Engaging with Israel


[The ORacle, January 2019 Issue]

It was easy for me to fall in love with Israel, coming of age in the 1990s. I was inspired by the egalitarian army service and the rescue of Ethiopian Jews. I mourned when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated and joined with the majority of Jews in the US and Israel in keeping hope that Israeli and Palestinian leaders could achieve peace in the near future.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but despite identifying as a Zionist my entire life and even having worked for the Israeli government as an emissary, it has been a decade since I’ve been to Israel! While I have used beginning a career and a family as an excuse, I recently read an essay that made me reevaluate my relationship with Israel. Dr. Joshua Holo, Dean of Hebrew Union College in LA, suggests in “Peering into the Nationalist Mirror” that American Jews are increasingly conflicted between their Zionism and liberalism and are increasingly choosing to identify with the later. If you were to ask me if my Zionist identity has dwindled, my knee jerk reaction would be “absolutely not,” but my actions show my favoritism. My engagement with Israel has decreased while my involvement in social justice causes here in the US has increased. I wonder how many of you have experienced something similar?

As a rabbinic leader committed to ahavat Tzion — love of Israel — as a core Reform Jewish value, I have to be honest with myself and think deeply about why I have not prioritized Israel more in my life. In addition to ahavat Tzion, our Reform Movement embraces informed choice. If you are like me and may have lost some connection with Israel and Zionism, I want to invite you to engage with Israel along with me this month.

I’m proud to travel to Israel and represent Temple Beth Or and all of Washington State on an intimate delegation through the Jewish National Fund with Consul General of Israel Shlomi Koffman who serves Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. I’ll post regularly while traveling and share articles and resources to help us better understand the beauty and complexities of Israel at age 70. Friend me on Facebook if you would like to “join” me on this journey to Israel.


Rabbi Rachel Kort