Several days ago, in the midst of the six-month battle over judicial reform, a new proposal by several protestors was proclaimed: “Let us, the Jewish People, split the Jewish state into two: Israel and Judea. The secular will live in Israel, and the religious will live in Judea.”
And there it is, in real time. After nearly 120 years since the seeding and planting of secularism within the Yishuv, the Jewish community of pre-state Israel, and the reactionary corresponding barrier placed by many in the religious community to not engage and intermingle with their fellow secular sons and daughters, brothers, and sisters, the division between the religious and the secular is now in full bloom.
Today, The People of the Book – the Torah, are now divided into the People and into The Book.
Reminiscent of the feud between the Capulets and Montagues of Romeo and Juliet fame, the descendants have forgotten the reasons and passions for the revolutionary zeal of their great-grandparents and the times they lived in, when religion, tradition, and customs were pariah. Today the descendants despise the bedrock and the raison d’etre of the Jewish nation – Torah and Judaism – simply out of hate and programmed aversion to anything to do with such identity coupled with the fear and suspicion that the State will soon turn into a fundamentalist regime, a Jewish Iran.
But the hate does not stop at the border of the religious vs the secular. The festering hate includes ethnicity, class differences, various skin colors and differing customs all attempting to blend together. Within the modern State of Israel are 60 different cultures developed over the long two thousand year exile who have been attempting to tackle the basic human feelings of resentment, anger, and sense of betrayal experienced when different groups are placed together but not communicating with one another.
After 75 years the prejudices and fears between Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yemenite, Ethiopian, religious, secular, right and left have boiled to the point that now the Israeli melting pot is spilling over the container of Statehood.
Israel has become the nation to watch in the geopolitical MMA cage.
Will the true Jew please stand up?
Today, the founding fathers of the State such as Ahad HaAm, Ben Gurion, and Berel Katzenleson and their love, admiration, and longing to turn the Jewish State into a Light unto the Nations based on the ideals and aspirations of the ancient Prophets of Israel are all but forgotten.
Even Ben Gurion’s very declaration in Yiddish in 1965 at a Swedish conference in front of a Jewish audience, “I am a Jew first, and an Israeli second” is deemed heresy by the new “Israeliness” mentality, a worldview that the Jewish people should now be viewed as only Israeli and that the Jewish PAST should be discarded to the past, a relic of the exile.
How terribly sad and drastic.
Two thousand years of collective persecution, two thousand years of collective struggle, two thousand years of a united front to withstand the trials, tribulations, tyranny, and torture of anti-Semitism and assimilation, and two thousand years of exile are to be discounted like trivial footnotes of history. Gratitude to the past is being bulldozed by the drive to be a nation like all others, to no longer be distinct among the nations.
But a nation of only 7.5 million cannot afford to be indistinguishable in a sea of nearly 8 billion non-Jewish human beings within 239 nations.
Shall all the sacrifices of countless families to survive and make good on the Oath, “If I forget thee O Jerusalem let my right hand forget its power” be set aside for the modern Jew to fit into the paradigm of liberal democracy?
The new Israel now proposed, which will house only the secular, will it pick and choose certain Jewish holidays, certain sections of Jewish literature, certain Jewish heroes and heroines, and thus ignore the towering contributions of nearly 4,000 years of Jewish poetry, insight, wisdom, and philosophy? Will Chanukah become a discarded holiday because the Maccabees battled for Torah and fought against the modern Jews of that era?
Perhaps Hebrew as its national language will be replaced with English or Arabic? The Zionist thinkers did not revive Hebrew for the Israeli but for the Jewish return to the Jewish Homeland in the Jewish State. And how long will Zionism be able to maintain itself in such a state? Eventually, it would be exhausted of all relevance. Because Zionism lives, breathes, and sustains its strength on the 4,000 year old love affair of the Jewish people with its culture and endless need to return to its Homeland.
Within only 75 years, we are about to prove George Santayana’s warning, “Those who do not learn from history are deemed to repeat it.”
2,953 years ago the United Kingdom of Solomon’s son split into two: the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom, Israel and Judea, respectively.
Ten of the Twelve Tribes joined Israel, while the Tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi aligned themselves within Judea.
Thus began the first two-state solution to the Jewish problem of mutual distrust, hate, and the breakdown of power sharing. From 930 BCE until 722 BCE when the Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians there were two Temples, two cultures, and two governments fighting one another. The animosity and need to separate resulted in the 2,700-year-old exile of the Ten Lost Tribes with 83% of the Jewish People lost to oblivion.
And we, the remaining lot of the Jewish People, the Judeans, descendants of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, the known remnants of the original Jewish People have endured the most brutal persecution of any People throughout the annals of history.
