To the State of Israel and all its inhabitants,
The value of equality was obtained during the Enlightenment period.
The founders of the United States of America wrote in their Declaration of Independence in 1776 that all males are created equal. However, this lofty idea was true only for white men.
In the Israeli Declaration of Independence, composed in 1948 it is written: “The State of Israel will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex”. This wording included women, and members of other religions.
It is so essential that equality is a basic value in the State of Israel. Many laws were made based on this value, which expanded equality to other groups of society. And yet, there is still mileage to cover, especially with issues concerning religious equality and freedom of choice, regarding the personal status of the Israeli citizens. On one hand, the chief Rabbinate holds the monopoly over life circle events, there is discrimination against women, and racism. There is racism towards the Mizrachi, Arabs, LGBTQ and others. On the other hand, there is more social awareness to the existence of minorities, to the danger of majority rule, and to violations of Human Rights. I am anxious for our future and wish for us to follow the light of the Declaration of Independence.
The value of equality exists in our tradition all the way from the first chapter of the book of Genesis: “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them”. (Genesis 1:27) It cannot be more clear: all humans were created in the image of God. Therefore, all must be treated as equal. There are differences, but before the law, and before the possibility to grow and blossom, each of us should have equal opportunities.
The words of Martin Luther King were : “I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.
I have a dream that my four children will live in a country where they are valued not by their skin color but by their personality.
For my beloved country’s 75th birthday I hope we can promote equality and meet the divine spark in every single person that comes our way.
Rabbi Naama Kelman was first woman to be ordained at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem (1992). She Currently serves as the Dean of the College.
One of the founders of the educational system of the Reform movement and the Blaustein center for pastoral care.