Israel is experiencing as much polarization as ever in its modern history.
The IDF, so long the beacon of unity in Israeli society, was recently shaken. Many valued IDF commanders in key reserve duty positions have stated that they cannot in good conscience continue volunteering if the government continues to downsize the power of the judicial branch.
Even among family and friends I can see the harmful effect of the unusual level of division in Israeli society. (And this is not the only country with toxic divisiveness.)
“Let go of the ego”
The ceremonial head of the Jewish state, Isaac Hertzog, just decried both left and right wings of Israel’s parliament for what he considers to be entrenched views and unwillingness to arrive at a middle ground. He chastised leadership on both sides, saying, “Let go of the ego.” Herzog published an impassioned plea for unity, as the school year began for Israeli children:
“If I had to choose one subject, which would become central content in all the classes in the coming academic year, I would choose without any hesitation, acknowledging those who are different, out of aspiring to Israeli unity… there is no more important message to deal with at this time… for the entire Israeli society…”
Whether a nation can long endure
Today’s schisms remind us of the words of the American President Abraham Lincoln who asked in the middle of full-fledged civil war, whether his or any nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to equality could long endure. It remains an open question.
Astounded by harshness
King David, the ancestor, predecessor and forerunner of the Messiah, was astounded by the tendency toward harshness and divisiveness. A murderous rivalry broke out between his top commanders (the sons of Zeruiah) and some of the top commanders of Saul’s army. David’s response: “And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too hard for me“ (2 Samuel 3:39 KJ21). On other occasions, David asked them, “What have I to do with you, sons of Zeruiah?!”
May they be one?!
John 17 records an extended prayer for unity. Unity is the exception to the rule. Kind of like how in science and physics nature tends towards disorder — likewise, humans and human culture tend towards divisiveness.
What does the very word Likud mean?
Even within one side of any human spectrum, such as politics, unity does not come automatically.
In the right-wing side of Israeli politics, the name of Netanyahu’s Likud party literally means unity/unification/consolidation. The name came about when Ariel Sharon was instrumental in convincing the rival right-wing parties to unite under Menachem Begin. That unification happened 50 years ago this month, when the Likud party was formed on September 13, 1973.
Since then, the Likud party has had its fair share of rivalry and internal turbulence (including Sharon himself breaking off in November 2005 to form a rival party). Benjamin Netanyahu first took the helm of the party in 1993 amid scandalous tension with another rising star, David Levy. Bibi resigned in 1999 after losing the national election, then was again made head of the party in December 2005.
Still, remarkably, the more-or-less unified party has dominated Israeli politics for five decades – ruling 13 of the last 18 government coalitions.
Personal imperative to pray “for”
In this season leading up to the High Holy Days of the biblical Autumn calendar, may the Israel Today readership community offer up genuine supplications in prayer for unity among those who need to be in unity – in their nations and in this. But be forewarned. Contending for broad unity is also tied to praying for those who persecute us personally.
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