‘In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles,” quipped David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. Israel’s return to its homeland, after 2,000 years of exile – an event completely miraculous in the annals of history.
As such, Israel is considered a Jewish state because we accept as proof the Hebrew Bible promise to the Jewish people to live in the land of Israel. As such, we believe in Jewish values, such as Shabbat, as policy in Israel, but we do not force anyone to keep the Shabbat, but it is a public policy. The Jerusalem Post does not publish on Shabbat and in many places, we do not have public transportation.
As that is the basis why the Jewish people are in Israel, a series of compromises allow us to live and prosper in the land. We are able to live here because the world and the United Nations split our country into an Arab and Jewish community. After this was done on November 29, 1947, the UN didn’t support its own resolution, and when Ben-Gurion declared a Jewish state based on this resolution, we were attacked by six Arab armies and were able to survive until a ceasefire was agreed upon.
A ceasefire is a compromise. Neither party is happy but the shooting stops and the blood stops flowing. A compromise can also be considered a status quo.
The Bible commands us to set up a series of courts and judges. The judges are encouraged to always have the litigants reach an independent compromise rather that force the judges to come to a decision. The Bible, considered God’s wisdom, teaches us it is better to have two people partially unhappy than a winner and a loser, because losers, seldom give up and so peace is not accomplished. The goal of having courts and judges is a forum to have compromise instead of bloodshed.
Many issues have to be decided one way or another. In the last two years, a decision was reached by the majority that vaccinations were necessary for our survival. Those opposed started whole industries and media to say the other side is 100% wrong. Compromise recognizes there are two sides to a story. There is no such thing as 100% wrong or right, but a decision has to be made on an action so the idea of status quo entered our vocabulary and lives.
The status quo
When the state was formed, there were areas (like Haifa) where there was public transportation, so it was left alone. In other places it wasn’t in place, so it was kept. Keeping the status quo allows us to function even when there is no agreement.
The status quo is not like the Ten Commandments that are unchangeable, but subject to reasonable review when the basis for the compromise changes. There will be a day when the trains (not the buses, which work on gas and have different Halachic rules) will run without drivers and without having to break Shabbat to use them. We allow Shabbat elevators under these principles. When this happens, the issues of the trains running on Shabbat will be revisited and a new status quo may come about.
What is unfair in the media is to promote a course of action, with words of attack, without recognizing the reality that there are always at least two sides to an issue, and if your side is not chosen to say you are under attack. While it is fair to discuss nearly any issue (there are of course exceptions to any rule), the reality of making a decision carries with it a cost that means those that disagree will be unhappy. This is the basis of compromise and status quo, which the Bible teaches us is better than winners and losers.
The Jewish people have something to teach to the world. Our laws and ideas have provided the basis for modern civilized society. The reality is that Moses was called the Lawgiver and is universally accepted in modern society as the Lawgiver, which is the basis of compromise and status quo.
The author, a rabbi, writes a daily motivational blog based on the Torah at YehudaLave.com. He can be reached at [email protected]