Central Conference of American Rabbis
Expression of Love and Support
for the State of Israel and Its People
December 16, 2015
Amended – January 12, 2016
Reform Rabbis’ Enduring Commitment to the State of Israel
The Central Conference of American Rabbis has a long history of support for the State of Israel.[i] As bearers of Torah, we Reform rabbis hold sacred the Land of Israel and its people. Our fullest, most formal expression of these core values was the 1997 CCAR Platform on Reform Judaism and Zionism, adopted by the plenary in Miami, which we hereby reaffirm.
The modern State of Israel, as expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, is the means to the fulfillment of the age-old Jewish dream to return to the land; to develop it for the benefit of all its inhabitants; to affirm the principles of freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; to establish complete equality of social and political rights for all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; to preserve freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; and to safeguard all Holy Places for all religions.
The Central Conference of American Rabbis gathers each seventh year for our annual convention in the nation-state of the Jewish people as a deep expression of more than 2,300 CCAR members’ love for, support of, commonality with, and dedication to the Zionist project.
The Reform rabbinate worldwide celebrates the modern State of Israel, its vibrancy and creativity in all areas of human endeavor, and it embraces as partners with the people of Israel the many challenges and opportunities to build a modern Jewish and democratic society. We Reform rabbis of the CCAR are grateful that Israel represents a safe haven for Jews from around the world. With a rising tide of anti-Semitism in many countries, we value Israel’s commitment, as stated in its Declaration of Independence, to “be open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the Exiles.”
The CCAR supports the growing Israeli Reform Movement and partners with our Israeli sister organizations, institutions and programs – MARAM; Israel Council of Reform Rabbis; IMPJ, the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, its vibrant congregations, communities, and programs; IRAC, the Israel Religious Action Center; HUC-JIR, the Jerusalem Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; the Leo Baeck School in Haifa and the Yozma-Tali School in Modi’in; dozens of Reform-sponsored Tali schools and Ganim; two Reform Kibbutzim: Yahel and Lotan; an active pre-army program and the Noar Telem Reform youth movement; and dozens of other efforts to spread Reform and Progressive Judaism, democracy, pluralism, and religious diversity in the state. [ii]
The CCAR values its role as a founding partner of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America; and our involvement worldwide in ARZENU, the international Reform Zionist federation. We value ARZA’s and ARZENU’s leading role representing the Reform Movement in Israel’s National Institutions (World Zionist Organization, Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael). Further, we share in ARZA’s work in encouraging and instilling active progressive Zionism within our congregations and communities, and providing significant financial resources to our partner institutions in Israel.[iii]
CCAR rabbis cherish our role as a partner with the Women of the Wall.[iv]
CCAR rabbis bring thousands of Reform Jews, of all ages, annually to visit Israel[v] in synagogue groups. We support the many programs offered by the Union for Reform Judaism, through NFTY-in-Israel[vi] and Taglit-Birthright Israel.[vii]
The CCAR affirms that our love and support for the State of Israel are unconditional. When we disagree with specific government policies and pronouncements, we do so according to tradition’s principle of מחלוקת לשם שמים (machloket l’sheim shamayim, disagreement for the sake of Heaven), and the words of the prophet Isaiah (62:1), “For Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth like radiance…”
The CCAR calls upon the State of Israel, as both a Jewish and democratic state, to recognize all mainstream expressions of Judaism, and the rabbis that serve them, on an equal basis.[viii] We insist that all Jewish holy places in Israel be accessible to women and men, with options for those who wish to worship together and for those who wish to worship separately.[ix]
The CCAR affirms its commitment to expanding civil liberties in Israel for all citizens of the State, including but not limited to equal rights for both men and women, equality for all LGBT persons living under Israeli sovereignty, and civil liberties not afforded to most of the inhabitants of the wider region.
The CCAR supports the institution of civil marriage and divorce[x] for all marriages, including same-gender marriage. We believe that the continued control by the Chief Rabbinate in determining and judging the personal status of any individual Jew or group of Jews undermines Israel’s democracy, as well as its Jewish nature.
The CCAR affirms that Israel must continue to seek every opportunity to live in peace with its neighbors despite the immense challenges.
Throughout its history, Israel has been beset by enemies. Israel has extended a hand of peace to it neighbors over the years, successfully concluding peace agreements with both Egypt and Jordan. However, other nations and non-state actors, notably Iran and the terrorist organizations it supports, including Hamas and Hezbollah, remain committed to Israel’s destruction. Other terrorist organizations, such as ISIS, also seek Israel’s demise. We remain unwaveringly committed to Israel’s security. The CCAR takes seriously the government of Iran’s long-standing intention to acquire nuclear weaponry, with the desire and capacity to direct that destructive force upon Israel. We of the CCAR emphasize the need for the ongoing monitoring of Iranian compliance with the agreement it made in 2015 with the P5 +1 nations.[xi]
Many of Israel’s leaders across the political spectrum have expressed their willingness to relinquish territory for the sake of peace.[xii] We of the CCAR encourage the same spirit of compromise among Israel’s leaders today.
