The judicial overhaul plan, among its other ruinous effects on Israel in multiple spheres, has brought long-standing resentments out into the open.
Concerned rabbinic leaders and lay people in the dati-leumi world have attempted to heal these divisions. Rabbi Benny Lau, for example, someone I greatly admire and respect, recently wrote a TOI blog piece urging greater unity (The Knesset’s Pyrrhic victory). Members of my DL congregation are hosting an evening devoted to a moderated dialogue between area residents who have opposing political viewpoint, in a praiseworthy effort to encourage greater understanding.
Our Sages valued unity, noting in a Midrash, for example, that in the days of the wicked King Ahab, because the citizenry was unified, and Israel maintained unprecedented good relations with rival Judea, Israel did not suffer defeats in battle.
Unity notwithstanding, Elijah the Prophet, Ahab’s contemporary, saw the need to address the Israel’s idolatrous practices, and during a decisive confrontation with the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, declared to the onlookers that they had to be decisive and choose, once and for all, whether they would worship Baal or the True God.
Today, thousands of years later, there are many Israelis who are still ‘worshipping Baal’ – the ultimate baal ga’ava (exceedingly arrogant person), our corrupt and narcissistic prime minister, who, as former President Rubi Rivlin recently noted while addressing a protest rally, views himself “not only as a leader who’s superior to Ben-Gurion, but someone who’s possibly in the same league as Moshe Rabbeinu” (https://www.calcalist.co.il/local_news/article/skydjr9ch). And in unleashing the overhaul plan, Netanyahu has opened Pandora’s Box, fomenting inter-tribal antagonism.
Netanyahu, in fact, thrives on provoking divisions of all kinds for his selfish purposes, and so in my mind, a Netanyahu supporter who claims to support unity is automatically suspect. Such a person is a contradiction in terms, a “tovel v’sheretz b’ya’do” – one who immerses himself in a purifying bath while holding a ritually unclean object; unity and allegiance to the ultimate source of national discord do not exactly go hand-in-hand.
Some of the Netanyahu supporters are outright hypocrites in claiming to be ‘unifiers.’ As Matan Kahana, who is Observant himself, has noted, “’We are all brothers,’ ‘We are one nation,’ are slogans that …. Smotrich, Struck, Rothman throw around a lot, when in fact they exploit their political power to the opposite effect” (Matan Kahane FB Post).
Rabbis in the settler/chardal (haredi–leumi), pro-Netanyahu camp, who presumably find no less religious value in the concept of unity than their dati–leumi counterparts, aren’t shy about promoting their support for the judicial overhaul. A group of these rabbis recently proposed a boycott of Strauss due to its decision to pull advertising from the incendiary right-wing, ‘Bibist’ (having blind faith in Netanyahu) Channel Fourteen. And the haredim clearly want to milk the system for what it’s worth, with no concern for the resulting discord. Only the dati-leumi camp, or its leadership, at least, seems to have decided to “sit this one out.”
During World War II, when England was spearheading the fight against Nazi Germany, while at the same time restricting Jewish immigration here, as detailed in their infamous White Paper policy statement, Ben-Gurion declared, “We will fight the White Paper as if there no war, and fight the war as if there no White Paper.” It behoves us to pursue unity, but at the same time, we cannot, by our passivity or indifference, allow the fight against Netanyahu and his minions to fall by the wayside. Like Elijah in his day, we must prevent the modern-day prophets of Baal from reigning supreme.