Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:1-18:40 & 19:1-20:27
This past week in Israel was a very special week, as we commemorated the many IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers who gave their lives defending the Land of Israel, as well as all who have been killed by the many senseless terror attacks throughout the years. We then celebrated Israel’s independence the following day, reminded of the sobering fact that freedom comes with a heavy price.
On Memorial Day, I went to visit a family of one of my former officers who was murdered in a suicide attack. We went together to the gravesite for a ceremony, and that was a very special and emotional time. This family is a Druze family, and the ceremony was at a Druze cemetery. While the Druze are not Jews, they live in Israel, they are citizens of the Land, they pay taxes just like everyone else, they have the same responsibilities and rights as everyone else, many of them serve in the army, and many of the families have paid the ultimate price of losing a son or daughter in war.
Every year, an Israel government official speaks at the graveside ceremony, speaking on behalf of the government. Year after year, I hear the same speech about how much Israel appreciates the Druze people, yet we need to do more in order for them not to be “second-class” citizens. And while I agree wholeheartedly, I am frustrated by the lack of progress I see in this area year after year.
The sad reality here in the Land is that the “minority” (non-Jewish) groups are indeed treated like second-class citizens. They, like other citizens, are fulfilling their civic duties, even serving in the IDF, defending Israel from her numerous enemies. Yet, they often do not receive the same honor and respect as their Jewish counterparts.
I take a strong stand against this. In fact, God called the Jewish people to welcome the “foreigner” among them, but Israel today is struggling with this. We see in this week’s scripture portion how the Lord gives a provision for the foreigner in the land:
“‘When a proselyte (foreigner) resides with you in your land, you shall not deceive him. ‘The proselyte who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. ‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. ‘You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt. ‘You shall thus observe all My statutes, and all My ordinances, and do them: I am the LORD.’”” Leviticus 19:33-37
God’s instruction here is very clear that we should love the foreigners amongst us as we love ourselves. We should not treat others who live here as second-class citizens and we are to do to them what we desire for others to do for us. We are to embrace them and to love them.
I understand that this is a very sensitive issue for many of my readers, as this reality of “Foreigners in the Land” is not just an issue here in Israel, but in almost every country. And I am not talking about those who are involved in illegal or terrorist activities, but about those who live in the land as law-abiding citizens.
During this week, let’s reflect on the way we treat those who are different than us, those who we may consider as “foreigners” in the land, and then do something to show them that they are loved and cared for.
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