George Santayana famously said those who fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Looking ahead to the Israeli elections the Spanish philosopher’s prediction may come true.
The history I am thinking of is the destruction of Jewish sovereignty during the Second Temple period, brought about in large measure by a Jewish radical group called the Biryonim. While I don’t claim clairvoyance it seems to me that we’re reliving those days in the candidacy and possibly ascendance of right-wing pol Itamar Ben Gvir.
Ben Gvir sees himself as the heir to the late Meir Kahane. He’s adopted a modified version of the late kach leader’s extreme separatist ideology. Scapegoating our Arab population, Ben Gvir advocates a government-sponsored program to encourage their emigration as the purported solution to all of our problems. I can understand deporting terrorists, even sending them to the electric chair. Terrorists deserve to be punished but thank G-d most Israeli Arabs aren’t terrorists. Making them all feel equally unwelcome is foolish and dangerous.
.Ben Gvir seems to think that without the Arabs everything here would be hunky dory. Aside from geopolitical woes our domestic life just wouldn’t work at all. Not only do Arab Israelis and West Bank Arabs, do most of our construction work, but they also drive our buses and play key roles in our healthcare system. Over the past 72 years, our people have learned to live in true interdependence. Ben Gvir’s rhetoric can upend this and provoke the sorts of dangerous riots we saw just two years ago in the mixed cities of Lod and Akko.
We cannot risk alienating the Arab world. Our budding alliances with the Gulf states are critically important to our survival,. The Arab world is all about pride. If Ben Gvir’s policies come into effect that friendship will end in a blink. We will become a nation that dwells not gloriously but dangerously alone.
Despite his kipa, Ben Gvir’s policy clashes with the Torah. Our Torah makes room for outsiders within the Land. In fact, our Torah is so inclusive that on the holiday of Succoth which we recently completed representatives of the 70 nations, the UN of the ancient world come to the Temple to offer their sacrifices.
During the Second Temple period, the Jewish extremist Biryonim caused the ultimate loss not just of our sovereignty but our residence here. Wanting to radicalize the population to rise up against Rome they set fire to the grain stores. The Rabbis who then and now represented the voice of reason objected to this–sought a path to peace with Rome and Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zaccai famously saved Judaism by negotiating with Rome to establish a yeshiva in Yavne.
Ben Gvir and his ilk are latter-day Biryonim. Their extremism will push the Arab population into a corner and the result? A scary and volatile environment for all of us and much blood spilled on both sides.
Please, vote for anyone else but not Ben Gvir.
All our lives depend on that.