A few days ago was the tenth of the Hebrew month of Tevet. On that day in 587 B.C. began the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon, which culminated in the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people. Jewish sources, however, do not attribute the downfall to the Babylonian king, but to bloody internal conflicts, slander, intrigue, and other forms of mutual abuse. Seventy years after the exile, we returned to the land, rebuilt the Temple, but let the Second Temple fall once more for the same reason: our hatred for one another.
Today we are once again the sovereign in Israel, and once again we are fighting among ourselves. Not physically, yet, but we are definitely fighting, and the hatred is only growing stronger. Religious Jews hate secular Jews and secular Jews detest religious Jews; the Right hate the Left and vice versa; Ashkenazi Jews cannot stand Sephardic Jews and the other way around; and every day new divisions arise. The hatred that destroyed two Temples will also destroy our fragile country. We are on the verge of ruin.
Just as we blame Nebuchadnezzar for the destruction of the First Temple and the Roman general Titus for the destruction of the Second Temple, today we blame Iran, the UN, and a host of other hostile countries and organizations for our troubles. But just as our own sages attributed our ruin only to our own division, today’s approaching fall of the State of Israel is happening for exactly the same reason.
If we are to avoid a similar fate to the one we have already experienced twice, we must address the common cause that keeps failing us: internal hatred. We must recognize that our strength lies first and foremost in our unity, and everything else, including military might and sophisticated technology, is an adjunct to the most essential element: unity.
Our vocation, our calling as a nation, has not changed since our inception. From day one, our mission has been to unite above the hatred that has always existed among us, and by doing so, to set an example for the world. When we were divided, foreign rulers overcame us and tormented us. When we were united, we were safe and welcome among the nations.
We may think of ourselves as a “startup nation” or believe that we are strong because of our military might and technological edge. However, wars are won with spirit, not computers, and when it comes to spirit, we have none. We do not believe in our cause, we do not understand what it means to be “a light unto nations,” people who set an example of unity, and we have no wish to learn about it. We are obstinate and arrogant, and there is nothing more stupefying than hubris.
If we do not wake up now and realize our calling, it will be very difficult and painful to do so later. At some point it will be too late to turn around, the country will be ruined, its people exiled, and the whole world will suffer because Israel failed to recognize its calling.