Israelis are brothers who must overcome divides - opinion

As leaders, we must stand at the site of the conflict and demonstrate that there is a better way to move forward.

MASSES GATHER at the Western Wall on the night before Yom Kippur. (photo credit: ARIE LEIB ABRAMS/FLASH 90)
MASSES GATHER at the Western Wall on the night before Yom Kippur.
(photo credit: ARIE LEIB ABRAMS/FLASH 90)

According to the 2021 calendar, November 4, the secular anniversary of Rabin’s assassination, immediately precedes the first day of the Jewish month of Kislev, celebrated on November 5. One of us will begin the morning at the synagogue in his hometown of Efrat; the other will go to the Western Wall to pray alongside the Women of the Wall as is his custom every Rosh Hodesh.

Is this difference a cause for distance between us? Should it cause us to hate one another? God forbid.

We are both Jews, we are both Zionists who love Jerusalem, we are both moved no matter how many times we stand at the Western Wall, and we are both equally horrified when this holy place, full of Jewish longing, becomes the site of cursing, spitting, and violence.

There are debates surrounding the origin of the name Kislev. One interpretation holds that the name Kislev comes from Kisel or Kisla, meaning “hope,” connected to our hope for rain.

Today we need a different kind of hope – one that depends more on our behavior than on nature.

 Candles set up at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv in memoriam for assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, October 18, 2021. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Candles set up at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv in memoriam for assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, October 18, 2021. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

This hope ensures that Israeli society will learn an important lesson from the assassination: that it is permissible and worthwhile to discuss and debate, but there are boundaries that must never be crossed. We cling to the hope that we will be able to find a place for each of us – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform – at the Western Wall and in the Jewish world in general, to speak to each other lovingly, like family, even when our paths diverge. We hold on to the hope that we will not lose the ability to have a conversation. This hope connects Rabin’s murder to the beginning of the month of Kislev.

“We did not suffocate the fire of fanaticism and hatred,” said Lt.-Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak at the state memorial marking three years after the assassination of the prime minister. “We allowed intolerance and brutality to enter through the gap and to expand. Thus, the longing for Yitzhak Rabin is overshadowed by the concern for the society he left behind when he was murdered.”

These words continue to ring true today. There are cracks in Israeli society and throughout the Jewish world – some come from segregation, some are physical and geographical, and some cracks stem from a divide in our language and culture.

There were times when we knew how to fill these cracks, to build bridges to connect. But at present, fanaticism, hatred, impatience and brutality make it difficult for us to build those bridges. They prevent us from having an in-depth dialogue with those with whom we disagree.

We can blame social media for creating confusion and for allowing us to write hateful things to those on the other side. But it is precisely this connection between the Rabin assassination and Rosh Hodesh Kislev, between the ideological debates during the time of Oslo and the current riots at the Western Wall plaza, that demands that the leadership must rise up and serve as a public example. As leaders, we must stand at the site of the conflict and demonstrate that there is a better way to move forward.

We choose this other way. We choose to talk, to debate, and sometimes we agree to disagree. We choose to hope that bridges can still be built and crossed. Because we know where fanaticism and hatred lead. The late Lipkin-Shahak expressed this well in that same speech: “In a society like ours, that is full of people and opinions, it is likely and obvious that there will be debate about the most fateful matters of our lives. It is important that we have discussions; it is important that minority opinions be heard with the utmost attention, that we consider their hardships, fears, inhibitions and the suffering of the individual and of the masses.”

In our joint statement, we address public leaders and also individuals. Public leaders can and must use their influence. Reread your tweets before you post them – make sure they are not unnecessarily harsh or antagonistic. Give interviews without attacking others. Courageous leaders will still be able to get their messages across.

The heavy hand on the keyboard trigger; the clenched fist in front of the Western Wall; the disdain and the hate – we have had enough. Look where it has gotten us. We can learn a very simple rule from our father Abraham: “And Abraham said to Lot, let there be no fight between me and you, and between my shepherds and your shepherds; for we are brothers.” We are brothers even when we do not agree, even when we choose different paths.

These concurrent dates and events remind us that we must cling to hope – hope that we can have dialogue even while there is disagreement, hope that we can have discussions and remember that we are brothers, hope that despite the cracks we will be able to build countless bridges which we will cross together. 

Oded Revivi is mayor of Efrat. Dr. Yizhar Hess is deputy chairman of the World Zionist Organization.