Our visit continues to inform and inspire. Just a few days ago an historic decision was made to create a space at the Western Wall that will be open to families, both men and women.
Women of the Wall have been working towards this moment for some 30 years.
In the United States we have the separation of church and state. In Israel religion and government are intertwined. This has resulted in certainly the protection of religious observance but it has caused tension between the ultra orthodox and non orthodox communities.
Anat Hoffman, the CEO of the Israel Religious Action Center, met with us to talk about the role of religion in Israel. Her enthusiasm was infectious and we joined in her excitement over the achievement of a space open to both men and women at the Wall.
Having worked in the Jewish Community on and off for over 30 years and watching both the evolution of Israel and the role of religion and society within the state has me raising an increasing number of questions.
I was always taught that we were to support Israel no matter what and that it was not up to we who live in the Diaspora to question what goes on within Israel's borders. We don't live with the threat of war and suicide bombers every day so therefore we need to just be supportive.
What I have watched evolve are customs and laws that we would never accept in the U.S. I am still conscious of living outside of Israel, but it is my homeland too and when we see things that threaten Israel's future we should raise questions and engage in a familial debate.
What happened last year over the Iran nuclear pact broke my heart, not because of the differing views but because of the fissions that occurred. What has made our community so amazing is that we can yell and scream and yet at the end of the day it is a hug and matzo ball soup.
I think this one sided approach to being supportive of Israel has hurt the American Jewish community.
One of the ways that we in the states can express our concern is through our funding. So for example, one of the issues that concerns our community is the the lack of core curriculum in Haredi (ultra orthodox) schools. This lack is going to result in an undereducated workforce in the future. Hence our funding of Hachmey Lev.
I mentioned it in a previous blog. What I didn't share is that the boys had a one day walk out last week to protest their poor, cramped and unacceptable accommodations. The local municipality is taking the concerns more seriously now.
I was barely able to contain my excitement. I think there was nervousness that Is be upset. Nothing could be further from the truth. These young men are taking charge of their lives and their future. I met with a group of young men who were warm and friendly, thoughtful and engaged. They are just as observant as they were before, they are just open to learning and hearing about different communities.
My time here is raising so many questions and thoughts and my love for this extraordinary country is ever increasing.
Tracy Salkowitz is a Consultant,activist and the former CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona.