Jews in Israel and the Diaspora Must Take Action to Bring Themselves Together
“Building a nation is not like building a society. Its foundations run deeper. The goal is to unite the people by working on our revival, regardless of status, parties or sects. To combine and merge people’s forces and spirits into one national revival and one national creative force, rather than assemble according to social class or the spirit of the occasion.” — A.D. Gordon, “Building a Nation,” 1918
The last few days have been a difficult time in the history of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Our people’s story has impacted and continues to impact nations around the world. We have known ongoing struggles, endeavors, successes, downfalls, and revival. Despite challenges, adversaries and changing times, we have persevered.
Countless historical accounts of individuals, who worked to solve crises and overcome threats, have been passed down from generation to generation, as well as accounts of individuals whose decisions led to fissures and disaster, the consequences of which affect us to this day.
For example, there is the famous battle between Rehoboam, King Solomon’s son, and Jeroboam, who led the ten tribes of Israel. In the well-known story, the tribes demand lower taxes and Rehoboam consults with two groups: The first group of elders advises the king to reduce taxes in order to maintain unity, whereas the second group of the king’s childhood friends recommend the king increase the taxes, as stated in the famous verse, “My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12:11).
From that moment on our people were sentenced to live in irreparable and irreconcilable division.
The political dispute in today’s Israel is not about the voting system, as many would have it. Rather, it is a matter of principle — the notion of uniting various parts of the Jewish people.
Over the past week, two incidents showed the Jewish people’s apathy toward a shifting reality, both in Israel and the Diaspora.
The first incident to which I am referring is the antisemitic shooting in New Jersey. The common Israeli did not show particular interest in the attack. Unlike the vast empathy and support we receive from our brothers and sisters overseas when disaster strikes Israel, I doubt contributions were made by Israeli donors to the New Jersey community. Aside from Israel’s Consul General in New York Dani Dayan, who paid a visit, the average Israeli was not particularly interested in the attack, nor offered solutions to Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
The second incident to which I am referring is the public’s general indifference to Israel’s election crisis. We are behaving as though it were a reality show in which we can vote for the candidate we admire most and want to win. However, we are all being pushed toward the edge of a slippery slope. If I were Hamas, I would sit idly by without intervening, based on the understanding that Jews know best how to shoot themselves in the foot. I am certain my words will not rouse the public from its slumber. Our people will awaken only after receiving a harsh and painful blow that will redefine the state of affairs.
What we can do is unite with as many groups and communities in Israel and around the world in order to prepare the grounds for recognizing how irrelevant, hollow, and meaningless political statements are to our lives. The way to swiftly rectify this rapidly snowballing situation is to take major steps that transcend lies, incitement, and online provocations. What we need is real action carried out by those who believe in our ability to build our nation by joining hands with a range of forces and people in our society, each with his or her own exceptional capabilities and strengths.
The following is a small example of the way actions speak their own unique language: Over the past year, we dreamed about collaborating with members of the ultra-Orthodox community, so as to enable its youth to experience agricultural work. We anticipated the participation of several hundred youth, which seemed far-fetched at the time. However, from the moment we met with teachers and leaders from the ultra-Orthodox community, we realized how narrow-minded we had been, and how fear had restricted us.
In practice, over 4,500 ultra-Orthodox youth ended up volunteering in agricultural work this past year. Moreover, there were times when ultra-Orthodox, national-religious, and secular youth worked together to plant and rehabilitate KKL forests that were burnt by Hamas over the past year. Clearly, the future of our state and the relationship between different sectors in our society lies in our hands.
Yoel Zilberman is the CEO and Founder of HaShomer HaChadash, an Israeli NPO that secures the connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel through education and activism by helping local farmers to safeguard the land.