A Message from our Founding President
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A Message from our Founding President

A Message from our Founding President- Prof. Ruth Gavison

I take pleasure in presenting Metzilah – the Center for Zionist, Jewish, Liberal and Humanistic Thought.

Allow me to confess that I really did not wish to establish an organization. I did so because it suddenly became clear to me that many of the ideals that were so important to me that I had thought of them as obvious and clear-cut to all, were not in fact so and there is a danger that they might become vulnerable to being overturned. It turns out that there are many people who consider these ideals unjustified. And if we do not take a stand, there is a risk that we might lose out. I also came to the realization that there are many like-minded people in Israel, people who see things in the same light as I do and are also troubled by the same issues – together we can make a difference.

Over the years, in all my activities, I have always laid emphasis on the universal principles of human rights, humanism and liberalism. I wanted my country to respect these essential values even though it was undergoing an existential struggle and trying to establish its identity. I was born into an environment that assumed that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, whose native language is Hebrew, and whose public culture is Jewish. From my point of view, this is the natural order of things. It only became clear to me what an amazing achievement this was when I learned about the history of the Jewish people and about the Holocaust; about the revival of the Hebrew language and about Zionism; about illegal immigration to the pre-state country and about the Haganah (the paramilitary organization of Jews in Palestine during the period of the British Mandate; the Haganah was the precursor of the Israel Defense Forces). I thought then that the ability and the right of Jews to have a country must be balanced against the rights of the Arabs to have independence and dignity. I thought that a way should be found to include and accept all approaches to Judaism – and that the religious approach, or for that matter, the anti-religious approach should not have a monopoly on the unique richness of our culture. I knew that it was important to put in place a system which could be a fount of progress, morals and Jewish values.

But it became apparent that there are those who deny the right of Jews to have independence, self-determination and security. Some of them are even involved in an attempt to abolish this right within the State of Israel. There are some who wish to exert religious coercion in Israel. Others are willing to disregard the value of human rights in order to maintain the unique quality of the state. There are yet others willing to negate the special Jewish nature of the State – historic, national, religious and cultural – and to let it become a state like all others. The combination of all these is liable to result in a real erosion of Israel’s ability to survive as a Jewish state, and of the ability of Jews in Israel to live an independent lifestyle.

I am convinced that the time to act is now - so as to avert the danger inherent in these scenarios. It is the right thing to do. There is much that needs to be done, and we must get together to take action. All of this is what Metzilah aims to do and what I myself want to get done in Metzilah. I am grateful to all those who support Metzilah – and will be pleased to welcome you amongst the Metzilah supporters in thought and in deed.
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