The Diaspora Affairs Ministry announced plans on Thursday to introduce a bill that would require government ministries to connect with diaspora Jewish communities on issues that affect Jews worldwide, in an effort to repair strained relations between the government and Jews outside of Israel.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich said the bill is meant to strengthen ties between diaspora Jewry and the Israeli government and to reinforce the idea that Israel is the homeland of Jews worldwide.
“Now is the time to formalize the discourse between the government of Israel and world Jewry. The Jewish world deserves a voice in the Jewish state,” she said in a statement.
Israel and part of world Jewry have appeared to move apart over the last several years, as a more progressive Diaspora has run into conflict with Israeli policies influenced by the country’s Orthodox-dominated religious leadership.
Divisions have formed over shelved plans to open the Western Wall to more pluralistic denominations, disputes over Jewish conversions, and the Israeli government’s right-wing policies, leading to fears of a growing disconnect between liberal Diaspora Jews and Israel.
Yankelevich’s Thursday statement said bringing forward the issue of strained relations was “a declaration of the government of Israel’s commitment to repairing and elevating this relationship.”
“This bill is a visionary step, propelling forward the relationship between the State of Israel and world Jewry,” said Yankelevitch, who is a member of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party.
The proposed bill builds upon the July decision for the first-ever comprehensive plan geared toward securing the future of Diaspora Jewry, she said.
“As Diaspora Affairs Minister, I see it as my role to be the address for world Jewry in Israel. When the government of Israel makes decisions that affect world Jewry, it must also have the decency to listen to world Jewry,” Yankelevitch said.
Yankelevitch is coordinating with government officials and ministers in an effort to build a broad coalition of support for strengthening relations, and called upon Jews everywhere to “internalize that together they are one people with a common destiny.”
One of the major flashpoints between Israel and organized American Jewry is Jerusalem’s Western Wall. The holy site is overseen by a government body known as the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which runs it according to an Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law. There are separate sections for women and men, but no equitable space for non-Orthodox prayer.
Authentic Jewish identity is another major point of tension. In recent years, Israel has come under fire for allegedly “blacklisting” American Orthodox rabbis that it does not trust to recognize the Jewish identity of American immigrants to Israel.
Additionally, some European Jews have expressed regret at Israel’s efforts to bolster ties with former Soviet states, with communal figures in countries such as Ukraine and Hungary complaining that Jerusalem has ignored anti-Semitism and Holocaust revisionism in its quest for closer diplomatic relations.