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Ariel Beery
Dedicated to solving problems facing humanity with sustainable and scalable solutions

The State is Stuck in the Narrow Straits

Photo from the protest outside the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, 11 July 2023
Photo of rally outside of the US embassy by Maryana Simonovich

The worst place for a nation to find itself is stuck between narrow straits, a situation the State of Israel finds itself in today. Stuck between an obnoxious and arrogant ruling party and an obnoxious and stubborn popular opposition, nations tend to either implode or explode as civil struggles transition from cold to hot, and words no longer suffice to convey the depth of outrage at the other side’s actions.

Today’s protests across Israel and Jewish communities around the world represent the turning point when things go from bad to worse, from easily salvageable to seemingly intractable

Today’s protests across Israel and Jewish communities around the world represent the turning point when things go from bad to worse, from easily salvageable to seemingly intractable. The escalation of police violence, heartless denigrations by ministers in the governing coalition, and expressions of resolve by former decorated warriors all point toward an escalation in the civil war of attrition gripping the country. This is a war that cannot be won by either side without crashing the State, a war whose destruction can only be avoided by charting a new course that steers us between the rocks and the hard place we currently find ourselves in.

Centuries ago, the sages referred to this period in the Hebrew calendar as “Bein HaMeitzarim,” or “Between the Narrow Straits,” quoting a line from Jeremiah’s Lamentations to symbolize the time it took for the walls of Jerusalem to fall on the 17th of the month of Tammuz and the subsequent destruction of the Temple on the 9th day of the month of Av. I have always believed that we, the unorthodox Zionists, should commemorate this period because it reminds us that destruction doesn’t happen in a day. Our society often focuses too much on outcomes and not enough on the processes that led to those outcomes—processes that could have been halted before they became overwhelming.

This is a war that cannot be won by either side without crashing the State, a war whose destruction can only be avoided by charting a new course that steers us between the rocks and the hard place we currently find ourselves in.

A State does not simply collapse, and a Temple is not merely destroyed. An army does not effortlessly conquer, and a government does not simply legislate. Each and every outcome results from an interaction of parties, and the willingness of those parties to abide by civil rules of engagement determines whether they navigate through the narrow straits or crash into the walls and sink.

Since January, I have volunteered for the Israeli democracy movement alongside my peers in the tech community, connecting and collaborating with our sisters, brothers, and friends in North America. I have been continually impressed by the commitment of the people I have volunteered alongside to the future of our State and their obligation to ensuring the Zionist dream does not crumble. Many of us recognize that the democracy movement cannot achieve ultimate victory without fundamental changes to our governing institutions, and we are well aware that we do not have the power to make those changes without broad support.

Over the past six months, I have also observed and studied the same representatives of political parties who have found themselves in power following the last election. It is disheartening to see how little these officials respect the millions of citizens who pay their taxes, volunteer for extended military service, and dedicate themselves to the daily functioning of the companies that drive our economy. It is as if they have decided that their political ideology is more important than the functioning of our polity.

However, what has surprised me the most is the behavior of Jewish leaders and pro-Israel organizations abroad. No war since 1973 has threatened Israel’s existence as much as the civil war we are experiencing today. It is understandable that those without Israeli citizenship seek to avoid taking sides. But it is unreasonable for those who hold Israel dear, and who understand that the end of the State of Israel would be a near-fatal blow to the idea of Jewish Peoplehood, to not call upon those with the power to stop this legislative blitz.

We need allies of Israel to urge those with the power to change the current trajectory of legislation to engage in deep conversations to find consensus, and not fall prey to the fallacy of opportunity. They should remind the government of the wisdom of Ben Zoma: true strength comes not from the destruction of one’s foes but from conquering one’s urges. They should remind the religious figures in the Coalition that we have already witnessed our sovereignty crash and burn twice during this three-week period.

It is unreasonable for those who hold Israel dear and understand that the end of the State of Israel would be a near-fatal blow to the idea of Jewish Peoplehood, to not call upon those with the power to stop this legislative blitz

It is not too late. Even now, when our ship of state has crashed into the cliffs of the right bank of the straits, we can still correct our course. It will require both sides to recognize that there is a path through, a future that can only be navigated by acknowledging the limitations of our demands.

At this time, I believe we need the wisdom of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. Recognizing that the mixed multitude which is Israel could not survive if subjected to a single judicial system, he advised us to devolve our self-determination into our local communities, with captains of thousands, hundreds, and fifties.

This pluralistic vision still holds true and can help us set our ship right. We can envision a future in which local communities gain the right to self-determination and self-administration of legal interpretation without fear of coercion. Each community would have its own judges to decide what is reasonable and what is not.

If we want to reach the end of this three-week period with an intact State of Israel, we need all those whose hearts are in the east, even those whose bodies are in the uttermost west, to make their voices heard now.

If we want to reach the end of this three-week period with an intact State of Israel, we need all those whose hearts are in the east, even those whose bodies are in the uttermost west, to make their voices heard now. We cannot allow the State of Israel to be torn asunder under our watch. We must stand together and demand that only reform through consensus, only a changing of the rules of the game with the agreement of all actors, will lead us through these narrow straits.

About the Author
Ariel Beery is a strategist and institution builder dedicated to building a better future for Israel, the Jewish People, and humanity. His geopolitical writings - with deeper dives into the topics addressed in singular columns - can be found on his substack, A Lighthouse.
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