One of the direct causes of the current tragedy and conflict in Eretz Yisrael is the stark, terrible and unjustified disunity within the Jewish people, especially in Israel. (In fact, there can be no justification for Jewish disunity, ever).
The direct link between Jewish disunity and national calamity can be drawn whatever your worldview.
Through a secular or rationalist lens, the divisions in society have significantly weakened our national institutions, up to and including the IDF. The IDF has been saying this all along. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant took his stand on this basis.
Through a religious or mystical lens, Torah states in the clearest terms that certain actions cause Hashem to hide his face and withdraw his protection from the Jewish people, G-d forbid. We are reminded at least once every year of the dangers of ‘sinat hinam’, baseless hatred. Rabbi Sacks made the point emphatically, ‘the only people who can defeat the Jewish people are the Jewish people’.
In the aftermath of this horrific tragedy, national unity has been restored. But no-one should be fooled. This is, very sadly, a temporary unity imposed by external causes. The underlying fissures remain.
We should not wait until, G-d willing, this conflict ends to take the relevant steps to restore Jewish unity to levels unseen for generations. We should understand this is a fundamental prerequisite for ‘never again’ with respect to the Hamas atrocities and all other national calamities.
What can be done? There is a long list but for now, I think two actions are crucial – one at the level of the symptom and one at the level of the cause:
- Symptom-Level Action – Penalise the Politician-Trolls: the Israeli political system seems to reward those politicians with the biggiest dirtiest mouths taking the most divisive aggressive actions. To the shame of the Jewish people, religious figures seem to be some of the most egregious offenders. This needs to be sharply thrown into reverse. We need to find a way that permanently excludes from the national conversation anyone who acts in the Knesset or the media like an internet troll, and rather to throw all our weight with those who take sincere actions to build bridges and foster reconciliation.
- Cause-Level Action – Dialogue on the Fundamentals: I have in common with many among the religious community the sincere hope to see emerge in Israel a more Torah observant society. However I fundamentally disagree that the way to do this is through divisiveness at either a political or personal level. In Ethics of the Fathers, Hillel says: “Be of the students of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to Torah”. The order is instructive. We can take a lesson from Chabad. The Rebbe was clear – Chabad was not, has never been in the business of ‘outreach’. He hated that word. Fundamentally disagreed with it. Chabad is in the business of ahavat yisrael (love for our fellow Jews). Ahavat yisrael is not a means to an end: it is an end in itself. Loving other Jews will help bring people closer to Torah, but bringing people closer to the Torah should not be the reason for loving other Jews. We need to find a way to embed this thinking on a national level.