On Tuesday, Michael Reik Introduced Joseph Gitler, Founder and Chairman of Leket , who explained the effects of the Covid Pandemic on Israel Society, and the work Leket is currently doing to address the growing need for food support.
If you missed the event you can view the recording here.
In 2003 Joseph Gitler founded Leket Israel, The National Food Bank, as a one-man volunteer operation, to respond to the paradox of growing hunger and poverty in Israel on the one hand, and significant food and waste on the other. Today Joseph’s operation has grown to become the only food rescue and resource organisation in Israel, distributing over 50 million pounds of produce and perishable goods to over 250 non-profit organisations reaching more than 246,000 people in Israel weekly.
Joseph has received many awards, including the Presidential Award for Volunteerism from former President Shimon Peres, has been named as one of the 50 most influential Jews worldwide and, most recently, was selected to receive the 2018 Compassion Award for Children and Youth at risk.
A personal view by Mosaic Reform member, Judith Bara
On June 13th 2021, a new government consisting of eight disparate parties was sworn into office by the outgoing President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin. It represented a coalition between centrist and centre-left parties, known as the ‘Change Bloc’ comprising Yesh Atid, Blue and White, Labour and Meretz, the recently created rightist parties Yamina and New Hope, as well as the veteran Yisrael Beiteinu and the Arab Joint List. Collectively (at that stage) they held sixty-four of the 120 Knesset seats. This had followed protracted and difficult negotiations, spearheaded by the Yesh Atid Leader, Yair Lapid, who persuaded Naftali Bennett of Yamina to join and agreed to an alternating premiership with him. It appeared at the outset that there was only one real point of agreement. Primarily, all these parties wanted rid of Netanyahu, who had betrayed, vilified, and denigrated all of them to differing degrees, but also to avoid yet another election. In the event, only one element of the Arab Joint List – Ra’am – remained in the coalition which reduced its tally of seats to 61, giving it the most wafer thin of majorities over the combined opposition total of 59. Much of the ensuing difficulty in agreeing a coalition was related to the distribution of portfolios – but that is hardly new to Israel. The coalition agreement was based on bringing stability to the country and, crucially, not to discuss detailed changes to the ‘status quo’ in religious affairs nor to dismantle settlements on the West Bank.
Critically, on 4th November, the new government managed not only to pass a budget for 2020-21, but also a framework for a 2021-22 budget. This cleared one of the major obstacles of the previous Knesset and avoided new elections having to be called. It is also likely that these budgets, which are based on a two-year spending plan, will open the way to greater economic activity and trade, having removed a series of barriers and regulations. The budget also upheld the coalition agreement promise to invest substantially in the Palestinian-Israeli community as well as enabling and encouraging economic capacity in the West Bank territories. There is also speculation that a new law, limiting the length of time any prime minister can serve to eight years, thus preventing Netanyahu regaining power, will be introduced.
The government’s policy package was described by The Economist as ‘a change in tone but not in substance’. But tone can often be a catalyst for change and improved relations with the wider world. Indeed, the government will continue to enable settlements to be developed but will also encourage economic progress in the Palestinian Territories and greater engagement with the wider world. In domestic terms, it will promote infrastructure development, including a new airport and university, and will also prioritise greater attention to welfare and social justice. The Bank of Israel supports this. There will also be an inquiry to examine the disturbances of April 2021.
Furthermore, the nature of the coalition itself could create opportunities to build new alliances within Israel. It brings together different communities of parties and their voters who had been significantly disenchanted by government in recent years. Firstly, the elements of the right, notably Bennett, Sa’ar and Beiteinu, previous members or allies of Likud who had been demeaned by Netanyahu. Secondly the centre-right, such as Gantz, who should have become Prime Minister had not Netanyahu reneged on the deal he had signed up to, and Lapid, who had received death threats from Netanyahu allies. Thirdly, the centre-left and left, notably Labour and Meretz, whose support had eroded over recent years and had worried that they might have failed to meet the electoral threshold. These groups are in the main secular and were fed up with seeing their rights eroded by the influence of the ultra-orthodox. Collectively, these communities could muster sufficient votes to outflank Likud and prevent some of its ‘natural’ allies from gaining ground. If the present coalition is successful, it could pave the way for a realignment in Israeli party politics. After all, the majority of Israeli voters are not ultra-orthodox.
In international terms, the new government has made some early moves to improve Israel’s image and forge new ties. It is no exaggeration to say that the previous government seriously alienated much of the world, not simply in terms of policy, but in terms of its uncompromising attitude, as well as its clear support for the Trump regime. It is fortuitous that the American presidency had changed during the past year. Obviously, both Trump and Netanyahu were among the architects of the Abraham Accords with several Gulf states, and these are welcomed by both the new Israeli and American regimes and have already been built on.
