Freedom of Religion for all Jews
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu
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The Prime Minister of Israel
Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu
As a concerned Jew I wish to bring to your attention my very deep distress about recent events in Israel regarding religious pluralism. I am very proud to support Israel as the religious homeland for all Jews and feel strongly that I have the right and responsibility to voice my concern when something touches the very heart of my beliefs as a Jew.
Recent events in Israel point to a continuing bias towards the rights and wishes of the ultra-Orthodox minority at the expense of the majority. Whether through government legislation or through decisions by the courts or tribunals, it appears that Israeli democracy is being eroded.
The most recent cause of concern is the interrogation of Anat Hoffman, Chair of the Women of the Wall, by Jerusalem police. She was threatened with arrest for violating the rules of conduct at what many consider to be Judaismвs most sacred site. This was a pure act of intimidation and comes on the heels of the arrest of Nofrat Frankel at the Wall for wearing a tallit and for holding a sefer Torah. These actions are repugnant to me as one who believes that Israel must be a religious pluralistic society.
These events are the continuation of a trend favoring ultra-Orthodoxy over other streams of Judaism, exemplified in incidents regarding the validity of conversions, rights of marriage and burial, segregated buses and other public spaces, and the use of parking garages on Shabbat. These issues constitute a growing religious crisis in Israel, which is as much a threat to Israelвs survival as are the external threats and perhaps more so. Protecting Israel from religious extremism may be the nationвs biggest challenge.
I urge you to take the necessary steps within your government to insure equality for all streams of Judaism. There must be an end to laws and practices that legitimize abuse and discrimination against Jews who desire to express their Judaism or just want to live their lives in a manner contrary to the ultra-Orthodox minority.