The jury is still out on whether this government can survive the Idit Silman crisis, and reasonable people can debate whether it even deserves to.
But one thing should be acknowledged: this government represents a noble attempt – yes, a noble attempt – by people of widely divergent opinions and ideologies to sit around the same table and work for the common good.
The willingness to realize that not all truth rests with one side, that people who think differently may also have a love of land and country, is precisely what Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich – he of perfect certitude – finds so utterly distasteful.
Smotrich has no doubt whatsoever, not a smattering of uncertainty, that he is right, that his path is the correct one, and that his worldview is the one most pleasant in God’s eyes. How else to explain his comments in a KAN Bet interview that those in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s rival Yamina Party should be barred from their respective synagogues.
“Whoever is a partner in this government should not be allowed to enter a synagogue. That’s the most legitimate thing in the world to do,” he said. “Whoever lied, cheated, stole votes, joined the far Left that harms anything holy, whoever sold our country to the Islamic Movement and is now going to do the same to terrorists on the Joint List Party – is definitely not worthy. I think people who turned their backs on the public should feel unwanted in public.”
Only someone utterly convinced of his own righteousness could make such an assertion. And the attitude reflected by such an assertion is dangerous.
The idea that all goodness falls within my inheritance, that all wisdom is within my realm, that I am right and those who think otherwise are wrong and should be shunned, is a recipe for national disaster. It is the mindset of the zealot.
First Smotrich co-opted the label “religious Zionist” for his party, and now he is co-opting the prerogative to say who should and should not be allowed into a synagogue.
His words are outrageous.
Disagree with someone politically, even vehemently; argue with their opinions and their choices; try to convince the public that they are mistaken. But who appointed you, Bezalel Smotrich, the arbiter of who should feel wanted or unwanted in public, the decider of who should be let through the synagogue’s doors to pray.
The Jewish people have gone down this path before, have tasted the bitter waters of zealotry, and it did not end well.
Two thousand years ago, the zealots (biryonim) advocated for war against the Romans, though the rabbis felt it was senseless to take on the world’s only superpower. But the zealots wanted to fight at any cost, and they consequently burned Jerusalem’s food and fuel storehouses to force the people to fight. The burning of the storehouses led to the destruction of the Second Temple, the loss of Jewish independence and sovereignty and a long and very bitter exile. The lesson that the Jews need to learn from that example is simple: never again.
It is a lesson Bennett internalized, but one that Smotrich spurns.
Referring to how some in Smotrich’s camp profess Ahavat Yisrael, a love of the People of Israel, Bennett – who responded sharply to Smotrich’s comments on Wednesday – said it is easy to say “we all love each other, but we will not sit with them; we all love each other, but he will not enter my synagogue. What is this?” he asked. “This is what led to the destruction of our previous state 2,000 years ago.”
Bennett, who said he is a right-winger, acknowledged that left-wingers do sit in his government as well. “We have completely different opinions, but do you know what I discovered? That people with very different opinions love the State of Israel and this land with a very deep love.”
The prime minister continued: “I don’t have a monopoly on the love of the Land of Israel like the other side does not have a monopoly on the love of humanity or peace.”
That is a truth that Smotrich desperately needs to discover.
Don’t hold your breath.