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Chaim Y. Botwinick

Can Israel’s Path Forward Become a Future of Optimism, Hope and Promise?

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We learn from this coming week’s Parsha, Re’eh, that HaShem presented us, the B’nai Yisrael, with a choice to select a path forward of blessing, promise and goodness, or  opt for the opposite.  For it is written: “See, I am giving you today a blessing and a curse.”

In affect, HaShem empowers us to determine which route or direction we chose to pursue. One which is anchored in our ten commandments. laws and Jewish values or one which is not. He leaves it entirely up to us.

Fast forward to today’s reality…..

In spite of all the naysayers and pundits who are  convinced that Israel is on the presibus or trajectory towards existential self destruction…..news flash……its just not happening.

Anyone reading this introductory sentence to my blog, may  think that I have been either living  under a rock; or in a cave.  But, truth be told,  I sincerely believe that in spite of the current terrible matzav and  events in Israel, the glass may still be more half full then half empty.

When reflecting upon the intensity and magnitude of the current civil unrest and violent  protests in the streets of  Tel  Aviv and Jerusalem, it is obvious that Israel is at a critically important crossroads and in a state of  political and social upheaval. In fact, I cannot remember a time in our history when Israel was not in some manner either facing or on the eve of a major crisis – whether it be  political, social,  economic, or security related.

The Israeli government’s push for judicial reform was like a destructive tsunami followed by a powerful and devastating title wave of epic proportion. To be sure, the current Israeli  government took its country up to the brink. But, thank GD  it fell short of going all the way with its widely contested proposed judicial reforms.  Alternatively, the Knesset presented the reasonableness reform judicial  policy – an interim judicial ruling which also challenges the status quo of the Israeli supreme court. But, at least it provides the Israeli government with the opportunity to meet, debate and hopefully compromise and resolve this growing stalemate and divide over the next three months. And yes, a lot can be resolved in three months if there is a will and a true and sincere commitment.

At the end of the day, it is about sublimating political egos, and arrogance and contesting the current  political  power grab, which in the end, does not benefit either side of the divide.

With this somewhat compromised kicking the can down the road  reality, we are already beginning  to witness small and barely visible cracks in the wall of the proposed judicial reform movement . This warrants serious  attention.

Yes, the events of the past several months  have created a level of  painful divisiveness and  sinat chinam of historic proportion; but, it has not left our country Israel in a state of functional  paralysis or at a point of no return, as many have warned, predicted, or would have us believe.

The cascading sentiment of  anti government social news media  as well as public displays of consternation and anger against the current government  was palpable on many levels. They were even magnified when we saw the manner in which the Israeli police and law enforcement personnel  tried to keep the protesters under control. Be sure that there will be many investigations into the manner in which this violent police reaction  (or over-reaction) took place. I even predict the establishment special “commission or inquiry” in order to look harder and deeper into  the manner in which the Israeli police establishment  treated and in many cases mistreated protesters with physical violence, hatred, disdain and disgust.

Are we not better than that? Do we not have the ability or will to show some level of constraint? Should  the  spilling of Jewish blood in the streets of Tel Aviv and Yerushahalyim by fellow Jews be taken so lightly?

Yes, there are always rotten apples in every apple basket. But, we as a nation should never tolerate or accept the manner in which brother and sister rise up against each other. This is not what happens in a civilized Jewish nation, or to a people who are created Bzelem Elokim

( in the image of GD) nor should it ever be accepted or rationalized as a  means of responding to civil disobedience, or a political environment which we contest. We can and should do better!

What exacerbates this unrest even more, was the timing. Many of the most  aggressive and violent  protests took place during the three weeks, and nine days leading up to Tisha B’Av. Was this a coincidence? Who knows?  I do not have the answer. But, its definitely something to think about.

Over the past several days, especially since  Shabbat Nachamu,  we are all beginning  to witness a sense of introspection, reflection and a reduction in the  my-way or highway attitude as well  and posturing coming from the Knesset. Is it conciliatory? Not yet. But maybe we are on that path.

We are now hearing, and witnessing, behind closed doors,  a lowering of the inflammatory rhetoric and stories about how IDF  pilot reservists are now feeling sad, lonely, embarrassed and isolated  in their inability to stand strong together as  a most powerful and world respected protective military force. In their effort to acquiesce or follow the lead of their retired failed IDF generals  and commanders and those of two failed  prime ministers, they are now facing a very difficult dilemma . They are stuck and are desperately seeking a path back to normalcy.

