Today I share with you the second of two op-eds by members of the Israeli Knesset that appeared on JTA, the primary global news service of the Jewish community.
It may be surprising, at a time when many of us are tiring of election season, to hear about how our democracy is viewed by others.
– Jay Ruderman
Israel must Learn from American’s Unrelenting Self-Examination
By Raleb Majadele, deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset and a member of the Labor Party
Among the many strengths of Israel is its strong democratic tradition. Maintaining this tradition, however, seems to be more of a challenge with every passing year.
Perhaps my feeling is in part a result of a recent visit to the United States, where I witnessed the U.S. presidential election playing out in a demonstration of democracy that is particularly vibrant, robust and energetic.
Along with four other members of the Knesset, I visited the U.S. as a member of the Ruderman Fellows delegation, sponsored by the Ruderman Family Foundation, to promote greater understanding among Israel and the American Jewish community. Throughout many meetings in Boston and New York City that included a wide spectrum of Jewish community and public leaders, I was deeply impressed by the dynamics of an American democracy in which the diversity of opinion and culture is so embraced.
What also was instilled in me is that a primary component of American strength is the unrelenting self-examination and self-criticism to which it subjects itself. America is not afraid to confront its missteps and imperfections.
My visit to the United States was for me, an Arab citizen of Israel, a profound lesson in democracy. Democratic values are deeply rooted in American society, as well as in its Constitution, which guarantees the equal rights of minorities as a fundamental precept of American law.
Among American Jews I discovered a diverse and principled community representing a wealth of political opinions, religious streams and worldviews. I was moved by the passion and commitment evoked through points of both essential agreement and unbridled disagreement on political, social and strategic issues affecting not only the community but support for Israel as well.
We in Israel have much to learn from the American Jewish community in how to contend with our differences within a safe and respectful atmosphere. Stronger democracy is the cure to a weakening of unity within Israel — and a weakening of support for Israel from outside our country.
For sure, democracy in America is imperfect — and it has taken more than two centuries for it to achieve this level of imperfection. But the U.S. no doubt is a beacon and example of how to build and hold on to representative government. My Israel has much to learn.