Rabbi Alissa Wise sits on steps with a shirt that says "Palestinians should be free"
In July 2017, Rabbi Alissa Wise, Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, became the first rabbi banned from entering Israel for supporting BDS. (Photo/Courtesy Rabbi Alissa Wise)

Bay Area rabbis join letter condemning Israel travel ban

Eleven Bay Area rabbis are among more than 200 U.S. rabbis who issued a letter today condemning Israel’s ban on anyone who supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement from entering that country.

The letter was written in support of Rabbi Alissa Wise, who was prevented from boarding a plane at Washington’s Dulles Airport to Israel in late July while traveling as part of an interfaith group. Wise is deputy director of Oakland-based Jewish Voice for Peace.

JVP said at the time of the incident that it was the first time the amendment had been enforced before passengers boarded their flights to Israel and the first time that Israel has denied entry to Jews, including a rabbi, for their support of BDS.

The Israeli government said Wise and four other members of the traveling group — two Jews, a Christian and a Muslim — had a long record of support for BDS.

The Israeli Knesset in March amended the Law of Entry to prevent entry to foreigners who call for a boycott of Israel or its settlements, and the incident involving Wise was believed to be the first time the Israeli government had implemented the ban.

“We hold diverse opinions on BDS,” the letter from the rabbis reads. “Even though many of us have substantive differences with Rabbi Wise and other rabbinic colleagues who support the BDS movement in some or all of its forms, we believe that the decision to bar Rabbi Wise from visiting Israel is anti-democratic and desecrates our vision of a diverse Jewish community that holds multiple perspectives.”

Rabbis David Cooper and Dev Noily of Kehillah Community Synagogue in Piedmont and Rabbi Dan Goldblatt of Beth Chaim Congregation in Danville are among the Bay Area signers of the letter. Rabbi Amy Eilberg of Los Altos, who in 1985 became the first woman ordained in Conservative Judaism, also signed the letter.

An anti-BDS bill making its way through Congress would expand existing law that bans boycotts imposed by foreign governments to include those imposed by international organizations like the European Union and the United Nations.

JTA contributed to this report.

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster z"l was J.'s senior writer from 2016-2019.