President Biden, in his meeting with Prime Minister Bennett, discussed an upgrade to Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ defence system. There has been concern that Biden is ‘soft’ on Iran as he would like the US to re-join the Nuclear Deal. But the new, hard-line government in Tehran has indicated that it wants all sanctions lifted before it engages in talks with the US and that is unlikely to happen. To Israel’s advantage is that Biden has only modest expectations about a negotiated peace deal with the Palestinians and would prefer to support economic development in the West Bank – which is also on Israel’s agenda
On 24th November, Gantz as defence Minister, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on defence and security with Abdullatef Oudiyi, his opposite number in Morocco. On 29th November, Lapid and Liz Truss, as foreign ministers, signed an Anglo-Israeli deal on trade and security, including cybersecurity, aimed primarily at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The UK has proscribed the political wing of HAMAS, which it described as a terrorist and anti-semitic organisation. Bennett has also visited Egypt for talks with President Sissi and Gantz has met with President Abbas to discuss economic development in the Palestinian Territories. Bennett also attended COP26, along with Ministers Tamar Zandberg (Environmental Protection) and Karine Elharrar (National Infrastructure, Energy and Water). Israel’s response to the covid pandemic, under both this and the previous government, has been monitored as an example of good practice.
Whilst international focus has been on government formation and survival, another development has taken place in Israel. President Rivlin, regarded as a supporter of the coalition and, despite coming from Likud, was a forthright critic of the previous government on occasion, came to the end of his seven-year term. His successor. Yitzhak Herzog took office on 7th July. He is a former Labour Leader and son of former President Chaim Herzog.
So, against the odds, the Israeli government which took office in June, has survived its first six months. More than that, it has made significant headway, especially in terms of averting an early election, passing a budget, and repairing bridges across the world. Yet we must not forget that it is still in a fragile position, having a knife-edge majority and could fall on the whim of one MK. We should not be complacent about its long-term survival, but Israel is clearly in a better place than it was in last spring.
Many thanks to Judith for sharing her thoughts. Please note that these are her personal views and NOT those of Mosaic Jewish Community or our three Synagogues. For more about Israel see Mosaic’s webpage about Israel. If you’d like to contribute to this series or take part in some discussions about Israel then please contact Israel matters at Mosaic
December 16, 2021
A Rosh Hashana Message from Yair Lootsteen
Chairperson of the Board of the Israel Reform Movement
Erev Rosh Hashanah 5782
September 6th, 2021
We’re starting this New Year with Especially Exciting News!!!!
A moment before entering the New Year I am thrilled, proud and particularly happy to announce that at the conclusion of a very serious and exhaustive search process, last Friday, September 3rd, the Executive Board of the Israel Reform Movement convened for an extraordinary meeting, together with the members of the search committee established several months ago, and decided to appoint Anna Kislanski as our next Director General. In doing so, the Executive Board met its own goal of appointing a new Director General before this Rosh Hashana.
Anna Kislanski began her professional career within the framework of the Israel Reform Movement almost 20 years ago, in 2002, as the Community Coordinator at Kehillat Or Haddash in Haifa. Between 2005 and 2009 she served as the Central Shaliach (emissary) of the Jewish Agency for Israel to the North American Reform Movement and since 2010 has held high level positions at the head office of the Israel Reform Movement in Jerusalem, including Director of the Community Development Division, and since 2016 as Deputy Director General overseeing Community and Education Activities. This past March, after Rabbi Gilad Kariv was elected to the Knesset, Anna agreed to serve as Acting Director General until the permanent position was filled.
Anna is deeply rooted in our Movement. With strong management skills, she brings strategic vision and the ability to deal with complex situations. Based on her management abilities, skills and vision for the future of the Movement, the Executive Board strongly believes Anna is the right person at the right time to serve as Director General. She will lead the Movement forward, expand its influence on Israeli society during the coming years, and will initiate steps to deepen that influence. I am convinced that you, friends and supporters of the Israel Reform Movement from around the world, join me and the Executive Board in congratulating Anna and in wishing her a hearty Mazal Tov and tremendous success in her new position.
September 9, 2021
Rabbi Rachel Benjamin has put together a few resources that might be helpful for people in trying to understand the current situation in Israel (as at 20th May, 2021).
IMPJ Briefing on the Situation in Israel – May 13th 2021
Resources for Understanding the Current Israeli-Palestinian Crisis, from Rabbi Josh Weinberg, Vice Rresident for Israel and Reform Zionism for the Union for Reform Judaism (in New York) and President of ARZA.
