Reform Rabbis Set to Condemn House Demolitions

The Reform Movement's top religious body is expected to issue a statement condemning administrative home demolitions carried out by the Israel Defense Forces as contradicting "the character of Israel as envisioned by the founders of the Jewish state."

Some 400 rabbis from numerous countries, including Israel, who participated this week in Toronto in a meeting of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), are expected to decide that the home demolitions contradict the "vision articulated in the declaration of independence, when it described the state as one that 'will be based on freedom, justice and peace, as envisioned by the prophets of Israel.'"

Following its official approval, which was to take place during the final session of the conference Wednesday, the decision will be part of a declaration that will dictate the activity of some 1,600 Reform rabbis serving in synagogues and communities around the globe.

The statement also refers to Israel's duty to protect its minorities: "In the spirit of this vision, Israel must protect minority rights, and cherish and listen to its critics, to those who stand with the poor and powerless."

The section dealing with Israel's policy on security-related issues includes a decision expressing support for the unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip. The rabbis also support the construction of the separation fence as a defensive measure, yet this support is conditional, pertaining only to a temporary fence that will not determine the final borders of the State of Israel, nor prevent the setting up of two states. "We view this as a temporary security barrier, to be dismantled upon the evacuation of the settlements," the decision states.

The decisions reflect the reputation of reform rabbis - especially those based in the United States - as being active in political and social issues dealt with by society at large. A new issue addressed by the conference was the community's relationship with Muslims and Arabs, specifically those living near Jewish populations. The very fact of the issue being discussed points to rising concern and alienation felt between Jews and Muslims in the U.S.

The decision calls on members to "reach out to Muslim and Arab neighborhoods - religious and community groups - to build coalitions of tolerance and mutual understanding and to engage in inter-religious and political dialogue with Arab and Muslim communities."

The Reform Movement was also the first religious body in the U.S. to years ago express support for same-sex marriages. In a special decision on the matter, the rabbis rejected any attempt to amend the U.S. constitution to include a clause rejecting such marriages, an idea brought up recently in conservative circles in the United States.