Unity is not a luxury

In Hebrew we use the term “achdut” when we talk about unity. When translated, this word can mean unity, oneness, solidarity or even harmony. Each of these words has a different meaning and nuance.

IDF soldiers patrol in Nablus [file] (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF soldiers patrol in Nablus [file]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Unity has been on everyone’s lips since the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel. Perhaps more accurately a sense of unity has enveloped the public discourse. I have been troubled by the thought that the wave of unity is more desire than reality, and that as the quiet returns, the feelings will dissipate, and in their place will return the infighting so prevalent over the past year in other areas of Israeli society. The lack of unity or sustainable societal bonds poses a strategic threat to Israeli society and even to the Jewish people.
We bandy around the word “unity,” but rarely stop to think of its true meaning, or what a focus on achieving it might mean. How can this feeling be translated from something transient to something sustainable? How can an emotion be turned into something tangible? What actions must we take in order not to drift back to the norm of political fighting and social tension? If we are serious about unity as a purpose or a mission statement for the coming year, we have to start asking ourselves some serious questions. The basic question should be what is our definition of unity? Having decided on that we then need to invest time and effort to create a plan to implement this definition. Finally it will be upon us to decide that it is important enough to keep high on the public and media agenda.
In Hebrew we use the term “achdut” when we talk about unity. When translated, this word can mean unity, oneness, solidarity or even harmony. Each of these words has a different meaning and nuance.
When we call for Jewish unity, which of these terms do we mean? Solidarity among the Jewish people would imply that we have empathy for other Jews, especially when they are struggling or in trouble. Tel Aviv may show solidarity for Sderot, and the entire Jewish world comes out in support when a French synagogue is attacked by anti-Semitic protesters. Solidarity is only expressed as a response to negative events. I believe that the Jewish People has great reserves of solidarity, but we must not accept it as enough. We need more.
Harmony has a different context. Harmony is created by different voices or instruments playing together. Ten violins playing the exact same line is not harmony. A soloist on his own cannot be in harmony.
It can only be achieved by the combination of different sounds.
In a choir, tenor, baritone and bass signing their lines together is harmony. Piano and violin playing a duet creates harmony, and of course a symphony orchestra combining multiple instruments is the peak of harmony.
To create this effect a great deal of listening is required at the same time as each musician performs his part with precision. Each player must appreciate the contribution of the other. The oboe complements the violin and the timpani provides its own unique contribution.
Harmony is not an emotion or a feeling, but something built through hard work, creativity and a heightened ability to work together.
Conversely, a lack of harmony is not neutral, creating a cacophony that is difficult to listen to, and can become almost grotesque. Same musicians, very different outcome! Returning the focus to the Jewish world or Israeli society, we need to ask whether we can we translate this concept of harmony into something tangible? Is it possible for us to achieve this positive brand of unity? I am convinced that we can.
All around us we see different instruments and voices.
Each one expresses itself in a different way, although many or all subscribe to a set of basic common values, most easily summarized as their Jewish heritage, history or religion. We have a common desire to create an exemplar society in the State of Israel, acting in greater harmony with the multiple voices of the Jewish Diaspora.
Today we hear more of a cacophony than something aesthetically pleasing, but all the elements are there if we choose to make the investment in time and effort to have the voices act in time and in harmony.
As of now, each group is largely focused on creating its own melody.
In order to achieve harmony we cannot expect the cello to sound like an oboe, or the tenor sing the bass part. Instead what we need the humility to make space for the different voices, we need to think deeply about each of their contributions and we have to decide that creating harmony is important enough to invest the time and effort.
One might say, “Why bother?” Isn’t unity really only a nice to have, rather than an imperative? More and more leaders in Israeli society are coming to the realization that a stronger societal bond, and a more meaningful dialogue between Israel and the Diaspora is crucial in securing our future, both within the State of Israel and as the Jewish People around the world.
As we exit the season of introspection and consider translating our resolutions into priorities for the coming year I urge community, political and lay leaders, in Israel and overseas to make creating this chorus of blended voices a priority, not because it’s a luxury, but because our future as a strong and healthy people depends on it.
The author is the chairman of Gesher and founder of Goldrock Capital.