When we emerge from the horrors of this war, we’ll face a fateful choice: Let trauma divide and destroy us, or use it as a catalyst for positive change? I’d like to propose some narratives that might guide us toward the latter.
We have witnessed our homes and country being targeted by ruthless enemies who want to destroy us. We’ve lost loved ones, friends, neighbors, and colleagues and endured rocket fire, terror attacks, and displacement. I know such wounds can never heal: In 2015, my father Richard Lakin was murdered by Hamas terrorists on a Jerusalem bus. He was a peace activist, teacher, and loving father and grandfather whose horrible death left a permanent hole in my heart.
I found out that trauma sets us on fire. It ignites a powerful energy within us. We can either channel this energy into positive action, turning trauma into triumph – or let it consume us, manifesting as sadness and anger.
Before the murder, my father expressed concern about the Muslim Brotherhood in Israel inciting violence and hatred against Jews. He also believed in the power of education and dialogue to promote peace and coexistence – and in bucking opposition to do what you believe is right. His values influenced my choice and actions.
While mourning the loss, I dedicated myself to raising awareness of the dangers of allowing terrorists to roam free on social media, communicating, recruiting, and inciting. I wrote op-eds in international newspapers, gave interviews, helped produce movies, lectured at universities, filed lawsuits and lobbied for legislation. These efforts helped set in motion a campaign that yielded dramatic change: While there is still plenty of work to be done, social media titans built significant infrastructures to remove terror groups from their platforms.
We now need such efforts on a national scale. If we choose sadness and anger, the disunity and weakness may invite yet more attacks. I’d like to propose what I believe are some new narratives, cold-eyed but also positive, that I believe might help guide us.
Get past Right and Left
As our society has changed over time, these terms have lost their meaning and become harmful. They no longer define ideology but rather exacerbate divisions. We should instead focus on what unites us regardless of political views. Moreover, we must demand that after the war all our politicians, from every party and faction, retire. They have been using these terms to polarize and paralyze us, and they need to clear the playing field for new and healthier thinking. We need fresh and visionary leaders who can transcend outdated labels and leaders who will work together for the common good of Israel.
From Self to Society
The pursuit of wealth and fame in our “Start-Up Nation” has left us empty and lonely, while true happiness and fulfillment comes from belonging and contributing to a community. That’s also why the attack on kibbutzim and settlements along the border with Gaza struck such a nerve – an attack not on a bus but on communities. Hamas sought to uproot our sense of security but has brought us closer together. Family, community, and country are the building blocks of happiness and success. We all share responsibility for the current challenges facing Israeli society. We must put the past behind us, focus solely on the future, and come together to rebuild a humbler and more accountable Israel based on community. Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, secular and religious, wealthy and poor, young and old must come together for the collective good.
A constitutional convention – not a commission of inquiry
Our hastily structured constitutional and electoral infrastructure has produced divisive leaders, weak governance, and a crippling bureaucracy. Israel needs a formal constitution coupled with judicial and electoral reform to thrive again. If we don’t address foundational issues our leaders will continue to divide, and bureaucracy will continue to promote mediocrity and institutional impotence. There is no need for a commission of inquiry; we are all to blame, whether through actions or complicity, and finger-pointing will only further divide us. Instead, we must roll up our sleeves and join our hands together to rebuild the new Jewish State.
This war has exposed the true nature of our enemies and allies. Our real enemies are not the Palestinian people nor civilized Arab neighbors who have shown willingness to make peace. They are the forces of radical Jihadist Islam and the Iranian axis of evil which seeks to wipe us off the map and spread tyranny and terror across the region and the world. They supply Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis with rockets and drones. They incite violence, hatred, and antisemitism around the globe. They threaten our existence and despise the values we share with the democratic world, of human rights and coexistence. Israel is aligned with the forces of good in this struggle, and we must continue to defend ourselves and our allies from the forces of evil. It is a moral imperative and strategic necessity.
The Palestinians must accept reality
We should move beyond the failed paradigm of “territory for peace” and embrace the new reality of our victory as a foundation for a cooperation with the Palestinians. Israel has proven its resilience in the face of repeated attack by Jihadist groups. The Palestinians have suffered immense losses, human and material, and failed to achieve any of their political goals. Their leadership is weak, their economy is in shambles, their society is exhausted, and Arab and Muslim allies are preoccupied with other troubles. The only way to move forward is to demand the Palestinian people show a real desire for peace as a condition for moving forward. We can no longer tolerate their incitement, violence, and denial of our historical connection to the land of Israel. In respecting them, we must hold them to the same ethical and human standards to which we hold ourselves, and stop treating them as helpless victims. The Palestinians must prove to Israel and the world that they side with the forces of good, rather than the axis of evil. Then we can reach a fair accommodation.
Embrace our Jewish values
Over the years, many of us detached from our core Jewish values in favor of a utopian secularism; we began to slide down a slippery slope into an amoral abyss. The war has brought out the best in our Jewish soul and helped reconnect us with humility, compassion and repentance. We must reaffirm our commitment to such core values in our daily lives and in our educational system. We should rediscover and celebrate our rich and diverse Jewish heritage, traditions, and teachings, and apply them to our modern challenges and opportunities. In aid of this, we need new rabbinical leadership focused on ensuring that Jewish experience for all citizens is rich and fulfilling.
Demand a standard of truth
Social media spreads lies and misinformation. Traditional media succumbed to the pressures of competition and sensationalism. Basic communication between people has been impaired. We must hold ourselves and media of all forms to a standard of truth. Freedom of speech should not be abused to lie and incite. The freedom we need is to speak the truth, express opinions and maintain productive public discourse. But we must be critical and vigilant consumers and producers of information and expose and reject attempts to manipulate or mislead. We must demand the social media platforms and the government regulate and monitor online content and penalize and remove those who violate the ethical and legal standards of truth.
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Over the coming weeks and months, our energies will be laser-focused on winning the war. But the day after will be no less important. I urge that we grasp the powerful energy created by this trauma and unite around new narratives that transcend the old divisions and rebuild our society by recognizing the age-old struggle between good and evil, move on from the conflict and refocus on community, Jewish values, and truth. Thus, might we arise from the ashes again – and become the light unto nations that our founders envisioned.