About Israel Hofshit (Be Free Israel):
Founded at the end of 2009, Israel Hofshit is the only Israeli grassroots movement whose mission is promoting freedom of religion and pluralism in Israel as core democratic values. Israel Hofshit impacts public perception and participation by mobilizing all those who seek to keep our society diverse, equal and free. Specifically, we believe that all forms of belief and practice among Jewish people are legitimate and should be accepted and supported by the state of Israel. Furthermore, we are certain that doing so enhances democratic values, which are critical to the success of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Although the majority of Israelis believe in the ideals of equality and pluralism, they have up until now remained largely silent, no matter how outraged they have felt by the current situation. We aim to provide a voice for this silent majority and a social and political platform for revitalizing the values of the state. Our actions are intended not only to safeguard the democratic foundation which this country was built, but also to educate the next generation to the importance of a strong civil society.
Be Free Israel is a Zionist nonpartisan movement which cleaves to the spirit of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. At its core is the belief that all individuals have the right to live freely, as he or she chooses, and we extend that view towards all Israeli citizens regardless of their religion, gender, racial or ethnic identity. We also demand Israeli recognition of the various streams of Judaism, beyond Orthodox, in Israel and around the world Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Liberal, Progressive, and Secular.
Israel Hofshit promotes an Israel that:
- Abides by the rule of law as determined by the democratic institutions of the state, and provides equally for all citizens, Jewish, and non-Jewish, practicing, and non-practicing.
- Prioritizes a comprehensive, well-rounded education for all Israelis such that they can become contributing members of society including the study of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
- Adheres to the highest ethical standards, actively opposes racism, sexism and all bigotry.
Our beloved Israel is changing. Our dream of a pluralistic society, of an enlightened and all-accepting Jewish state in the spirit of democracy and tikkun olam – is at peril. A small group within the ultra-Orthodox community, carrying disproportionate political power has wrest control over the meaning of Judaism for Klal Yisrael. This minority, who adheres to a severely restrictive, exclusionary and fundamentalist interpretation of Judaism, is seeking absolute authority to determine a person’s Jewish status and rights in Israel. The power held by these ultra-orthodox political parties is threatening the democratic nature of the State of Israel as they have have seized on shortcomings in Israel’s political system to impose their extremist religious on all of Israeli society. The policies of the current ultra-Orthodox hegemony are irreconcilable with the qualities of a democratic society.
Therefore, Israeli Hofshit has taken upon itself the following goals
- To achieve the right to a civil marriage for all Israel’s citizens
- To eliminate gender segregation on public transport and in public spaces
- To gain state recognition for Reform and Conservative conversions and weddings
- To provide equal opportunity for Jewish prayer at the Western Wall to women and non-Orthodox Jews
- To end modesty patrols and the use of violence against non-compliant women
- To end the Rabbinates discrimination against women with regard to divorce
- To end segregation of Ashkenazi, Mizrahi (Sephardic & Middle Eastern) and Ethiopian students within religious schools
- To end the exemptions, provided to state religious schools, from teaching the core curriculum (basic math, science, English and civics) in the hope that higher numbers of ultra-Orthodox will be achieve gainful employment and the enormous percentage living on welfare will be reduced.
- To reduce rates of draft dodging in the ultra-Orthodox sector such that all sectors will provide equal service to the state.
Be Free Israel set out as a grassroots movement and has since gained the support of community activists, city council members and political leaders across the ideological spectrum and throughout the country, who are committed to preserving the open and free character of their communities and of the State of Israel. Using Facebook, media campaigns, protests, rallies, and educational programs, Israel Hofshit has already built a cadre of more than 100 committed volunteer activists. To date they have helped organized the Israel public to achieve the following:
- Organized protests against gender separation on buses and generated wide media coverage of this problem.
- Mounted a mass organized effort to counteract an ultra-Orthodox fringe who sought to cancel the construction of a missile-proof emergency room at Barzilai Hospital. As part of this struggle, we ran a well-publicized campaign to support the project, which in the future will serve the residents of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sederot and other nearby cities.
- Fostered the pluralism coalition in the Knesset that has inspired several Knesset conferences
- Rallied hundreds in support of the Supreme Court’s ruling against a religious school that segregated Sephardic from Ashkenazi students, declaring it to be against Israeli law.
- Launched an Internet-based campaign against the law that exempts Orthodox yeshiva students from compulsory military service. The campaign recruited thousands of Israelis, drew wide media attention and helped stoke momentum to oppose this discriminatory law.
- Helped local groups in Holon, Kfar Yona, Jerusalem, Rehovot, Beit Shemesh and Ramat Aviv to stand against religious coercion and to retain the diverse and open character of their communities.
- Initiated a virtual support network via social media platforms that has connected Israel Hofshit with thousands of new supporters and instant access to a vast online community throughout Israel.
- Helped lead the campaign to end unfair stipends that are granted only to Orthodox Jewish students, but no other students. This campaign received wide media exposure as well as massive public support with protests of more than 10,000 people.