The Crossroads of Values: What Defines Us as a Society?

In the wake of the recent tragedies that have befallen the victims of Boston, New Town and others, Americans have found themselves asking a number of profound questions about who they are as a society.

At the heart of the issue lays the debate over values and how they relate to public security. Where does one person’s right to own tools of lethality trespass into another’s right for an expectation of safety? To what extent should the officials tasked with the provision of protection be allowed to investigate potential threats to the public before the rights of those they are sworn to safeguard no longer exist?  In the end, it boils down to the basic question of whether Americans want to have a safer country with restricted rights, or a more volatile one with greater freedoms. While the road to resolving these issues will be long and arduous, I believe the American people to be resilient and in possession of the capabilities to do so; despite the ineffectual nature of the US Congress. Luckily for them, Americans as opposed to Israelis posses the advantage of having the basic values of their nation laid out in the Constitution. Despite its flaws and the dated nature of part of its statutes, it at least defines the goals that the American people and government are supposed to strive for in creating a more perfect union. 

At the same time that our friends and family in the United States are asking themselves these questions, we here in Israel have duty to address our own outstanding debates. What do we as Israelis want for ourselves? Since the founding of the state, we have made dreams into realities. We have gathered the exiles, built thriving cities and contributed a wealth of knowledge to humankind with our technological advances. However after 65 years of Independence, we have so far failed to define ourselves. Are we a Jewish state? What does that even mean for us in our modern understanding? What are our democratic values and how do they play into our policy vis-à-vis the Palestinian question? What are we doing to resolve the greater Arab-Israeli conflict that has dogged us since before there even was a state and bring about true security through peace? Does our government represent all of its citizens or just those of certain economic, sectorial or ethnic qualifications? These are just some of the questions that I ask myself as I attempt to build my life here.

Even as others are forced to face tough challenges to their images of self, let us not miss an opportunity for some much needed introspection. While avoiding these essential issues may have been excusable in the time immediately following the founding of the state, it is embarrassing that we as a nation are yet to resolve them. Are we so afraid of what may arise out of this internal conversation that we will continue to repress them? While some politicians have seized upon hot button issues like ‘Sharing the Burden’, (of which I do support) we need to dig deeper. We need to go down to the root and ask ourselves where we want to be as a society. What steps are necessary to ensure that we will pass on a better Israel than the one that we received? For our sakes, and those of future generations, I hope that we find the courage to do what is needed.


About the Author
Gabi Avner is a security consultant, intelligence analyst, and writer living in Ramat Gan. Born and raised in the DC area, he has lived in Israel since 2003, serving in the Nachal, studying and working in security and education. Gabi is interested in politics, security, Brazilian Ju Jitsu and food.