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Am Echad weekly update for the week of February 20, 2022

  • PM Bennett to Am Echad mission: no changes in the Kotel without being accepted by all

Am Echad delegation with some 40 top business and community leaders from the US, South America and Europe, arrived this week in Israel to meet the country leaders and discussed with them issues of religion and state. On Wednesday, the mission met with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Minister of Interior Affairs Ayelet Shaked and raised the concerns of Diaspora Jews about the Kotel Deal, warning the PM it would create "complexity and unrest". Other issues raised were the planned conversion reform and the Kashrut reform. The prime minister repeated what he said in an interview to the Jerusalem Post 3 weeks ago, and assured the delegation that only changes that will be accepted by everybody will be made in the Western Wall.


The Prime Minister was touched by Am Echad's co-chair Dr. Irving Lebovics, who told him: after your passing, your real legacy would be not what you did in economics or other issues, but have you built the Judaism or did you destroy it.


After the meeting, Am Echad Israel Director Leah Aharoni said: "The meeting was held in good spirits, and we were happy to find a sympathetic ear in the Prime Minister and a real desire to hear our voice." She added that "The issues of the Western Wall and the conversion require the broad agreement of the entire Jewish people."


The mission members have met also with Minister of Defense Benny Ganz, Minister of Justice Gideon Saar, Minister of Housing Ze'ev Elkin, Minister of Diaspora Nachman Shai, Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon and the US Ambassador in Israel Tom Nides.


Mission members toured the Western Wall area, including the Azarat Yisrael plaza, and learned about the planned changes in the place should the Kotel Deal be implemented. "They must not touch the Western Wall and divide it," said the leaders at the Azarat Yisrael. "In anything that pertains to the what is holy for Am Yisrael, there is no place for liberal reforms."


Prior to the delegations arrival, Am Echad stated, after an exchange of letters with Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana, that Kahana's public statements are far from the bill he is trying to pass. "We were startled to see the gap between the bill and the statements and thoughts offered by Minister Kahana," said Leah Aharoni. "Unfortunately, the government approved a law that would affect millions of Diaspora Jews, yet ignores the outcry by rabbis and organizations active on the ground who warn of the acute damage of this bill to the communities in the Diaspora. The State of Israel is bluntly distancing the Diaspora Jews." (Time of Israel, Forward, The Jewish Chronicle, The Jerusalem Post, Behadrei Charedim, Arutz 7)


Antisemitism

  • Update: Dutch universities will not order staff to disclose Jewish ties

After 2 weeks of drama, Dutch universities announced they will not order their staff to disclose their interactions with Jewish organizations. As for the Israeli ones, it seems they might still go on with it. The Universities of the Netherlands, an umbrella group for the country’s 14 public universities announced on Monday that they will reject the freedom of information request asking them to disclose ties of their staff members to Jewish organizations. "We strongly reject unequal treatment on the basis of religion or origin," their statement said. (Jerusalem Post)


BDS and Anti-Israel Bias

  • British government on an historic first step to ban BDS

The UK government passed this week an amendment that would be the first historic step towards fighting the BDS in the kingdom. The amendment, tabled by former Communities Minister Rob Jenrick and supported by the government, is aimed to stop local authority pension funds from backing BDS sanctions against UK companies connected with Israel. The amendment was passed despite some protests from several Labor MPs. Following the vote, Jenrick said that "BDS against Israel is all too often connected to antisemitism her in the UK and does nothing to promote peace." (The Jewish Chronicle).

  • Inspired by a J-Street trip to Israel, Jamaal Bowman pulls support for Abraham Accords

In a letter sent to his constituents, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) announced last week that he is pulling his support to the Abraham Accords, the peace agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. Bowman said he will vote against the bipartisan legislation to aimed at strengthening and expanding the accords. In the letter, Bowman wrote that his decision was inspired partly by a trip he made on late 2021 to Israel and the Palestinian territories, a trip that was sponsored by J-Street. Explaining his change of heart, Bowman wrote "It is my estimation that these actions will only escalate violence in the Middle East and make already vulnerable communities less safe." (Jewish Insider)