I grew up within a pluralistic Judaism. I was taught that families can disagree over keeping kosher but still eat together during Passover. While there were few absolutes in this Judaism, there were some basic unquestioned commitments in my home. One was a deep love of Israel.

Ever since I understood what a synagogue is, I knew that Israel was the homeland of my people. While I grew older and learned more and more about Israel, I was taught that I was obligated as a Jew to stand up for justice. These feelings were simply part of what it meant for me to be Jewish. Love Israel. Fight for justice.

It can feel at times that these two feelings are entangled in a brutal battle. Last week provided a particularly painful chapter in this struggle. We saw the end of the current round of peace talks, as the United States gave up on pushing the Isreali Netanyahu government to extend the freeze on settlements by even 90 days. Alongside this news, a number of high profile Israeli rabbis endorsed a letter calling on Jews not to rent apartments or sell houses to Arabs. Fortunately, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned this religious ruling.

Amid such discouraging politics, a brutal fire raged through Israel’s north — an area I have come to love after hiking through valleys and up hills. In reading of the devastation left in its wake, I was reminded that events in Israel affect me in ways unique to that land and its people. The current government’s unwillingness to compromise on settlements and the blatant racism of some members of the rabbinate forces me to choose between a Judaism that I love and an Israel that I love. This is a choice that I can’t make.

Given last week’s events, Friday’s second annual Human Rights March in Tel Aviv couldn’t have come at a better time. 130 organizations stood up together for an Israel that reflects justice, dignity and equal protection for all. The thousands that marched in solidarity with international Human Rights Day challenged a government that has considered loyalty oaths for non-Jews, policies to silence critical academics, legislation to make it far more difficult for human rights non-governmental organizations (or NGOs) to operate and has relentlessly pursued expanding settlements on Palestinian land.

The activists marched for a homeland that I love and one that I believe is still a possibility — an Israel where all have equal access to opportunity, that isn’t embroiled in an occupation, that lives in peace beside a Palestinian state and that lives up to its declaration of independence: a nation “based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisioned by the prophets of Israel.”

Unfortunately, the voices that soared so powerfully on Friday in Tel Aviv are often invisible in the Jewish community on campus and across the country. At the University, the loudest voices are those that decry Israel as a criminal state or those that seek to paint it as a perfect state by distracting from its complex flaws. Neither of these groups would support Friday’s march. Deniers can’t accept a moderate stance and distractors feel that marchers raise issues better left unexamined.

The march didn’t fit into this polarized debate. Those who marched did so for an Israel that embraces its minorities and grants equal opportunities to all citizens, regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation. They marched for an Israel in which refugees from Africa fleeing war zones can be offered safety and respite, not persecution and scorn. They marched for an Israel in which religion is used to justify peace and coexistence, not hatred and bigotry. They marched to ensure that the Jewish homeland reflects Jewish values.

I went to a Jewish day school. Throughout that education I was taught that Jewish history — a history of a people that faced discrimination and persecution for centuries — obligated me to stand for equality. I was taught that ours was a religion of action — that Tikkun Olam (fixing the world) and Tzedaka (charity) were its foundational pillars. I was taught that the values we reflect on when we pray must be expressed and acted upon outside the synagogue. I was taught to stand for those rights that motivate thousands today to march.

We as American Jews face a choice. We can be silent in the face of the discouraging news or we can raise our voices along with those that march today. I, for one, can’t be unmoved by those Palestinians who watch as their land is consumed by growing settlements. I can’t stand by as the flames of racism lick away at a country I love any more than I can stand by as the fire rages through the hills of Haifa. I can’t remain passive because a two-state solution grows more difficult to achieve with each passing day and Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic home slips away. And I can’t be uninspired by the thousands of Israelis who stand together on behalf of a homeland dedicated to justice, equality and democracy. Here in the U.S., we should be heeding their warning call. And acting to ensure a homeland we can be proud of — a homeland that is democratic, just and at peace.

Yonah Lieberman is the chair of the University of Michigan chapter of JStreetU.

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