It seems that we need to put those noises aside and refocus as a nation. It’s time we concentrate on values that matter and unite us – Jews in Israel, and all over the world. After all – Israel is the land of all Jews, right?
One value which I feel is long forgotten is the value of comradery. As someone who devoted many years to my beloved country, this value isn’t unfamiliar. Serving in the army for over twenty-two years highlighted the essence of serving together. Comradery was defined as “the soldier shall act out of solidarity and devotion to his fellow-soldiers, and shall always come to their assistance when they are in need or depend upon him, despite all danger and hardship, even at the risk of his life”. (paraphrasing from “The Spirit of the IDF”)
When I want to adapt this value to the current events, I find it quite challenging.
In Israel, observing the growing tensions between various ‘tribes,’ I find it very hard to find mutual solidarity. I see how the Ultra-Orthodox community in Israel is perceived as the primary lawbreaker in the country. I see how Arab-Israelis are depicted as traitors. I see how protestors are described as anarchists. The social media, as well as some public figures, are further deteriorating the situation, using inaccurate slogans and soundbites. It divides us instead of creating unity.
Outside of Israel there’s another ‘tribe’ which is particularly close to my heart. I’m referring to the millions of Jews living in the Diaspora. For many years I’ve been concerned about the increasing rift between Jews living in Israel and Jews around the world. Occasionally, there are ‘peaks of interest’ in the Diaspora by Israeli media.
For example, Israeli reporters focus on the impact of the Jewish vote in the US elections, or antisemitic graffiti sprayed on graves in a Jewish cemetery in Europe, or the successful career of a Jewish celebrity somewhere.
But this superficial attention is not enough. Working for the leading global advocacy NGO in the Jewish world, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), I have the privilege of engaging with Jews from all over the world. They care and love Israel. True, they may hold different political opinions and other perspectives on life, but at the end of the day we are all one tribe. We must overcome the barriers and find our mutual solidarity. We must translate this solidarity into action and begin to take responsibility for each other. This should not be happening only in times of emergency, but all the time.
In order to reach this goal, we need to educate ourselves, as Israelis, on Jewish life in the Diaspora. What seems to us here as very natural, like not driving in Yom Kippur, buying kosher food and providing our children with Jewish education – isn’t so for many Jews living outside of Israel. I learned that it is quite challenging to be a cultural or a religious minority with unique customs. It takes a special effort to be a Jew abroad, whereas in Israel the Jewish essence exists in every corner. There’s also a lack of knowledge on the Israeli side, for instance, about the various religious denominations among Jews living abroad.
All these notions can and should be reversed and used for connecting.
Connecting 7 million Jews living in Israel with the millions of Jews living outside Israel. Israel is the home for all Jews, regardless of their political affiliation, if they send their kids to public or Jewish schools, or if they are Conservative, Reform or Modern Orthodox.
Let us leave politics aside and bring our people together.
Let us rekindle Jewish values such as ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’.
Let us connect today before it becomes too late tomorrow.