There is plenty to criticize when considering the Israeli government’s recent actions and statements on the future of Jerusalem, but that should not diminish its achievement in restoring the ancient Hurva Synagogue in the heart of the Old City’s Jewish Quarter.
Hours after Vice President Joe Biden, in Israel, declared that there is “no space” between Israel and the U.S., the Israeli government announced the approval of 1,600 new housing units in contested East Jerusalem, expanding the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood for ultra-Orthodox Jews on land that Palestinians also claim. The American vice president was placed in a humiliating position. Note to Israel: That’s not how you treat your best friend.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposed national heritage project, aimed at preserving Jewish artifacts and teaching schoolchildren about Jewish and Zionist history, is flawed. Estimated to cost the equivalent of $100 million, the project has been duly criticized for including sites in the disputed cities of Bethlehem and Hebron. There’s a deeper concern, however. The thrust of the project appears to be in telling only one narrative, the Jewish one, as if no other kinds of people ever lived on the land.
The Jewish Agency for Israel is embarking on a bold and necessary attempt to create a new mission for itself, downplaying its historic role in promoting immigration to Israel and emphasizing instead an intriguing but still amorphous notion of Jewish “peoplehood.”
Was it the name? When Rabbi Avi Weiss ordained a woman last year and gave her the made-up honorific of “Maharat,” the mainstream Orthodox world wasn’t pleased, but neither was it furious. Just as much criticism came from those who thought the compromise title was disingenuous, even demeaning. If Sara Hurwitz was to act as a rabbi in her Bronx synagogue, why not call her that?