A call for unity

We were plunged into exile because of the hatred of one Jew towards another and salvation can only come through repairing ourselves in that realm.

By MK RABBI HAIM AMSALEM
August 8, 2011 23:45
3 minute read.
Shas MK Haim Amsalem

Haim Amsalem 58. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The recent murders of two Jews by Jews has led to significant introspection in the entire Jewish community especially the Orthodox community. After all, how could a Jew brutally murder and dismember anyone, let alone an innocent child? How could anyone, let alone a Jew, willfully murder a saintly rabbi? While these tragic and devastating incidents certainly demand reflection, we Jews have been “killing” each other in less graphic and obvious ways for far too many years.

A quick glance at modern Israeli society demonstrates my point. Many haredim display hatred toward the secular community, with great venom and even refer to policemen as “Nazis,” and view leaders of the state as agents of the devil. Many secular Jews loathe haredim to the point of wishing the whole lot would simply disappear.

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Many religious Zionists view the “peace camp” as the destroyers of Israel, while many on the Left view the settlers as the cause of all their problems.

Aside from these divisions along religious lines, outright racism and discrimination exist throughout our country. We do not accept Ethiopians as equals in the academic world or the workforce. The Rabbinate turns away Russian immigrants seeking to convert. Ashkenazi school administrators deny admission to Sephardic children. And, despite some progress, women have not achieved true equal rights.

While not comparing any of the above to murder, perhaps the murders reflect a situation which all of us have permitted and even facilitated – one in which we do not function as a loving family. Even those among us who do not fall into any of the more extreme groups still do not view other populations as family who love one another regardless of ideological friction.

THE INGATHERING of exiles should have been the time for us to come together while continuing to discuss and even argue about our differences of opinion.

The State of Israel should have been the vehicle for a big family reunion – albeit with animated and lively debate – instead of a massive family feud.



We must proactively work to transform Israel before we can reach our full potential and create the most perfect society possible. Once we learn to love and respect one another, everything will fall into place. The Torah teaches, “And He [God] is King in Yeshurun (Israel) when the leaders of the nation are gathered together,” (Deuteronomy 33:5). God can only truly be our King, with all the national success this would imply, when we unite. This point is so crucial that the Bible teaches that the wicked king Achav, whose generation was steeped in idolatry, merited God’s blessing because the people all respected one another.

The ninth of Av commemorates the destruction of our Holy Temples and the start of a nearly 2,000-year exile. The sages of the Talmud teach that disunity – causeless hatred – caused the Temple’s destruction, and that redemption can only come through restoring our unity – causeless love. We were plunged into exile because of the hatred of one Jew towards another and salvation can only come through repairing ourselves in that realm. In other words, we can engage in peace negotiations, defeat our enemies in wars, and even gather en masse in the streets and tents to demonstrate against all the social injustices imaginable, but we will not succeed in creating the utopian society we all crave until we unify as a nation. The Zionist dream will not fully materialize until we all relate to one another as brothers and sisters, love each other like family, care for each other’s needs like best friends despite our ideological differences, and recognize the role that each one of us plays as a piece of the puzzle that creates an am shalem, a complete nation.

May today be the day, especially in the wake of the two recent murders, when each and every Jew begins a journey toward this radical shift in attitude. Once we heed and proactively respond to this call to unity, we will empower ourselves to fulfill our mandate of tikkun olam (repairing the world), inspiring all humanity, and ushering in that era of peace we all so desperately seek and need.

The writer is an MK, and the founder and chairman of the Am Shalem political movement.

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