Solutions Not Sides aims to tackle Antisemitism, Islamophobia and polarisation around the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the UK.
The non-partisan programme has been formulated with the input of both Israelis and Palestinians as well as senior members of Jewish and Muslim communities, and is designed to prepare students to make a positive, solutions-focused contribution to debates on Israel-Palestine.
Some may want to support the initiative of the Abraham Fund to spread messages of hope and peace to stop the violence. You can do so here.
Many Progressive synagogues in Israel – including The Daniel Centers for Progressive Judaism, Kehilat Kol HaNeshama and Kehillat Mevasseret Zion – will be live streaming their services due to the current situation and would appreciate seeing people join from abroad and leaving messages of support. You can support their work here.
JBS provides a free Jewish educational and cultural television network.
We foster Jewish understanding, strengthen Jewish identity and inspire Jewish commitment among both involved and unengaged Jews, as well as interested non-Jews.
JBS, the Jewish Broadcasting Service, is America’s Jewish non-profit television network covering the panorama of Jewish life.
Programs on JBS reflect and address the diversity and pluralism of the Jewish experience. The service does not represent any specific movement or organization in the Jewish community.
JBS is directed to every Jewish person with a sense of Jewish identity, and for members of the Jewish community seeking their roots.
Televised offerings are also for anyone with a passion for learning and a desire to gain a greater understanding of Jewish tradition, Jewish life, and the land of Israel.
i24News – is an Israeli international 24-hour news and current affairs television channel located in Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv, Israel. It broadcasts in French, English and Arabic. You can also download the i24News app.
May 20, 2021
Here are the personal thoughts of Judith Bara of Mosaic Reform on the current situation In Israel.
We all have personal thoughts at this tragic time.
If you’d like to contribute articles about Israel please contact Israel matters at Mosaic
From: Judith Bara
I had hoped that by now I would have applauded the fact that for the first time in several elections Binyamin Netanyahu was no longer the prime minister of Israel and that a new coalition government of centre, moderate right and centre left parties was working on a policy agenda. This would not have detracted from the fact that the political system in Israel is broken and that serious efforts need to be made to introduce new procedures, especially electoral reform, in order to avoid the need for four elections in two years ever again. Perhaps there might even be hope for a renewal of decency, civility and fairness in government. It was not to be. Continue reading
May 18, 2021
We are aware that more and more children within our communities have been attacked on social media as a result of the events that are happening in Israel.
- If your child / student is in distress, or you know of someone who needs support then please encourage them to contact Rabbi Kathleen, Rabbi Natasha or Rabbi Rachel
- Please take a screenshot of any abuse they receive and report it to CST. All information how to do this is in this link: https://cst.org.uk/public/data/file/7/e/CST%20Security%20Bulletin%20-%20May%202021.pdf
- Finally, please encourage teenagers and students to join this RSY-Netzer event designed to support them on Wednesday. The link to the Facebook event is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/400286690961238?ref=newsfeed The link to sign up to the event is here: https://form.jotform.com/rsynetzer/israel
School aged young people can also contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing you and your family Chag Shavuot Sameach, hoping that a ceasefire in Israel will be reached soon.
May 16, 2021
Paul Gross, son of our member Jacqueline, spoke to us directly from Jerusalem on this subject.
Paul Gross made Aliyah at the end of 2007 having worked for two years in public affairs at the Embassy of Israel in London and prior to that completing a Masters in Middle East Politics from SOAS. Today he is a Senior Fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, with responsibility for developing educational programming and public events in English at the national institute commemorating Israel’s sixth Prime Minister. He lectures to a variety of groups on Israeli history and politics and has written on Israeli and Middle East current affairs for several publications in Israel, the UK, the US and Canada. He has also appeared as a political commentator on two Israeli English-language news channels, i24 and ILTV.
Paul lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children. He stays connected to the “old country” primarily by watching English football and getting depressed by the current state of Arsenal.
If you missed the event, please click here to view the recording.
If you wish to get in touch with Paul via email, please contact the office
Jacqueline Gross shares her personal thoughts on the Covid situation in Israel below. For more see Mosaic’s Israel webpage. If you’d like to contribute to this series or take part in Israel discussions contact us.
Since we went into lockdown and the months went by, I noticed that I was becoming evermore introspective, just thinking about Covid-19 and what it was doing to my life and to my immediate circle of family and friends here in the UK. I am sure I am not alone in this.
Yes, I had WhatsApp or FaceTime and Zoom with my son in Israel and family in New York and France .Then I started to consider what it must be like for my son living in Israel which in so many ways is such a different country to live in than the UK . So I decided to inform myself.
November 16, 2020