Michael Boyden

Destroying Israel from Within

Israel prides itself in being a country that has gathered in exiles from the four corners of the earth.

Many of them come from countries that never knew democracy and believe mistakenly that it just entails the rule of the majority. They have never heard of checks and balances.

Others believe that the land of Israel from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean was promised to us by the Almighty, and that Palestinians and Arabs are not entitled to full and equal citizenship.

While many are proud of the fact that Jews finally have a home where they are masters, as far as anyone is, of their destiny and are not beholden to others for their safety and protection, others believe that Israel should not be just a State of Jew but a Jewish State.

Avi Maoz, leader of the far-right Noam party without which Netanyahu would not have been able to form his coalition, has declared that he is against progress. “Israel should be a State that observes the Sabbath in public. Sexual minorities should not be recognized and women should not serve in the army.”

Even more importantly he has stated that “Jewish values should take precedence over individual rights”. Many of us find that frightening.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposals to overhaul the judicial system and disempower the Supreme Court are no less scary.

If those are to be the characteristics of the State of Israel, there will be many who will either resist their implementation even violently, or choose to make their home elsewhere.

If the latter, Israel will be left to right-wing extremists, fascists and the charedim and they can be left to destroy our country that was meant, in the words of our Declaration of Independence, to be “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex”.

We have a long history of self-destruction. It started with the Golden Calf, where God suggested a Re-Start (Numbers 14:12). The Talmud teaches us that we were responsible for the dissolution of the 1st and 2nd Commonwealth (Yoma 9b).

It was not our enemies who defeated us. We were responsible for our own fate. Our enemies, as one interpretation of Isaiah 49:17 puts it, come from within.

So now the test has come. Will Netanyahu’s government understand that Israel’s future depends upon compromise and conciliation, or will they relentlessly pursue their agenda?

If the latter, there will be many who will wonder sadly whether this is the promised land in which they wish to make their home and raise their children.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.