Conquered by the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Spanish, the Ottomans, the British, and nearly erased from the earth by the Nazis, we have earned the Guinness world record for the most abused, persecuted, and tortured nation relentlessly attacked with Christian, Muslim, and secular anti-Semitism.
And now nearly 2,935 years later we are faced again with the same question, can we remain united or divorce into even smaller nations, Israel A and Israeli B?
Teshuvah, the Jewish concept of Repentance, is a “reset” opportunity given a person and a nation to correct – to reset – its past deeds and character flaws by facing the same temptation that the person or nation had stumbled over in the past that resulted in their spiritual and moral fall and decline. We are faced today with a reset opportunity to either rise to the occasion and overcome our inner faults or damn ourselves to eternal exile.
This fault did not begin with the united monarchy of Solomon’s son splitting into two kingdoms.
The malady for brotherly discord and hate began long before, on the Tenth day on the Seventh month, the month of Tishri, when Ten Brothers sold out their young brother, Joseph, to slavery, due to the maladies of mistrust, miscommunication, and misinformation.
That Tenth day in Tishri, was later chosen by The Creator to be Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement.
How fitting that each year we recall that seminal event which has never been resolved when ten righteous Brothers so badly misunderstood their other Brother’s intentions, a trait that has become part and parcel of our psychological makeup.
From every mishap an opportunity arises. These six months has brought to the surface the flaws of lack of faith in each other and lack of communication towards each other that must be, once and for all, be treated and eliminated.
The time to reboot our Nation has arrived.
I shall never forget the day nearly 16 years ago when I was in the largest camera super store in the world, B&H, a Satmar Chassidic-owned business located in Manhattan, whose employees are mostly Jewish men with long beards, earlocks, large yarmulkes, and the accustomed prayer shawls, tallit katan, as a very secular Israeli woman, with short sleeves, ran into the store nearly crying and yelled, “My Brothers. My Brothers. If I was allowed to hug you I would. Now I understand. We, the Jewish people, are but a drop in the ocean. In Eretz – in Israel – we think we are the majority. But I see now, since I am outside Israel we are a minority within a minority. We need each other. We must take care of each.”
When Ben Gurion was once asked if Israel , the Jewish State had reached its potential, he said, “Not yet. When it fulfills the ideals of the ancient Prophets of Israel then it will reach it.”
For nearly fifty years I have lived with the memories of Ami and Gedi, my “1948 brothers”, my Father’s dear friends, who lost their young lives in the Battle of Ramat HaRachel. Their names and memory never left my Father’s lips to the point that Ami and Gedi became my “brothers”. I am sure, they are very saddened to know that their sacrifice for a Jewish State to be a Home to all Jews is now facing an existential threat, but not from our Arab or Iranian enemies, but from our very Jewish family.
And so what is to be done?
1) Create dialogue between all the Jewish citizens of Israel
2) Have Jewish Israelis interact with the Jewish communities outside Israel so they will to understand how precarious is Jewish survival.
3) Have each Jewish Israeli citizen learn and take stock of his/her family’s personal struggle throughout the 2000 year exile to reach this day, and thus learn to appreciate the struggle to maintain Jewish identity and uniqueness.
4) Learn history and understand that division among the Jewish people leads to a Shoah “unification”, as one Holocaust survivor’s son-in-law told me, “In the gas chambers there was no difference between Jews.” Rather than unite in death, let us unite in Life!
5) Create a series of movies, books, songs, virtual reality and other forms of expression to remind and teach people how it was to live in the Exile, and that we are truly blessed to be the first in two thousand years to have a State.
6) The Jewish holidays, prayers, and the weekly Shabbath are all about community. Let us employ these great vehicles to bridge gaps, heal wounds, and rectify our faults, and unite.
My Father, the legendary Palmach fighter, Motke Eish HaGarzen, Motke the Axeman, who with his 21 Palmachnim who conquered Har Zion and saved 1,700 Jewish men, women , and children from the Old City, from the Jordanian onslaught, told me that the Palmachnikim gave another meaning to the word Palmach – Pulgot Machutz – Spearhead Foces.
“We are the Palmach. We ready to follow every command. We, the Palmachnikim, gave another meaning, to PaLMaCH. Po Lo Maznichim Chaver – Here We Don’t Abandon A Friend.”
It is time we become Palmach – Here We Don’t Abandon A Friend – our Nation, and recognize the rights, concerns, feelings and humanity of each other.
We are the Children of the greatest Revolutionaries the world has ever seen. We are the Children of Avraham, Yitzhak, Yaacov, Sarah, Rikva, Rachel and Leah.
Let us unite as a Family and bring pride to our Ancestors and happiness to our Creator.