Jews on the Left and Right: Your Personalized Sin List for Yom Kippur 5776

On this Day of Atonement, each of us – in Israel and the Diaspora, no matter our political affiliation – must stand accountable for our failings.

Don Futterman
Don Futterman
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Jews pray at the Western Wall before Yom Kippur, October 2014.
Jews pray at the Western Wall before Yom Kippur, October 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Don Futterman
Don Futterman

The "Al Chet" ["For the sin"] prayer recited on Yom Kippur provides a broad checklist of misbehaviors, among which we are meant to find or become aware of our own faults.

The following suggested addenda are divided for those Jews in Israel and the Diaspora on the political left and right. Feel free to beat your breast in more than one category or to add your own misdeeds.

Al Chet Forgive us for the sins we have committed before you:

For leftist Jews in Israel and around the world (beat your breast with your left fist):

For blowing the rare opportunity to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – even if the chances were slim.

For not being prepared to counter Netanyahu’s fear-mongering, incitement, and posturing during the campaign, on Election Day, and ever since.

For not having clear and persuasive answers to obvious questions like: What should we do about Hamas? Why should we trust the Palestinians? Isn’t it too late for the two-state solution? Haven’t we seen that land-for-peace creates terrorist mini-states?

For lacking a long-term and realistic security policy that can be distinguished from the security policy of the right, and consequently not making a case for entrusting the nation’s security in the hands of the left.

For allowing Yair Garbuz to speak in the name of the Israeli left and mock the traditions of some Mizrahi Jews.

For not taking command and not effectively leading the opposition, despite the coalition having the thinnest possible majority.

For not recruiting enough foot soldiers for ground operations outside of Greater Tel Aviv between elections.

For sinking into despair over the Netanyahu victory.

For trying to be the center and failing to be either the left or the center.

For dubbing those who do not agree with our vision as a stupid, primitive, uneducated, chauvinistic or extremist, when they might be raising legitimate concerns that we have failed to address convincingly.

For directing venom at those closest to our positions, continuing the long-standing and suicidal leftist tradition of lethal hair-splitting.

For rightist Jews in Israel and around the world, and especially for our right-wing government and its supporters (beat your breast with your right fist):

For winning an election by inciting Israel’s Jewish voters against Israel’s Arab citizens.

For undermining decades of non-partisan American support for Israel through the misguided and failed campaign to prevent the American-led agreement with Iran, aligning Israel with the Republican Party and Sheldon Adelson, and for demeaning the president of the United States for the past six years.

For damaging American Jewish communal solidarity through the same campaign and the demonization of supporters of the Iran accord.

For doing too little to stop a campaign of violence by settlers against Palestinians, which made headlines when a Palestinian infant his parents were burned to death, but which has been going unchecked for years, despite earlier promises from Netanyahu to crack down.

For persecuting and imprisoning African refugees in Israel, in direct contravention to Jewish values about how to treat strangers, and in denial of the moral demands made upon us by our historical experience as victimized refugees. At a time when the entire Western world is struggling with the refugee crisis, Israel could be setting an example of how to welcome refugees. Instead, we are using populist xenophobia to justify abuse of these desperate people.

For seeking to undermine the legitimacy of Israel’s High Court and weaken the balance of powers, contaminating what might have been a legitimate debate about the composition and direction of the judiciary with right-wing nationalist and xenophobic agendas.

For trying to manage the conflict with the Palestinians rather than attempting to resolve it, at the cost of the ongoing repression of Palestinians and further erosion of Israel’s global legitimacy.

For claiming to support the two-state solution when diplomatically convenient while acting to prevent it, and undermining Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority and then arguing there is no partner for peace.

For putting too much control over Israel's gas reserves – its most valuable natural resource – into the hands of private corporations.

For strengthening the ultra-Orthodox stranglehold on the personal status of Jews in Israel by nixing the conversion reform. For committing enormous sums to Haredi yeshivas in an effort to entice United Torah Judaism into the coalition, and rolling back efforts to integrate ultra-Orthodox Jews into Israeli society through sharing the burden of military service and teaching core subjects at Haredi schools.

For planning to demolish a decades-old Bedouin village to build a Jewish village in its place to mollify a right wing extremist settler organization, and demolishing Bedouin homes so that Maaleh Adumim can expand.

For choosing a nationalist extremist to represent Israel at the United Nations, demonstrating a self-destructive disdain for the international body and likely increasing Israel’s global isolation.

For promoting policies that endanger Jews in the Diaspora and then shirking any responsibility for the deadly outcomes.

And for all of Am Yisrael (beat your breast with both fists):

For tolerating police brutality against Ethiopian Jews, incarceration of migrants and refugees, displacement of Bedouin citizens, and killings of Palestinians, without letting it disturb our routine enough to stop these outrages.

For forgetting the beauty of Judaism and Jewish values, and confusing pride with chauvinism.

For allowing the occupation to continue for the 48th year, without finding a way to end it, offer Palestinians hope, and still preserve Israel’s security.

For not demanding more of our leaders than the same old polarized polemics.

For forgetting the solidarity we experienced during last summer's war, and accusing Jews who disagree with us of being traitors, nave or stupid.

For all these, God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, and grant us atonement.

Don Futterman is program director for Israel of the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation which works to strengthen civil society in Israel. He can be heard weekly on TLV1’s The Promised Podcast.

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