David Kramer

What four months in a kindergarten taught me

(Image courtesy of author)

After spending an extended period of reserve duty this year and sharing a kindergarten as a base with 30 other Israelis, from all walks of life in Israel, with one shower and one-and-a-half toilets, this is what I learned…

A friend of mine recently compared Israeli society to a bunch of fish constantly attacking each other in a tiny fish bowl, as hungry cats look on and wait to pounce at the first opportunity, oblivious to the embattled fish. 

If October 7th was not enough of a wake up call to my fellow Israeli’s to put their differences aside and start thinking of how we can make this work for everyone here in this tiny little country, then I am terrified of what is to come.

Following October 7, it did not take a genius or political analyst to draw the conclusion that the tragic events of that fateful day had everything to do with the political upheaval and societal divisions that preceded it. However, ironically, after hearing so many testimonials and stories from October 7, it is clear that just like every other time in Jewish history when Jews were persecuted, our enemies had no interest in the ideological, political or theological differences between us. They came to kill Jews and kill Jews they did.

So why can’t we create a reality where everyone’s needs are catered to in Israel? Where every member of society feels they have a place and even if not perfect, they feel they have a representative voice and future for themselves and their offspring!?

The problem with the current government, even if you voted for them and agree with most of their policies, is that they came out with vengeance from the first day to take back what was lost from them from the previous leadership. Instead of consolidating, they immediately and forcefully tried to implement major political changes with little public explanation and created a win-lose environment that had very little regard for the rest of the Israeli public.

The other side mistakenly over-responded and defended themselves, without limits, and prepared to bring the house down and give up everything on the false notion that they were about to lose their country to a theocratic dictatorship. They cared little for the fact that the very change being implemented unfavored the majority of the voting public and also came about through undemocratic means. A deep fear and resentment for their fellow Israeli’s on the other side of the fence grew for many Israelis, fueled by the media, which peaked when the mere thought of witnessing a public Jewish prayer session on the holiest day of the year, disgusted some onlookers and led to one of the ugliest encounters in Israeli history, only 8 days before October the 7th.

After spending an extended period of reserve duty this year and sharing a kindergarten as a base with 30 other Israelis from all walks of life in Israel, with one shower and one-and-a-half toilets (the half was the size for little kids,) I was thankfully reminded about the inherent strength and unity that exists within the Jewish people. After countless hours in jeep tours, guard duty and missions with my fellow countrymen who were all prepared to risk their lives for the other, without a question, it becomes so obvious that we have far more in common with each other than what divide us. Our grandparents all come from the same places. We all want a democratic society where we can live in dignity, educate our children, support our families, feel safe and live in peace. And I say this in confidence that these values are shared by all sectors of Jewish Israeli society, although differences exist on how to achieve them and what that looks like in practice.

We are at a unique point in Israel where our enemies are once again knocking on our borders. We are on the verge of another potentially bitter conflict up North which could easily spiral out of control, given the current global political reality. However, despite this, my greatest fear, firmly rooted in Jewish history, from the destruction of our temples to the fall of our kingdoms, is the internal debate and strife within our society.

The risk of petty politics and placing ideological differences before the bigger Jewish and Israeli picture is extremely dangerous. It is obvious that compromise from all sides is needed to make things happen but the differences amongst us are so insignificant at the moment. We need a national unity government where its representatives can learn how to sit at the table together again and create a shared common vision that is beneficial to everyone. Reserve duty works because we all have a shared goal: the protection of our country. All other differences are put aside to achieve that. Our country and society, once again, needs a fresh common vision that we can all work towards!

It needs to provide security to the residence of Yehuda and Shomron, whose physical presence in the area, ideologically aside, organically protects the entire country and prevents the mass stockpile of weapons by our enemies, preventing the next mass October 7 attack on Jerusalem, Petah Tikva and Tel-Aviv.  It needs to give space for the liberal modern values that secular Israelis live by and allow their freedom and lifestyles to flourish like every other democratic country in the world. It needs to value what the Orthodox public brings to the Jewish narrative, safeguarding our Torah and heritage and ensuring we don’t become like the other nations. Their shared responsibility on the defense side needs to be nurtured, incentivized and facilitated and NOT forced and this is a long-term process that will definitely not, whether we like it or not, change overnight. It also needs to continue to enable and protect the rights of all those in the middle of all of the above whether they are kibbutznikim, modern Orthodox, traditional and others to live according to the values, ideologies and ways of life they chose. And if none of the above things have any value to you, they still need to be respected with the belief that the success of any society is based on tolerance, dignity and recognition of the other and the belief that diversity of opinions is a strength and not a liability.

We need to look at our designated leaders and not detest them. We need to feel that although there are members of the government that we disagree with, we still feel that we trust the greater institution and that due to the fact that it holds representatives from all sectors, including our own, we know that our rights, needs and wants are also protected.

Unfortunately, over the past few months, the most refreshing voices in Israel have come from the victims and families of soldiers that have lost their lives or become wounded defending our country and society. To the majority of them, the need for unity is so obvious and became a point of comfort for the ultimate sacrifice they are making, having lost the most precious thing to them for the sake of the bigger picture. As one soldier, who was badly wounded and lost both of his legs fighting in Gaza said, “The only thing giving me strength right now, is the fact knowing that this war brought us together.”

A major theme emanating from October 7 and the events that followed has been the notion of courage. We have witnessed acts of courage that go down on par with some of the most memorable stories in Jewish history. And just like heroism, bravery and courage occurs countlessly on the battlefield in this current war, it also needs to express itself on the political field. We need brave leaders who are prepared to put everything on the line for the greater good for all of us, by creating a national unity government, so that we can all share, enjoy and benefit in this beautiful little place!!

About the Author
David Kramer is a Jerusalem-based entrepreneur, educator, IDF reservist, author and family guy who spends most of his time running Israel educational workshops and programs for gap-year students in Israel.
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