As shocking and astonishing as the present street warfare is to all of us in Israel, no one actually believes its root cause is a change in the appointment of high court judges, and will disappear when that problem is solved – or not.
As the last five elections have proven, the citizens of Israel are deeply divided, with no side having enough support to form a government that truly represents all its citizens. The hurt and pain on both sides goes deep.
I speak of the decades we have spent bringing our children to IDF induction centers, only to see our haredi neighbors get an exemption. I am speaking of people who pay their taxes and municipality bills, only to see their haredi neighbors get a free ride. I am speaking of law abiding citizens who watch haredi criminals like MK Arie Deri get a free pass because his electorate expect him and his party to siphon off our taxes to fund their institutions.
On the other side, there is the heartbreak of the Oslo years, Leftist madness which saw guns handed over to terrorists; brave settlers from Gush Katif uprooted from their homes and businesses and synagogues by the IDF according to some wrong-headed Leftist agenda that promised peace and delivered death and destruction, thousands of rockets and wars.
The hurt is real. The pain is real. The division is real and goes deep.
When I came to Israel in 1971, I was fully convinced I was going to be haredi. I had come to religious belief in my teens, the result of a Hebrew Day School education granted to me as a scholarship student from a poor family. I took my time deciding if I was there to tolerate religious studies in order to get a better education in English and math, or if I was going to take it seriously. About sixth grade, I decided that the Torah was actually the word of God, and that it was my choice to be faithful to it and receive its blessings.
Aliyah came naturally in 1971, two years after getting married. With my wig, and my bearded husband and new baby, I moved into a new neighborhood of religious Olim in Northern Jerusalem. It was there that my plans began to go awry. Or perhaps not. I realized that the desire to be close to G-d, to do His bidding, was not the same as joining the haredi community. This wake-up call came when I met an Ultra-Orthodox young mother of seven from Williamsburg who described to me the vicious domestic abuse she and her children were suffering, and begged me to help her get a new passport so she could go home to her parents.
All was not what it seemed.
There were other reasons as well. I wanted to get a Master’s degree. I wanted to write, my imagination full of stories even as I baked my Shabbat cakes and cut up potatoes for cholent.
I washed the sand of Sinai out of my husband’s Army uniform, and then did the same for my sons. The Torah, as far as I could see from my own studies, gave no exemptions to army service for those who learned Torah, which seemed to me to be a cynical use of religious belief to avoid the heartbreaking necessity to put our sons and daughters at risk. It cut deeply into the social contract Israelis signed on to when honoring their citizenship. The fury against those who behaved this way, and then refused to stand silently in remembrance of our fallen sons and daughters was like acid penetrating our souls.
There was a time when secular Israel outnumbered religious Israel, and then the elections were quick and easy, the Left ruling as it pleased. And then the demographics changed. Now we are at a point went the scales are balanced by a hair’s breadth, pushed this way or that by clever political maneuvering of the lowest kind. But achieving victory that way, is no victory at all, as we now see.
As Abraham Lincoln once said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Recently, I read an article in Makor Rishon in which someone was quoted saying that he thought we were all headed back to galut. In fact, he pointed out, villages filled with Israeli Jews are already set up all over Greece and Thailand.
I thought about that as I watched the streets filling up with Israelis determined to impose their wills on our deeply divided nation, held in check by only flimsy police barricades; people dancing in circles so that they avoid facing anyone who doesn’t join in with them.
It is my belief that the only solution is to finally take the results of elections seriously. We disagree in fundamental ways about what kind of country we want to live in. The days when minority governments can impose their will are over. If we can’t find some way to form a unity government, to compromise, to live together, each of us listening to the other and being willing to give up things that we treasure for the sake of living in our own country, than no matter what side of the barricades you decide to wave your flag, the next bus to Auschwitz will be coming along shortly as we recklessly and moronically forget what the lack of a Jewish country means.
There are people still living today who saw Hitler take over Europe, who smelled the fires in Auschwitz, who saw the ashes. It didn’t happen a thousand years ago. Not even a hundred. This is why we tried to so hard to have our own country. Remember?
This is the only country in the world where Jewish young people are taught how to drive tanks, use machine guns, fly planes. It is the only country in the world that cares if Jews are murdered by anti-Semites and is willing to track them down and stop them. It is the only country in the world where Jewish holidays are national holidays, and public schools provide a Jewish education. It is imperative that we put our legitimate grievances aside and grasp with both hands and all of our hearts and minds what a precious gift our generation has been given. How many have died, both secular and religious? How many have suffered unbearable losses to make this country a reality?
Have we learned nothing about how our enemies do not make the distinction between Jews we are investing all our time and effort to proclaim, thus destroying our country?
As Iran prepares its annihilation bomb, can we really afford to stop traffic and call out messages of hatred towards each other because we do not agree politically? Really?
And as if God Himself is reaching down to voice His opinion, I refer you to this week’s haftorah from Malachi 3,4: “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord. And He will return the hearts of the parents back to their children and the hearts of children back to their parents, lest I come and lay the earth waste.”