Israel Independence Day: Letter from the Director

Dear Friends,

Israel turns 75 today, and this anniversary coincides with unprecedented social conflict. The headlines are well known. The government seeks greater control over the Supreme Court, which it claims represents the entrenched power of the liberal minority. The opposition and broader protest movement defines the court’s independence and authority as a vital bulwark against tyranny.

Additional strains and grievances have surfaced. Deep conflicts over religion, ethnicity, nationality, and ideology—long deferred and papered over— are bursting out everywhere.

The upheaval has revealed a great deal. Israel’s national institutions and legal frameworks are more fragile than we thought. Israeli’s social relations are more volatile.

Yet the conflict has also revealed the passionate commitment Israelis feel toward their state and society. The talk heard several months ago about emigration and corporate flight has subsided. Israelis on all sides have proclaimed their dedication to building the country’s future.

American Jews have also doubled down. Thousands are in the country this week to celebrate Independence Day including many Mandel Institute graduates and fellows. North American Jewish organizations that long avoided taking stances on Israeli public policy issues have found their voices.

The Mandel Institute is also in the mix. In December, our Educational Leadership fellows held a seminar in Israel and studied alongside Israeli fellows of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership. In a few weeks, our Executive Leadership fellows with join their Israeli counterparts for joint study days at the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev and the Mandel Center for Leadership in the North.

Mandel’s Israel-based leadership programs convene all segments of Israeli society: secular, Orthodox, and Haredi Jews— Mizrahim and Ashkenazim—Arab, Bedouin, and Druze. Mandel institutions are an increasingly important meeting place for discourse about Israel’s past, present, and future. At the Mandel Institute, we are thrilled to be a part of this vital process as Israel mark’s its 75th year of independence.

On behalf of the Mandel Institute team, we wish you and our Mandel family in Israel a happy Independence Day.

Ted Sasson