On the one hand, these reservists want to show solidarity with their reserve IDF brothers and sisters. On the other hand, not one of them ever signed up for this level  protest and consternation. To be sure, they signed up to protect and defend our Jewish nation. Not as political pawns in a social and political tug of war.

On the medical front,  there are thousands of doctors, nurses and medical personnel  who are now beginning  to feel that they are placing  their patients and the health field in jeopardy. This is in addition to the growing number of high powered business entrepreneurs who are now concerned that the current situation will do irreparably damage to Israel’s economy…including the exiting of hi-tech companies from the country

Will these folks one day pack their bags and leave Israel, their homeland and their birthright.? Maybe for a select few.

We must stick together,  “circle the wagons”  and seek a higher ground for reconciliation, resolution and achdut. The grass is always greener. But what may appear to be “greener” in the US or Europe  is now fraught  with  increased levels of antisemitism and anti Israel sentiment.

Leaving Israel will not be a picnic, a solution or a panacea….. nor will it guarantee a better, more meaningful or robust life or future in the diaspora. To be sure, it will never help repair the growing divide in Israel; nor will is help guarantee Israels future viability, vitality or growth as a true unwavering and unswerving democracy.

All of these observations and experiences are exacerbated by recent threats emanating from Hezballah to the north and Hamas in the south. This is in addition to the growing reality of Iran’s nuclear capability and its potential disastrous threat and impact on Israel. and on democracy in the middle east.

In retrospect, we must ask ourselves the question…..are we at a turning point or at an apex of intolerance and angry aggression towards one another? Have we reached a crescendo in our inability to treat one another with civility  and respect? Have our  centuries old common destiny as a Jewish nation and as a  people disappeared magically into thin air?   Does not one member of the  Israeli government feel deep down  in his or her heart and soul that there may be an ounce of remorse and reconciliation or a deep feeling of isolation? . Of course, they all do! But, it will take some time for it to be actualized,….including GD forbid  a national tragedy or event which wakes people up from their irresponsible slumber of indifference.

Do we so easily forget how during these demonstrations in the streets of  Israel, we witnessed  religious yeshiva   boys wearing tzitzit,  kippot and  black hats distributing cold bottled water to anti government protesters; or the numerous videos that went viral ….showing people on both sides of the protest lines of demarcation shaking hands with one another, smiling, and  hugging each other with tears in their eyes.. These were the images and  gestures that never make it to the news desks, but nevertheless  they strike a very sensitive chord, and at the heart of our nation.  Yes, the glass is indeed half full, NOT empty.

I am not naive enough to think that today’s crisis  in Israel is a one-off event or that the mood and “temperature” in Israel will dissipate any time soon. To be sure, it may take time to ease the pain, mistrust  and anguish.

We learn from Jewish history that our people’s  past journeys and sojourns since Avraham Avinu,  are paved with insurmountable trials, tribulations and challenges. But they were met by our people with resilience, and a sincere will, hope and promise for the future..

The great Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk (the Kosker Rebbe, 1787-1859) . is quoted as saying that ” every path we take or road we travel  is paved with challenges and obstacles. But, with hope, faith,  prayer and conviction, we will arrive at a safe destination”.

Here too, we can chose to select a path which is blessed with hope, promise and positivity; or we can GD forbid, chose the opposite.

We must not let the events of today set us back or discourage us. As we know, these events, were motivated and inspired by political and social exigencies; and  they  have no foundation or basis in our Torah. And, above all, today’s circumstances realities can easily change on a time.

Let us hope and pray that the events of today will never diminish, eliminate or minimize our ability, capacity and choice  to stand together as family and as true brothers and as sisters

The glass is indeed half full. It is our obligation to ensure that we fill it to the brim with ahavah, yirat shamayim, bracha , shalom and achdut bnai yisrael.

Together, we can make this happen!

About the Author
Dr. Chaim Botwinick is a senior executive coach and an organizational consultant . He served as president and CEO of the central agency for Jewish education in Baltimore and in Miami; in addition to head of school and principal for several Jewish day schools and yeshivot. He has published and lectured extensively on topics relating to education, resource development, strategic planing and leadership development. Dr. Botwinick is Author of “Think Excellence: Harnessing Your Power to Succeed Beyond Greatness”, Brown Books, 2011
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