Joshua Buchalter

The Jewish people are eternal, but is the collapse of Israel inevitable?

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History has proved two things. 

Firstly, the existence of the Jewish people will persevere. Mark Twain believed this, and the remarkable recovery after the Holocaust followed by combatting continued attacks from neighboring states since 1948, reaffirms that the immortality of the Jewish people will continue. 

Secondly, the rising and falling of empires, states, and colonies has repeated itself throughout history. I’m not just referring to the rise and fall of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, European colonization of Africa, or even the Soviet Union. I’m referring to the historic events of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. Following the exodus from Egypt around 1300 BC, all Jews, equal to approximately 5 million people, lived in present-day Israel. The ‘Jewish diaspora’ didn’t exist. After building the first Temple, internal issues contributed greatly to the collapse and the expulsion from our native land. Negligent leadership, led to the division of the kingdom, into Israel & Judah, resulting in war, assimilation, and political and spiritual deterioration. Within a few centuries, the Jewish population was around 0.3 million, with the majority living in ‘the diaspora’, a term that had then become relevant. Millennia later, around 50% of Jews continue to live outside our homeland and the temple still requires rebuilding.

What does this all mean? 

History continually repeats itself. Internal division creates instability that allows external threats to become more destructive than before. We need a reminder of the detrimental impact division previously brought, and how it led to collapse. Therefore, the current internal division could be more destructive than Hamas, the PIJ, or Iran. 

Differences within societies around the world are inevitable. Jews have always disagreed. The basis of Judaism is to debate and discuss the interpretation of our traditions described within our Biblical text. One of the biggest mitzvahs in a yeshiva is to ask a good question. Therefore questioning each other’s interpretation is part of who we are. The issue is when differences are not discussed, negotiated, and agreed upon. When differences lead to increased isolation and separation, and decreased understanding and acceptance, conflict is unavoidable. It seems that Jews are not questioning each other with the intention to gain a better understanding or increase unity. We are criticizing and offending each other and showing unwillingness to engage and compromise. 

We must also be reminded that we spent 2000 years in the diaspora, but then proved that present-day miracles can occur, with the returning to our homeland just 75 years ago. Being able to live in Israel and benefit directly from the occurrence of these miracles brings responsibility. Regardless of your religious affiliation, if preventing the collapse of the State of Israel is important to us, then it is our responsibility to find solutions to the biggest threat we face. 

We thought we needed a peace deal with the Palestinians to achieve stability. However, without negotiations from leaders within the various Jewish communities, and finding agreement on the governance of the State moving forward, increased instability and history repeating itself with the collapse of the State, may become our reality. 

After researching the topic, spending time in the contrasting communities of Israel, interviewing individuals of influence as well as exploring the opinions of many through surveys, here is my analysis: 

Each extreme of the religious spectrum seems to perceive an imbalance in the governance of the state. The secular believe the needs of the religious are being over-prioritized at the expense of everyone else, while the religious believe the secular have been over-represented in the governing of the country since independence, without sufficient representation of the religious voice. Frustration is now erupting. I believe there is a reason for both sides to be frustrated. However, without reducing the existing isolation amongst secular and religious communities, Jews will continue to lack the understanding required to encourage compromise for differences that will always exist. 

Will judicial reform increase unity and understanding? I don’t think so. Will another six months of protest increase unity and understanding? I don’t think so. Prioritizing personal interests over national interests is the trend of the current government, and if elected into power, it’s difficult to see how the current strategies of the opposition will prevent the division from continuing. 

Israel needs to unite all communities. This can only be done through re-establishing trust that allows genuine collaboration among all leaders. Either everyone wins, or as history suggests, the instability caused by internal division means collapse will be inevitable, and everyone will lose. If the current generation of leaders fails, the next generation – my generation – will be responsible to increase understanding and acceptance in order to decrease division and instability.

About the Author
Raised in a small town in South Africa, yet through extensive travel and profound experiences decided to catch a one-way flight to the Holy Land in 2020. Reichman University graduate and Argov Fellowship Alumni. Shulman Literacy Cup Recipient for research focused on the secular/religious divide in Israel. Co-Founder of Sparking Minds Gardens. Currently completing his Masters Degree in Diplomacy at Haifa University.
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