Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Israel's Struggle for Identity

What is Israel? Who are the people that represent it? Is it the secular army officer with a pretty girlfriend, the successful side job, the array of military accomplishments to go along with his parents' villa in Ramat Aviv, or the Haredi Jew living in B'nei Brak? The latter is an older fellow. He has 10 kids, a nagging wife, three bank loans, and a fledgling business. Which one of these is the face of Israel? Both are.

It's been all of 63 years. In this relatively short span of time, the State of Israel has developed into one of the world's leading economies, an enclave of freedom within a desert of barbarity. Waves of Aliya have come.

They've been accepted into Israeli society; have blossomed and given seed. Some will argue that our Zionist leaders abused their power and put down the righteous olim who fought so hard to make it to Israel. Others will claim that these olim are the ones at fault; that no one asked they to come and that they've become a burden for Israel's Eastern European elite. Which opinion is valid? They both are!

Religious Judaism puts a lot of emphasis on unity. Unity within the Jewish people. In fact, unity is sorely missing from our nation (the very question of whether the Jewish People are a "nation" or "religion" is hotly debated amongst academia and the general public alike). This is why I wanted to delve into the question of who represents the one thing we all share in common: the State of Israel.

Living in Israel, pluralism becomes ingrained in you. You absorb it to the fullest. It becomes second-nature. You stop noticing cultural, religious and ethnic differences. Either that or you die away. Quickly and surely. You stop noticing the minute details. Even local Arabs become a part of your every-day life and you forget that a war is being fought a few miles away.

It's only when you're back in Exile that you learn to hate again. You learn that your brethren are dying every day, that the secular government is coming up with new rules that will make it impossible for the Jewish State to function as you would like it to, you hear of religious Jews breaking every rule in the Torah and you hate them too. This hatred dies out when you come home.

Life in Israel is a far cry from reality in Exile. People tend to absorb things that are going on around them. We become what our surrounding happens to be. It's written that Jews are stronger when there are a lot of them together. This concept may apply to unity as well. As Abe Lincoln put it "United we stand, divided we fall." That's just human nature but it applies even more so to the Jews.

It's heartbreaking to observe what's happening in the Jewish world today. One politician derides the next, one religious leader blames the other for blasphemy, the left blames the right of conspiring against "peace", the right blames the left of treason and so on. Every part of the Jewish world is segmented. There's about as much unity amongst us today as there was at the time of the fall of the Second Temple.

This is a very dangerous trend that we must do everything in our power to eradicate. While its less prominent in the religious community, differences linger. It's not enough for me to call on my fellow Jews to unite (for if we do not, we will lose our precious home). I have to take this fight to the next level and begin to accept every one of my fellow Jews as at least my equal. Every one of us should take this upon him/herself.


  1. Abraham Lincoln said "a house divided against itself cannot stand." Not "united we stand" etc.

  2. You're absolutely right! My fault.


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