As the nation commemorates the ninth of Av, the date that so many calamities have fallen on the Jewish people, all it takes is a look around to see that we are in the midst of another of those low points in our collective history.Not since the days of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995 or the withdrawal from Gaza a decade later has Israel seen such internal strife, division and vitriol. The protests that have emerged in the last two weeks have been borne out of economic anxiety and frustration over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, out of outrage over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continuing to lead the country despite being on trial for bribery and fraud and out of fear for the future of the nation and its people.Besides the painful sight of seeing police, also the sons of Israel, being put in a position of clashing with boundary-pushing demonstrators in a sometimes overly-aggressive manner, the protests have also unleashed an unbridled hatred between the left and right flanks of Israeli society that, while not unprecedented, is alarming. And following three elections that revealed a deep split within the country, the stormy passions being expressed on both sides of the divide raise the foreboding question of whether even a semblance of unity will ever be possible.The bubbling hatred most recently manifested itself on Tuesday night, when about a dozen men allegedly connected to the far-right Fanatics fan group of soccer team Maccabi Tel Aviv attacked protesters in Tel Aviv with pepper spray, rocks and chairs.It was the first time in the recent rounds of protests that the antagonism between the Right and Left went beyond verbal fisticuffs to actual violence.President Reuven Rivlin, always a voice of reason at times when the country’s political leadership seems too frozen in their partisan animosity to veer from their party stances to calm matters, called for a cooling off period as the country headed into Tisha Be’av.“Desperate times are times when hatred flourishes. Even if we think that the hatred is not baseless, we must ensure that it does not bring us closer, even by the tiniest step, to our downfall and destruction,” he said. Back in more innocent times, Israelis used to say that a political assassination here was unthinkable, that a Jew would never be capable of doing that to another Jew. But as Rivlin pointed out, our recent history has shown us that we are capable of stooping to the depths in the name of ideology.“God help our democracy if people start to kill each other,” he cautioned.Israel is today at the brink. We can continue to let ourselves be pushed to the confrontation by both the Right and Left extremists who see no benefit or desire in moderation.We can either start listening to each other or take up arms against each other. The choice is ours to make.On Tisha Be’av, when we recall that baseless hatred that resulted in the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem and the dispersal of the Jewish people into exile, it’s time to step back from that brink. Before it’s too late.