Ariel Beery
Dedicated to solving problems facing humanity with sustainable and scalable solutions

Beware False Unity

Prime Minister Netanyahu sitting at a memorial day ceremony near the Chief Rabbi who said the ultra-Orthodox would rather leave Israel than serve it (Twitter screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Yes, unity is important, but without purpose, unity can be used for ill

Calls for unity in Israel have echoed louder than ever on this eve of Israel’s 76th birthday. “Together we will win!” proclaim stickers and buttons and banners. “Above all else we must be united!” politicians declare. It is true: the feeling of civic unity and singularity of spirit that punctuated the period Israel is suffering through has reminded many how important it is for our people to remain united. To put our national family above all else. Yet unity is not enough.

As our tradition reminds us through the episode of the Golden Calf, unity is not a sufficient calling, does not excuse a wavering from – or rejection of – our purpose. As the story tells, Israel gathered under the mountain after Moshe had been gone for some time. The people were confused: they were not left with sufficient direction and began to despair without a clear vision to follow. A cry went up to the leader of the moment, Aharon, asking him to give them hope. To comfort them. To give them what to do. To unify them.

“Give me your gold,” Aharon said, giving the people a means to contribute to something larger than themselves, “and here is the Power that took you out of Egypt,” he presented. Whether it was a Golden Calf (עגל) or, as Sigmund Freud suggested, the Golden Circle (עגל) symbol of the Egyptian Sun-God Ra, the story suggests the same lesson: to comfort the people in a time of confusion, Aharon rallied the people around a flag to their detriment. Israel turned off the path to fulfill their purpose in the promised land and wallowed in selfish hedonism instead.

Our story teaches us that Israel was not meant to be a pleasure seeking people alone. It teaches us that there is more to life than material success. It calls upon us to have patience and, above all else, to remain true to our purpose. It begs the reader to recognize how unity can be used for ill purpose. To avoid short term attempts to bring us together if that means forfeiting the ideals that emancipated us in the first place. Especially if unity means giving up the fundamental ideals that started us on the long march to the Promised Land.

Instead of seeking unity for unity’s sake, what we need today is a call to return to the Zionist commitment that founded the State, buttressed by a rejection of the Messianic idea lacking the humility to remember that our people have been vomited repeatedly from the land of Israel for past infractions. If there should be unity it should be in an ingathering around the ethos best documented in our Declaration of Independence, one rooted in tradition yet with eyes to the future. A Zionism I believe can be best summarized using Hillel’s famous meditation.

If I am not for myself, who will be? Since October 7, the Jews have been reminded that the world is not always in our corner. Zionism was born out of that understanding, a reaction to the failure of universalist movements to protect Jews. If we find unity, it should be in part around the recognition that our age-old social solidarity is not only our best chance of survival, it is also the only way we can realize the collective potential of our people. It is the assertion that self-determination is a right we too deserve, that we too will fight to protect.

If I am only for myself, what am I? While we reaffirm the importance of standing up for ourselves, since October 7, we Jews and Israelis should not forget that we are not alone. Our non-Jewish fellow citizens have played critical roles in our recovery from the massacres. Our international allies have contributed to our security and wellbeing. We should return the favor. The same imperialist elements that attack us seek to destroy liberal society from within. As the founders of our State stated time after time, Israel needs to aspire beyond mere survival. We have a role to play, a commandment to share our light with the nations.

If not now, when? Zionism is informed by tradition but not held hostage by it. The past should inform us, serve as inspiration and a source of wisdom, but what was cannot be allowed to determine what will be. The status quo that served political coalition building has locked Israel and the Jews into an unhealthy relationship with religion and State. With a central government that controls so much of local life. With a reality that gives some people in our territory full rights as citizens while others live under military law. This cannot continue. If we do not change our mindset and find ways to securely express our self-determination while enabling others that same right, we, too, may find ourselves vomited from the land once more.

We have the opportunity in this 77th year of a State of our own to find unity in this renewed purpose. To use our unity of purpose to reject the anti-Zionist and Messianic ideas that have corrupted our politics. To reject calls to rally around a leader who has led us to this dark place in our history. To overcome the understandable urge to come together at all costs. Our tent should only be as broad as the values it protects, and it should make no space for those in power who have done so much damage in the bitter year we now close. Only then may those of us who are unified in purpose begin the hard march to rebuilding our home in our land.


What purpose should guide our unity and direct our energies to rebuild our State? Here are different aspects of what I believe could help us realize the collective potential of the Jewish People:

  1. We need to solidify our return to the land by adopting a Rooted Agenda, one that re-centers the heartland and rewards it for being the source of our food, ecological, and physical security.
  2. We need to reconnect the Diaspora to Israel, integrating them into the network of decisions we make as a State, to enable us in turn to benefit from Jewish communities around the world and their access to opportunities to fulfill our calling.
  3. We need to complete the Zionist dream – and the biblical commandment – to integrate the non-Jew who lives among us into our community with equal rights under the law, because we know what it is like to be strangers in Egypt.
  4. We need to shine our light unto the nations, starting by rekindling the light of truth in the academy and directing it towards the challenges humanity faces in the decades to come.
About the Author
Ariel Beery is a strategist and institution builder dedicated to building a better future for Israel, the Jewish People, and humanity. His geopolitical writings - with deeper dives into the topics addressed in singular columns - can be found on his substack, A Lighthouse.
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