For decades I have heard my fellow countrymen say: “In order for the people of Israel to unite from within, they need an external enemy to fight against.” This notion grates on me and makes me shrivel up on the inside.
I ask myself, can it really be that Israel is only united in wartime? Will we be busy with wars all our lives? With violence? Killing? Bereavement? Is it for this, that we came back from the Diaspora?
These are not simple questions. They peck away in my head, and often make me restless. I have three sons. All three served in combat units. For whole days and nights on end, I worried and prayed for their safety while they were on active duty. I hoped there would be no war while they were in the army. But there was, more than once. And I know and am confident that, should another war break out, all three will report for duty in their reserve units without hesitation. That’s how it is for many families in Israel.
I also know that during the next round of intense fighting we will again experience some kind of unity among the people. It does happen, but lasts a very short time.
So, I ask myself, for this to happen, for there to be unity among the people of Israel, and in light of the losses and suffering… is it worth it? Is this the only way to achieve unity?
And as usual, I look for answers in my source of inspiration: the Bible. The Bible with infinite wisdom never disappoints me. The Bible teaches me that this is not the case, that you don’t always need wars to learn to live together, despite the great differences. Through the Bible I learn that there are other wise and good ways that lead to unity.
This time I find answers in the book of Exodus.
“And Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel–and spoke unto them…” (Exodus 35:1)
Moses is the wise and great leader, who receives his inspiration directly from God. After his prolonged stay on the heights of Mount Sinai and obtaining God’s forgiveness for the people for the sin of the golden calf. After that he realizes that in order for the people of Israel to remain united, he needs to bring them together.
To create a shared community of partnership for them.
He does this in two ways:
One way is initiating construction of the Tabernacle. The best way to form community is to get people to build something together. There is real joy in fruitful teamwork. And this is what the Israelites experienced when they built the Mishkan (Tabernacle) together. You can see that this is the longest period in the years of the desert wanderings in which there are no complaints.
Moses’ second way to shared community is the Sabbath. On Shabbat, personal matters are put aside. We put aside the race of life, to enjoy together those matters that are not focused on “me” but rather “we.” This includes gathering in the synagogue, joint prayer, family meals, and meeting with friends.
In other words, this means helping others, creating a benevolent community that gives us a sense of togetherness. That grants us belonging and responsibility. That frees us from selfish thoughts. That distracts us from nurturing our ego.
I therefore find in the Bible confirmation that it is not just wars and an external enemy that can create unity in the nation. I understand something deeper: What will bring the desired unity is a meaningful shared goal for people, a place where the individual will feel he belongs and is wanted.
One manifestation could be Ben Gurion’s vision to make the Negev desert blossom, thereby fulfilling the words of the prophets.
And maybe it will be the construction of the Third Temple in Jerusalem: A place of belonging for both God and man, a shared goal for the people. Unity and love. God willing, it will happen soon and in our days.
Israel Today Membership
Save 18% Per Month.
Six Months Membership
Save 9% Per Month.