Rabbi Tyson Herberger on Israel

Q:What are your personal views on Israel?

A: I believe Israel is the greatest Jewish experiment of the modern era. The state of Israel provides a framework through which we can fulfill nearly two thousand years of yearning for a return to Zion. It is not the first time we have been able to return - but it is the first time we have been able to do so to a Jewish state. Regardless of whether one's theology says we should all make aliya or if we should be spread out over the entire planet (and both have their supporters in Jewish tradition), the fact that we have an opportunity to do so is an exciting fact.

As you may have gathered so far, I chose to be a part of this experiment, to go and help to create a new and exciting reality in Israel, to live in the Biblical land, to live in a free and independent Jewish state. I made aliyah shortly after finishing university. I proudly served in the IDF (serving for 9 months in the Spokesperson's Unit, my service was so short as I was already in my mid-20s when drafted), and continue to be a part of the reserve system - though obviously haven't served while living abroad.

However, as wonderful as the state of Israel is, it is not perfect. One of the reasons I made aliya was because I wanted to help make Israel a better place. I wanted to work on ending social inequality, on creating space for religion while not forcing religion on anyone, to live and study in the land of our ancestors, to be in a Jewish-majority community.

I believe Israel should offer greater rights and protections to its less privileged - be they Ethiopian, Russian, Arab or other. I believe income inequality in Israel is too high. I believe all of Israel's citizens (including Arabs and Chareidim) should serve their country - whether through national service or military service.

I also have trouble with the relationship between Judaism and Zionism, and between Jews and Israel. It is not fair that Jews are judged based upon the actions of Israel. First, Israeli actions are judged (usually negatively) out of context - while it is true that Palestinians in Israel or in the West Bank are not as well off on average as Jews in those regions, those very same Arabs are many times better off than their counterparts elsewhere in the middle east. I can go on talking about how Israel is judged unfavorably, and how this may often be anti-semitism, but I imagine you have heard these discussions before. I am also sure that you have heard discussions of how it is unfair to Jews around the world (be they Israeli or not) to be judged by the actions of a country which they may or may not support and most certainly do not always agree with all of its policies 100% of the time. While I think Jews should be engaged in Israel - even if just through some form of armchair zionism, I recognise that they both have a right not to be engaged,and even more importantly - that even if engaged it does not mean others should judge said jew for the actions of the Israeli government/military or perhaps even a lone Israeli politician's statements.

Further, I am concerned about the monopoly of zionism in most modern orthodox communities. I would like more theological diversity and allow for voices that legitimize non-aliyah perspectives in addition to validating those which call for aliyah. More pragmatically, aliya often steals the best and brightest from orthodox communities. Imagine how strong the Stockholm community would be if all of the Swedish olim where to have stayed behind. Imagine what impact this would make not only on the Jewish community, but potentially on the greater Swedish public and Swedish views of Israel and the middle east. These Jews not only are often idealistic and engaged to run Jewish endeavors in their home communities - but they are also often the spokespeople Israel needs abroad. Perhaps they could help to point out how many Arabs die under Arab oppression, or how many aid flotillas there have been to help the Syrians, or draw to the public's attention the amount of media coverage per death in Gaza versus in Iraq over the past decade. Obviously Israel also needs these olim, and no solution is easy- but I do see many communities who are weakened due to aliya. I don't know the solution, and obviously spent ten years of my life living in Israel, so i myself am one who left his community and made aliyah.

In summary, I have issues with Israel. Just as I hope and patriot of any country has issues with their country. If I didn't have problems with Israel it would mean I didn't care about Israel. I have problems with Israel because I care. I am scared about the chareidization of Israel. I am scared at the inequalities in Israel. I am worried about environmental degradation. I dream of peace, and am worried about security. I am worried about a decline in aliya while being worried about the impacts of aliya on the source communities.