We deplore Palestinian intransigence, incitement, terror, and internal divisions, as well as an unwillingness of many Palestinians to accept the legitimacy of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. These actions impact negatively on the peace process with Israel. We condemn all incitement to violence by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
The CCAR rejects the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, the primary motivation of which is the delegitimization of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
We are saddened that some Israeli policies have had a negative impact on the daily lives of non-combatant West Bank Palestinian residents. We firmly believe that the expansion of West Bank Settlements is detrimental to the peace process.[xiii]
Only through direct negotiations can Israel and the Palestinians end their conflict and fulfill both people’s legitimate national aspirations. We of the CCAR encourage Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct peace talks immediately, supported by trusted international partners, with the end goal being a two-state solution to the conflict in which the Jewish State of Israel and the State of Palestine will live peaceably side by side.
We of the CCAR are united in the belief that military force will not resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nevertheless, Israel has the right and moral obligation to protect the safety and security of its people. We support the Government of Israel in its war against terrorism and in its efforts to stop those who execute, support and encourage it. We reject the simplistic moral equation that would draw a parallel between the actions of Palestinian terrorists who target innocent civilians and the generally measured responses of Israel’s defense forces that target Palestinian terrorists. We affirm Israel’s principle of טוהר הנשק (tohar haneshek, purity of arms) that calls upon all IDF soldiers to employ reasonable restraint in order to protect human life.[xiv]
Peaceful coexistence between Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab states, based on justice and mutual recognition, is a political and moral necessity that will preserve both Israel’s Jewish character and democracy. No final resolution to the Middle East conflict can be achieved until each side recognizes the justice and moral claims of the other for national independence and freedom.
Our Call to Action
Therefore, we rabbis of the CCAR:
Pray for the fulfillment of the prophetic vision: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4);
Condemn all incitement to violence and terrorist acts[xv] by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and Iran;
Call upon Israeli leaders to reiterate, clearly and consistently, that Israel accepts Palestinian national rights even as it demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as the nation-state of the Jewish People;[xvi]
Hold that Palestinian right to political self-determination must not be achieved at the expense of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish democratic state with a Jewish majority;
Believe that a Palestinian State can only be established through direct negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders;[xvii]
Call upon Palestinian leaders to discontinue unilateral actions intended to isolate Israel in international forums and circumvent the negotiating process and, instead, accept Israel’s invitation to return to the bargaining table promptly and without preconditions;
Believe that while all parties share responsibility to address the tragedy of Palestinian refugees, the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel should be limited to a symbolic number that would allow Israel to maintain safely its Jewish majority and democracy, recognizing the individual and collective rights of all minority groups.
Urge the government of Israel to work with credible, willing Palestinian leaders and other interested parties within and beyond the Arab world towards a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;[xviii]
Reaffirm Israel’s and the Palestinian Authority’s obligation to abide by the Oslo Accord;
Call upon Israel’s security forces in the West Bank to do everything reasonably possible to respect and defend the human rights, dignity and property of the Palestinian population;
Call upon Israel to stop building and expanding settlements across the “Green Line” in the occupied territories, except in areas clearly marked for Israel in any future political agreement;[xix]
Believe that the future border between Israel and the future state of Palestine should be based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreeable land swaps;
Hold that any future negotiated settlement should include in the State of Israel the Old City of Jerusalem and all Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, with access for all peoples to their holy sites;[xx]
Call upon Israel to eschew all collective punishment,[xxi] including demolition of the homes of terrorists’ families;
Call upon Israel to recognize the residency rights of Palestinians who live in the Jerusalem Municipality or any other territory occupied and/or annexed by Israel since June, 1967;
Agree with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin that all citizens of the State of Israel are entitled to full and equal civil, political, economic, and educational rights and privileges.
Oppose any Israeli law that would attenuate the equality of its Arab citizens.
Call upon Israel’s leaders to suppress vigorously all extremist and violent actions and provocations that have characterized a segment of Jewish-Israeli society in recent years;
Call on rabbis of all streams to be seekers and pursuers of peace by rejecting teachings which elevate the dignity and rights of Jews over those of non-Jews;[xxii]
Call upon Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership to end its incitement to violence.[xxiii] Furthermore, we call upon secular and religious leaders among the Palestinian people to reject their teachings which denigrate the dignity and rights of Jews;
Encourage and support grassroots programs that bring Israelis and Palestinians together to understand one another. We support the many NGO exchanges, businesses and academic friendships that currently exist between Palestinian and Israelis and urge the recognized governments of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to strengthen and support those ties as well;
Commend organizations, including IMPJ and MARAM, who confront vicious terrorist attacks on Palestinian lives and property.
Express pride that the Central Conference of American Rabbis is among those who affirm that Israel is the Jewish homeland and central to our religious and national life, and who work toward a stronger, more secure, safer, and ever-more just Israel living in harmony with its neighbors.
