The Three Weeks and Tisha Be’av are a time of mourning and introspection for the Jewish people. Every year Jews around the world self-reflect on the circumstances that led to our national catastrophe in ancient times – the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and our ultimate expulsion by the Roman Empire.
According to the common Jewish belief, the second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred and divisions within the nation, or as we say in Hebrew, “Sinat Chinam.” Does that mean we are at fault for our own destruction? Practically speaking, of course not. The Romans went down in history as one of the cruelest and most oppressive nations to conquer the Land of Israel. Nevertheless, it is important to learn from the socio-political atmosphere at the time, and how the events leading to the destruction can shape our approach to challenges that the Jewish nation faces nowadays.
The consequences of Sinat Chinam are relevant when we speak about the fight against antisemitism. It doesn’t mean that Jews are the ones to blame for antisemitism, but Jewish thought offers us the idea that just like the Nation of Israel has a purpose in this world, so does antisemitism. It is there to remind us of who we are, where we come from, and what is our purpose. The way we view antisemitism and the role it plays in our world can influence the way we see ourselves. What if antisemitism can be used for our own benefit? What if instead of a mere system of oppression, we see it as a catalyst to improve ourselves and progress as a collective?
The Jewish people are a diverse nation, not only nowadays but since ancient times. Whether it is the 12 tribes, the division of Israel and Judah, or the countless parties in the Israeli Knesset, our diversity is a recurring element in the story of the Jewish people. Oftentimes, antisemites use this characteristic to weaken us from within. Before the destruction of the Temple, Jewish society was on the verge of a civil war, torn between different political factions and socio-economical classes. Emperor Vespasian postponed the planned siege on Jerusalem because he knew that the longer the Jews would fight between themselves, the easier it would be to defeat them. And he was right - by the time the siege began, the Jerusalemite society was already torn apart by the fierce competition between the different parties that claimed control over the city.
In modern times, as the Nation of Israel undergoes a golden age of Jewish sovereignty in our homeland, our diversity is more apparent than ever. It’s not a surprise that so many self-proclaimed anti-Zionists perpetuate antisemitic ideas like the Khazar theory, insist that it is Zionism that causes antisemitism, or claim that Jews are nothing but white colonizers or nomads that belong in the diaspora, with no actual common heritage. In 2001, Hassan Nasrallah, head of the terror organization Hezbollah, gave a famous speech that became known as “The Spiderweb Speech,” where he claimed that the Jews are as weak as spiderwebs and too divided to survive any longer. These tactics all contain a recurring motive – dividing Jews and pitting them against each other.
Yes, Jews are diverse. We vary in level of observance, political opinions, and diaspora experiences. Our diversity is some of the reasons Israel has managed to become the successful and colorful society that it is today. If we let our differences divide and distract us, we fall for the same antisemitic tactics that try to weaken us. Let this Tisha Be’av serve as a reminder of what internal divisions and lack of unity can lead to. Our strength is in our diversity. Our resilience is in our unity.
Adiel Cohen is a pro-Israel TikTok and Instagram influencer and a Jewish-Israeli rights activist based in Tel Aviv.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Ilan Sinelnikov.