A parallel reality

One possible conclusion is that Israel is plagued by the existence of “parallel realities” – one experienced by the general public, and the other by its elected leadership.

IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin, Benaya Sarel and Liel Gidoni died fighting Hamas terrorists in 2014 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin, Benaya Sarel and Liel Gidoni died fighting Hamas terrorists in 2014
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
Almost one year, two election campaigns and too many damaging words to count have paralyzed the Israeli political system since The Jerusalem Post published my article titled “Looking for leadership, preparing for April elections.” The vicious cycle to which we are hostage enables, indeed requires, examination, soul-searching and inventory-taking.
One possible conclusion is that Israel is plagued by the existence of “parallel realities” – one experienced by the general public, and the other by its elected leadership. These parallel realities co-exist on separate axes which not only do not meet, but in fact appear to be growing further apart.
On the international front, this is demonstrated by the hundreds of initiatives, individuals and organizations that have identified a vacuum, stepping up to address the demonization, delegitimization and double-standard applied to Israel. Though not always discernible, a connecting line runs between the case and cause of Hadar Goldin; the reality of Israeli citizens on the Gaza border; the plight of Israeli victims of terrorism to end the culture of impunity and uncover those funding it; and the exposure of the hypocrisy in singling out the State of Israel in various arenas.
On the internal front, this is demonstrated by initiatives, individuals and organizations that have identified a vacuum, stepping up to address challenges to multiple dimensions of life itself. To this end, approximately 40,000 non-profits provide services to a broad cross-section of Israeli society, without any distinctions of religion, ethnicity, age or gender; addressing burning societal ailments and needs in areas of education, health, geographic and socioeconomic gaps, sports, agriculture, people with disabilities, among others.
This “civilian front” which de facto steps into the vacuum, whether internally or internationally, is motivated by a profound sense of mutual responsibility, as well as shared universal and particular values, history and fate. It is fueled by, and enables, transcendence above real or perceived personal or political differences, fulfilling its mandate to unite, mend and transform reality.
In this parallel reality that the general public inhabits, there is proportional representation of the colorful mosaic that comprises Israeli society, without assumed advantage to former military generals or media personalities.
In this parallel reality, the ability and responsibility to challenge paradigms applies in all areas of involvement, enabling viewpoint diversity and a productive exchange of ideas.
In this parallel reality, fruitful collaboration rises above organizational divisions, ego, sector and gender.
In this parallel reality, processes are guided by shared interests, rather than personal or political positions, permitting to overcome systemic challenges and disagreements.
Ironically, the depth and breadth of this civilian front, created and sustained by individuals committed to action, enables the appearance of normalcy and semblance of functioning, even after a full year of state paralysis, with elected officials MIA, in a country that has been and still is “running” rather than “being run.” It seems that the notable civic activity, fueled by unwavering commitment of all those who identified and stepped in to fill the vacuum – creating this parallel reality – has many intended and unintended, direct and indirect, consequences.
AMONG OTHER things, the magnitude and range of the civilian front that has stepped into the state’s shoes as primary caretaker, translates into substantial attention and time spent to meet its countless activists and donors. Considerable resources are expended by high-level officials and military personnel who feel obligated, and indeed are obligated, to report to civilian representatives from Israel and abroad, who enable and support their activity.
A power struggle for resources between and within the various initiatives and organizations develops with significant ramifications to the cost and efficiency of the parallel reality in its entirety. The politically imposed time out, itself a possible manifestation of this reality, provides an opportunity and creates an imperative, to evaluate the growing “parallel reality” gap, also exemplified by interactions between our elected officials, the media and ourselves, the public that they presumably represent.
The 71-year-old miracle that is the State of Israel, is caught in the eye of a storm, created by the collision of historic, political, religious and legal evolutionary processes. Alongside the overwhelming challenge of this intersection is an opportunity – to propel the Jewish and democratic state forward. The realization of this opportunity requires leadership with vision, integrity, humility, responsibility and accountability.
Leadership that is busy putting out fires, rather than creating long-term, inter-ministerial plans; that is disconnected from the public and disengaged from the existing parallel reality, contributing to the vacuum that permits alternate truths to form and flourish; that is intent on differentiating itself and deepening the distinctions among its members rather than acknowledging the dignity of difference and taking responsibility to mediate existing gaps between and among itself and the general public; is incapable or unworthy, if for no other reason than because it has failed to do its job. Considering the singular social Start-Up Nation phenomenon which created the parallel reality, perhaps the activists and leaders, who identified the vacuum created by systemic and systematic failures, can expose the growing parallel reality gap, and generate solutions to bridge it. The collision between the various processes that have fashioned the current storm is, in that sense, our collective call to action.
Prior to addressing the security, governance or climate crises – it is imperative to address the leadership vacuum. The parallel realities that have developed and deepened intersect in the place in which individuals and organizations have assumed responsibility, creating and representing the Shalva Band, the Goldin family, Ezra LeMarpe, Leket and the Shomer Chadash. Filling the vacuum is but a first step. It is imperative to bridge the growing gap between the parallel realities that have emerged.
To this end, responsible and accountable leadership is necessary; leadership that is not caught in an echo chamber, reverberating mistaken and misleading information; leadership intent on identifying joint interests rather than digging its heels deeper in irrelevant positions; leadership which is part of the solution and not part of the problem; leadership that refuses to enter the political blame-game, played at the expense of the public across the political spectrum. Such leadership must challenge paradigms in order to identify and lead holistic, comprehensive processes, from the absorption of new immigrants to the prevention of violence against women.
To be worthy of the Israeli public, such leadership cannot be artificially or authentically constructed on divisions, rifts and inaction. Such leadership must work tirelessly and transparently to bridge the growing gap between the parallel realities, merging them into a single reality, to the benefit of the entire public.
The writer is a member of the legal team advising the Goldin family. A legal and social activist and publicist, she is researching the topic of free speech in the Human Rights Under Pressure-Ethics, Law and Politics doctoral program and a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.