Despite the pain and loss over the past few days in Israel, the national unity in the country, at the moment, is strong and it is incredible to see how things have turned since the events of October 7. Israeli’s across most spectrums of life have, once again, opened their homes and their hearts to each other in these trying times. From hosting evacuee families; funding and supplying equipment, meals, care packages to soldiers; volunteering physical and emotional support services to the survivors and evacuees and so much more. A recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that the majority of Israelis, 66%, are optimistic about the future of their country and have a renewed sense of national unity, up 14% since June. On the one hand, it is inspiring to see the capabilities and strength of our nation when we are together. On the other hand, it is sad that it took such a tragic event and another war to bring this reality about. The question that many of us are asking is what will be the day after the war? Will this sense of care, responsibility and solidarity last or will it quickly dissolve and we will return to tearing each other apart like how things were before!?
As a step in answering the question, I believe there are three things that each and every one of us can do right now to ensure that we become a part of the solution and not allow circumstances and others to dictate what the reality will be. If anything we owe it to the soldiers currently on the battlefield and to the memory and honor of those that have and are paying the ultimate price:
Talk unity – we all have an individual responsibility to bring unity about and we need to be vocal about it. We need to create a voice in Israel that stands for greater harmony and collaboration between all sectors of our society and political camps and spread this message in everyday conversations with friends, family, our immediate circles and beyond. Despite what the media will have us believe, the majority of Israelis want to live in peace and harmony with each other. For the past few years, we have allowed small minority factions to dominate the national agenda and hold our society hostage. We have allowed toxic individuals, politicians and journalists to tear us apart and lead us astray by making us think that we have to belong to a specific group. Either we are left or right. Either we are pro-Bibi or not. Pro-judicial reform or not. Pro-religion or against. We felt obliged to carry these sectoral beliefs on our sleeve and define us for who we are. We need to recognize that all Jews, no matter what their background, origin or beliefs, always have more in common with each other than what divides us. We need to once again build a society that is based on mutual respect and recognition of the other even if we differ in lifestyle and ideology. The Jewish people from the outset were divided into 12 tribes. If it was meant to be easy we would only have one tribe. Disagreement or “machloket” is in our DNA. After all there are 70 ways of understanding the Torah. The problem is that we allowed these arguments to define who we are and we lost common ground. We need to foster a mindset that we all belong in this country and all have the equal rights to enjoy and benefit from the fruits of this land and state and not at the expense of any other group or community. And we need to recognize that there are forces that are always working to pull us apart. We need to ensure that we are louder than them.
Act unity – we have one of the most unique national characters and we need to ensure that the Israeli spirit in all its facets, is only strengthened from here. Values, which we are currently witnessing in full force: sacrifice; being the first to help in a time of need; giving of ourselves; kindness; community; the notion of never leaving a man behind; taking care of the vulnerable; service and more. The beauty of Israel has always been that we are a small country but a huge family. You can be in any part of the country and you can feel comfortable to approach anyone and ask for help. The idea that strangers will open their homes to other people from all parts of the country in their time of need, which is taking place right now. The fact that you can bump into an Israeli and Jew overseas and immediately have this sense of shared identity and experience. The idea that your neighbor will reprimand you for not dressing your kid warm enough in the winter. This is what defined us for many years and we need to ensure that as our country advances we do not lose this. Unity is a mindset. It can only be achieved once we stop trying to change others and focus on ourselves. We have major political and societal hurdles in this country that need to be solved and real change could take years. However, we need to understand that those issues will only be solved through a belief in our shared destiny.
Vote unity – we need to identify and choose our leadership, not only based on the ideological camps to which we and they belong and according to the qualifications and merits that they possess but also according to the priority that they place upon national unity and conciliation. We need leaders from all sides of the political fence that put the entire nation first and not just the parties to which they belong. We need leaders that are honest, humble and selfless. We have to call them out and put an end to the denigrating and hostile dialogue that has dominated our politics till now. We also need to hold ourselves accountable for the same standards. We need to ensure that major political steps that affect the entire nation, such as the “Judicial reform” and Disengagement Plan take place through the will of the entire nation and through referendums to avoid chaos and catastrophe. We need leaders that can speak to the entire camp of Israel. And the way we do it is in the ballots. However, most importantly we should know that unity starts from the bottom up and even if and when our leaders err, real unity is independent of them and takes place in those everyday moments, interactions and conversations in our beautiful little country.
We also need to internalize that unity is at the heart of our survival as a nation. We have and will always have enemies and they need to be taken care of, however, we need to recognize that the source of our demise has always been internal. The temples were destroyed for no other reason than baseless hatred. October 7 happened following one of the most conflicted periods in Israel’s history. Our political differences and arguments are minor in light of the bigger picture of being destroyed by our enemies and therefore we should approach our differences through a culture of compromise and humility and an understanding that we are all in this together, to ensure both national and global Jewish survival.