Next week, we will celebrate Hanukkah, the festival that celebrates the victory of the Jews over the Greeks. This is the story that we tell ourselves each year. It is not the truth. The truth is that the Greeks (actually, the Seleucid Empire) entered the war much later, when their allies, the Jewish Hellenists, were defeated by the Hasmoneans, who were fighting to keep the nation united. The Hellenists pleaded with their patron for help, but to no avail. The Hellenists lost, Jerusalem was liberated, and the Seleucid Empire left Judah in peace.
It is important to remember, however, that the rivals were both Jews and the war was mainly between them.
Just over two centuries later, Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were exiled from Judah. We like to tell ourselves that it was the Romans who destroyed the city and murdered the Jews, but again, that is not the case. The Romans killed many Jews, but not nearly as many and not nearly as savagely as the Jews killed each other. The war against the Romans was really another civil war, but it had disastrous consequences because the splintered nation had depleted its strength by fighting one another.
Today, people ask if a third civil war is possible in Israel. Most of them believe it cannot happen since we must have learned from our tragic past. I, for one, think we have not learned a thing. This is why I think another civil war in Israel is not unlikely.
We are more fractured today than at any time in history. We are divided between secular and religious, Left and Right, Ashkenazi and Sephardic, haves and have nots, and each election, we have dozens of parties vying for seats at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) to prove it.
In addition, we are surrounded by enemies who want to see the end of the Jewish state, and we are divided in our attitude toward them. For their part, our enemies are trying their best to divide us even more.
If this continues, it will not be long before we see the end of the Jewish state. Jews will happily immigrate from Israel and the Arabs will take over the country.
If we want to prevent another meltdown of a Jewish state, we need to start doing what we were meant to do in the first place: unite above our divisions.
We were not meant to love each other from the start. We could not. After all, our ancestors came from numerous tribes that were often sworn enemies, yet they formed a nation by embracing an ideology that hatred must not dictate our actions, that we must rise above it and forge bonds that are stronger than hate.
King Solomon, whose wisdom is celebrated to this day, said, “Hate stirs strife, and love will cover all crimes” (Prov. 10:12). This mode of work should have guided us in building the society in contemporary Israel, as well. Regrettably, we have allowed hate to take the driver’s seat. Is it any wonder that we are headed for an accident?
If we want Israel to exist, we must unite above all differences and declare that this is our calling – to be a beacon of unity for the world to see. Our only justification for being here, and our only source of strength, is our unity.
For more on the importance of Jewish unity, see my book The Jewish Choice: Unity or Anti-Semitism.