Many Israelis have real concerns about the direction of the State of Israel, which include the accountability of leadership; control over Jewish family law for everyone by the Orthodox rabbinate; the high cost of living (especially housing) in Israel; the religious receiving unequal exemptions from the army and uneven financial subsidies; the treatment of minorities; and the list goes on.
However, the duration and extremity of the recent anti-government protests directed at judicial reform have taken things to a whole new, politically unhealthy level. For example, even as Israel’s judicial reform has been put on hold and negotiations are ongoing for a negotiated compromise, there continue to be endless weeks of left wing protest—with this now being week 17. During this time, we’ve seen reservists refusing to report for duty, horrible name-calling, Sara Netanyahu basically held hostage in a hair salon by protesters, highways shut down, strikes, violence, and more. This is definitely not Israel at its best!
Aside from attempting to overturn the legitimacy of the elected government, alt-leftists are insisting on maintaining their stranglehold on the representatives in the judiciary as well as being able to overturn any law or government action that even sniffs of a rightist bent.
- But why is it “fair” that a perpetually leftist judiciary should be the deciding factor in all of Israel’s decisions?
- And how is this version of “democracy” not seen as distorted given that it is not in sync with other world democracies?
Despite a counter-rally this week from 600,000 rightists in Israel supporting judicial reform, for those of us watching this primarily one-sided saga play out with now 17 weeks of protests by the left, there is obvious concern for Israel’s defense, economy, tourism, and international standing, which seems at times to be wobbling, even as Iran continues its march toward the bomb!
Yes, while Jews around the world watch from the sidelines, we are all still deeply vested in the State of Israel and our future together. And so there are obvious concerns about the true motives of some on the intransigent left in terms of their:
- “No holds barred” stranglehold of Israel’s Supreme Court to control the political direction of Israel and their desire to get rid of Prime Minister Netanyahu by any means possible.
- Insistence on “land for peace” regardless of the cost even after: a) the failed Oslo Accords of the 1990s that, it is said, even former Prime Minister Rabin had second thoughts about; b) Arafat’s rejection of the most generous offers for a two-state solution at both the Camp David Accords and the Taba Summit in the 2000s, followed by the bloody 2nd Intifada c) the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the subsequent takeover by the terrorist organization Hamas.
- Anti-settler sentiment against the half million Israelis that risk their lives every day living in Judea and Samaria, even though many of the settlements are on historically Jewish land, and moreover, that they establish a critical security buffer around the narrow mid-section of Israel (only nine miles wide) and safeguard critical cities like Tel Aviv, Haifa, and more.
- Rage against the Haredim and the exemptions from army service and financial subsidies they receive; While I believe that everyone should be required to do their fair share to contribute to the state, the vitriol and even hate of many leftists against our fellow Jews is not beyond reproach.
In short, the unity of Israel is at stake.
Interestingly, in today’s Haftarah for Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, we read of the prophet’s frightening exhortation to the then secular Northern Kingdom of Israel, which was separated from the more religiously inclined Southern Kingdom of Judah (Amos 9:8):
Behold, the eyes of the L-rd G-d are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from upon the face of the earth; however, I will not destroy the house of Jacob.
As we know, the Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE, and the captives were dispersed throughout the empire, resulting in the ten lost tribes of Israel. Additionally, even though the Babylonians also destroyed Judea in 586 BCE, G-d promised to save the House of David and bring them back to the Promised Land, as we read in the prophets (Amos 9:11):
On that day, I will raise the booth of David that is fallen, and I will repair the breaches; their ruins will I raise, and I will build it as in the days of old.
Sure enough, under King Cyrus of Persia (who some say was the son of Queen Esther), a portion of the Jews were able to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple. However, as we all know, the Romans later destroyed Jerusalem and the temple again, this time in 70 CE. Nevertheless, almost 2,000 years later, G-d remembered his children, the House of David, and miraculously redeemed us once again, returning us to the new State of Israel (1948), whose wondrous 75th anniversary we celebrated this past week.
Yet, with the ongoing, intense internal conflict going on in Israel these days, it seems that history is repeating itself, such that the division between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms is resurfacing, this time as a conflict between left and right, secular and orthodox Jews, who are at painful odds.
What is also amazing is that there is a 2018 television series, Autonomies, which depicts exactly where it looks like Israel is going these days, with a dystopian future in which Israel is no longer one country. And no, it’s not divided between a Jewish state and a Palestinian one either. It’s divided vertically between west and east: Tel Aviv and the coastal plain are one country run by the secular, and Jerusalem and the west of the country are ruled by the ultra-orthodox. While not an active civil war, it is a separation of the Jewish people that is as heartbreaking as it is destructive to our future as one people and nation of G-d.
So, it’s time to change course. Recalling the destruction of the first and second temples for baseless hate, my father used to admonish us:
Don’t let Hitler win by having baseless hatred between one Jew and another.
However, after 17 weeks of virulent protests and plenty of animosity, one has to question whether the hateful politics surrounding judicial reform are bringing us ever closer to a dangerous breaking point. Certainly, all this heart-wrenching conflict of Jew against Jew is leading us down a terrible road of divisiveness, hate, and hurt for our people, country, and future. It is high time to change course and instead work together to solve our problems, mend differences, and unite in our faith as the proud children of the Maccabees against our common enemies.