As Dr. Seuss wrote in one of my favorite books, "Oh the places you"ll go!" Yesterday, this phrase kept resonating with me. We began the day at Beit Shmuel, the Reform Movement’s terrific guest-house in Jerusalem. In fact, visiting this gorgeous piece of real estate in Jerusalem is absolutely worth a trip! But I digress... We began the day in a meeting room recently refurbished by a generous grant from WRJ. A beautiful plaque honoring WRJ hangs on the wall and as Reform Jews from around the world gather, I feel very proud. But I digress...
We began the day learning about the basic structures and processes of the World Zionist Organization (WZO). With layers of history, multiple levels of professionals and a labyrinth of lay leaders, the WZO is a complicated organization! The three days of the Congress are equally complex. We will be attending meetings of both small committees and large factions and coalitions. The plenary sessions include everything from resolution debates to an address by Prime Minister Netanyahu. There is so much to absorb. At the end of the week I'll let you know if I was successful! The highlight of our pre-Congress day was an afternoon visit to the Knesset. This was truly an eye-opening and awe-inspiring experience. We were ushered into a beautiful room and were privileged to hear from five members of the Knesset (MK). Each was intelligent and well spoken. By the end of the day, our minds were overwhelmed by the diversity of positions within the Israel political spectrum!
Michal Biran is a young MK from the Labor Party. She is a social democrat, a Zionist and a very pragmatic politician. She was quite eloquent and I clearly have a better understanding of the Labor Party. Michael Oren, certainly one of the most well known of our speakers, is the former ambassador to the U.S. and is now an MK from the centrist party Kulanu. He spoke directly and knowledgably about a single concept: the threat to Israel of a nuclear capable Iran. Ayman Odeh is a fascinating man who has accomplished something unprecedented in the Knesset. He has organized several small Arab parties into a single political party, the Arab Joint List. He spoke thoughtfully in favor of two states for two peoples; if only more people advocated so vocally for peaceful co-existence!
Benny Begin is an MK from the Likud Party and stood in stark contrast to Mr. Odeh who preceded him! And yes, in case you are wondering, Mr. Begin is the son of Menachem. He is clear and unwavering in his position that the possibility of a two-state solution does not exist at this time. Our last speaker was Tamar Zandberg, the newest MK from the liberal Meretz Party. Ms. Zandberg was an eloquent and passionate spokesperson for many of the causes that Reform Judaism champions, such as religious pluralism, gender equality and rights of minorities. It was a meaningful and incredibly thought-provoking day. I feel much more prepared for the start of the World Zionist Congress and only hope that more of this kind of thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation will lead us toward our Zionist vision.