evyonim

Buy Israel Week
February 25-March 3 is Buy Israel Week, a week during which we are encouraged to purchase products made in Israel. Buy Israel Week started in response to efforts by Anti-Zionists to boycott all Israeli products.

Buy Israel Week gets easier to do every year as there are more and more Israeli products that are readily available in the U.S. Right here in Louisville you can find Ahava products in area malls, Dorot products at Trader Joe’s and, with Passover coming, you’ll find many Israeli food products hitting the shelves.

Consider buying Israeli products this week and demonstrate to those who wish to harm Israel economically that their efforts at demonization and calls for boycotts will only galvanize the pro-Israel community into supporting Israel even more.

[by Matt Goldberg, Director]
Jewish Community Relations Council

Elections Update for Israel
This month, elections were held in Israel and the results were unexpected – and we still do not know what the government will look like.

As predicted, the ruling Likud party won the most seats by far, and Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to be the prime minister in the next government. Prior to elections, he joined his party list with Yisrael Beitenu, a right-wing Russian immigrants’ party that partnered with the Likud in the last government.

Also performing as predicted were the Haredi parties, whose interests lie in maintaining the status quo in areas like education, military draft deferrals, and conversions. It is a fascinating thing to see how different parties in Israel will partner with other parties to maintain power, despite the obvious ways they differ on fundamental issues.

There were some surprises – the Likud-Beitenu party won only 32 seats in the new Knesset (out of 120), when they were predicted in some polls to get more than 40.

The biggest surprise in the election was the remarkably strong showing of a new party called Yesh Atid, which won 19 seats, all of which are filled by individuals who have never been in the Knesset before. The leader of the party is Yair Lapid, a former television personality, who is now following in his father’s footsteps in creating a purely centrist party (Yesh Atid advertises itself as not center left or center right, but center-center).

A primary campaign platform of Yesh Atid is the ending of universal draft deferments for Yeshiva students, putting it directly at odds with the Haredi parties. Yesh Atid’s make-up in the Knesset is incredibly diverse: an American-born Orthodox rabbi, two Ethiopian Israelis, a wheelchair user, several women, and others not regularly seen as active in Israeli politics. One of the new Knesset members representing Yesh Atid is Ruth Calderon, a secular expert in Talmud who gave a historic (and beautiful) speech on the Knesset floor, calling for civil discourse between secular and religious parties.

It is captivating to see the new government taking shape, as centrist parties vie with right-wing parties for roles in the new government. These next few weeks are a critical time for Israel – a right-wing government will likely maintain the status quo, but a centrist government could bring movement on the peace process and a change in laws regarding universal draft deferments.

Already, Tzipi Livni, former foreign minister and leader of the centrist Hatnua party, has been named Justice Minister in the new government, as well as special government representative on talks with the Palestinians. While MK Livni has been very critical of the Prime Minister as recently as a few weeks ago, the parliamentary reality of the Knesset makes for strange bedfellows. All this comes on the eve of a state visit by President Obama, his first to Israel as President. It is a fascinating time for Israelis and worldwide Zionism.

Matanot Le’Evyonim
Please consider doing something wonderfully important this Purim season. Matanot Le’Evyonim is gifts to the needy during Purim and there are a lot of needy people in Louisville who need our help. This year, the JCRC is giving to Blessing in a Backpack, a program that provides food for kids when they are away from the free lunches they can get in school.

Our community has a history in hunger issues, from Rabbi Waller helping to start Dare to Care to the Community Hunger Walk and successful synagogue food drives, to JFCS Food Pantry and our recent Food Stamp Challenge. We will tackle hunger in Louisville, even if we have to do it one backpack at a time. Please consider the information on the insert in this paper and make a donation to this more than worthy cause.

Leave a Reply