We of the CCAR pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you find serenity. May there be peace within your ramparts, calm in your citadels. For the sake of my kin and my friends, I pray for your well-being; for the sake of the house of the Eternal our God, I seek your good.”(Psalm 122:6-8)
[i] See, for example, the Columbus Platform, 1937; CCAR resolution, “Israel,” 1976; CCAR resolution, “Supporting the State of Israel,” 1979; CCAR resolution, “Israel,” 1980; CCAR resolution, “Support for Israel,” 1990; the CCAR’s “Resolution on Peace in Israel,” 2001; the CCAR Statement, “Where We Stand on Israel,” 2002; and the CCAR resolution, “Engagement with Israel,” 2005.
[ii] Support for Reform institutions in Israel and ARZA is clearly expressed in the CCAR resolution, “Support for Israel,” 1990; in the CCAR resolution, “Religious Freedom in Israel,” 1998; in “Resolution on Progressive Judaism in the State of Israel,” 2002; in the CCAR resolution, “Engagement with Israel,” 2005; and in “CCAR Resolution Calling Upon the Government of Israel to Recognize Rabbi Miri Gold and to Cease Discrimination against Non-Orthodox Jews,” 2009.
[iv] The CCAR was an early supporter of the Women of the Wall, as evidenced in its resolution, “The Women of the Wall,” 1990.
[v] The CCAR previously emphasized the importance of visiting Israel. See, for example, “Israel IV,” 1987; and “Encouraging Pilgrimage to Israel among Reform Jews,” 2005.
[vi] The CCAR particularly supported URJ (then UAHC) summer programs in Israel in its resolution, “Israel Experiences,” 1982.
[vii] The CCAR noted the importance of Kesher Birthright, the Union for Reform Judaism’s Birthright Israel program, in its resolution, “Support for Reform Jewish College Students,” 2005.
[viii] The CCAR has previously called for equality for all Jewish religious streams in Israel, notably in a CCAR resolution, “Religious Pluralism in Israel,” 1994; and in a CCAR resolution, “Religious Freedom in Israel,” 1998; and in “CCAR Resolution Calling Upon the Government of Israel to Recognize Rabbi Miri Gold and to Cease Discrimination against Non-Orthodox Jews,” 2009.
[ix] “The Women of the Wall,” 1990.
[x] The CCAR advocated for “full and equal rights to all of Israel’s citizens in matters of marriage and divorce,” in its resolution, “Non-Orthodox Marriage and Divorce in Israel,” 2006.
[xi] “Reform Movement Response to Iran Deal: Address Important Concerns, Focus on the Day After,” 2015. See also the CCAR resolution, “The Threat from Iran,” 2016.
[xii] We would cite in particular Prime Minister Menachem Begin, z”l, who sacrificed the Sinai Peninsula as part of the Camp David Accords that established a peace treaty with Egypt; Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, z”l, and former Prime Minister and past President Shimon Peres, who advocated – and, in the case of Peres, continues to advocate – for the Oslo Accords, which established a framework of territorial compromise to achieve two states for two peoples; former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who agreed to significant territorial compromise in exchange for a proposed final peace agreement with the Palestinians at Camp David in 2002; Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, z”l, who abandoned Israeli control over the Gaza Strip; and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who proposed territorial compromise in exchange for peace; among others. The CCAR supported efforts of this nature, and particular the Oslo process, in “Where We Stand on Israel,” 2002.
[xiii] The CCAR has taken this position multiple times in the past. Specifically, the 1980 resolution, “Israel,” included these words “[T]he Central Conference of American Rabbis . . . calls upon the Israeli government to freeze the establishing of new settlements in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza Strip.” The CCAR “Resolution on Peace in Israel,” 2001, called “upon the government of Israel to adopt a policy of neither building nor expanding settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.” That position was reaffirmed in the CCAR resolution, “Gaza and the West Bank,” 2006.
[xiv] The points, and in many ways, the words, of this paragraph are found in the section “Israel’s Right to Self-Defense,” in the CCAR’s statement, “Where We Stand on Israel,” 2002.
[xv] CCAR resolutions have previously called for the end to violence, for example, in resolutions on “Israel” in 1978 and 1980; and in the CCAR’s “Resolution on Peace in Israel,” 2001.
[xvi] See “Mutual Recognition” in the CCAR statement, “Where We Stand on Israel,” 2002.
[xvii] CCAR resolutions have previously called for such negotiations, for example, in a resolution on “Israel,” 1980; and in the CCAR resolution, “Gaza and the West Bank,” 2006.
[xix] See footnote xii.
[xx] With respect to holy sites, see “CCAR Resolution on the Temple Mount,” 2015.
[xxi] The CCAR called on Israel to “refrain from acts of collective punishment” in its “Resolution on Peace in Israel,” 2001.
[xxii] The CCAR has stressed the equality of Jews and non-Jews in Israel in the past – for example, in “Resolution on Social Justice in Israel,” 2001.
[xxiii] See footnote xiv.