The tumultuous protests against the planned reforms to Israel’s judicial system seem to be tearing Israeli society apart. Prominent newspapers around the world have not only reported the plan to reform Israel’s justice system, but have actually taken sides. Thomas Friedman of The New York Times urged President Biden to take action against an Israeli government that is “hostile to American values.” At the same time, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial titled “Who’s Threatening Israeli Democracy?” and argued that it is actually Israel’s supreme court that poses the greatest risk to Israel’s democracy.
Indeed, I think there is truly an ideological war here. There are many entities involved, each with its own interest and benefits it wants to procure, but the result might be the division of the country. I think that we are truly in a precarious situation.
I do not think there is any nation more divided than the Jewish nation. When we consider what the struggle is about, the picture becomes even more confusing, since the parties are fighting over ideologies that have nothing to do with the tradition of the Jewish people. Different factions of the nation have adopted different ideologies from other nations, and now they are fighting for them as if they have been their core values since the inception of our nation. It is as if we have taken up ideological wars that were fought in the 19th and 20th centuries, and we are continuing the fight in the 21st century although neither ideology authentically belongs to the Jewish people.
And what is even worse, we are fighting for those ideologies against people from our own nation. In doing so, we are not only deepening the divide within the nation, but we are destroying the one ideology that is authentically ours: love of others above all the differences.
There is a good reason that we tend to adopt social ideologies from around the world. As a nation that has taken upon itself to do Tikkun Olam [correction of the world], it is inherently Jewish to take up all the ills of the world and cover them with a blanket of love for others. This is why we came up with such notions that we must love our neighbor as ourselves, build a society based on mutual responsibility, and unite with one another “as one man with one heart.”
However, if we are unaware of our task, then we still “catch” ideas from around the world, but we do not cover them with love, we do not correct them. As a result, we fight over these ideologies, hate each other for them, but nothing good comes out of it. If this modus operandi continues, the Jewish state, which was established to correct the world, will fall to pieces.
The Jewish people are no stranger to civil wars. In antiquity, we had had several of them, and the worst of which sent us into an exile that had lasted nearly two millennia. When Jews believe in something, they will fight to the death for it, very literally. They do not care who they have to face to make their view prevail, and do not think about the cost. The fact that they might lose the country altogether is no cause for them to stop. At such moments, it is either my way, or no way at all.
The problem here is not so much the destruction of the Jewish state, as it is the postponement of the correction of the world. Without understanding that we must set an example of rising above differences and forging love despite any disagreement, the whole world will not be able to advance toward it.
The hidden reason behind today’s growing antagonism toward the Jewish state has nothing to do with the stated cause of ostensible infringement of Palestinian human rights. The real reason is that the Jews are not doing what they are supposed to do. If they do not serve as an example of unity above hatred, of bridging differences with love, the world has no need for them, and certainly not for a Jewish state.
Even though this anger is unconscious, it is the driving force behind the growing hatred of Jews around the world. The ephemeral pretexts are just that, pretexts, but the reason for hating us is that we hate each other and cannot overcome it. Therefore, the only thing that can prevent a civil war is that we understand what Jews are meant to do, and resolutely follow our vocation.