‘Dai’ … enough, stop it, let it go

The Israeli government must give up on any further judicial reforms.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, from left, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Energy Minister Israel Katz and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (with his back to the camera) attend the votes at the Knesset on proposed changes to the "reasonableness bill," July 24, 2023. Photo by Yoav Dudkevitch/TPS.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, from left, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Energy Minister Israel Katz and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (with his back to the camera) attend the votes at the Knesset on proposed changes to the "reasonableness bill," July 24, 2023. Photo by Yoav Dudkevitch/TPS.
Benjamin Kerstein
Benjamin Kerstein is a writer and editor living in Tel Aviv. Read more of his work on Substack at No Delusions, No Despair. Purchase his books here.

The word dai, best known from the dayenu of the Passover service, has a simple and assertive meaning in modern Hebrew: “Enough, stop it, let it go.”

Israel has reached the point of both dai and dayenu.

With the passage of the first stage of the government’s judicial reforms, the signs have become unmistakable.

All the major newspapers printed a black page on their covers, paid for by the reforms’ opponents. The streets filled with angry crowds of pro- and anti-reform demonstrators. A general strike is threatened. Israel’s international credit rating will be lowered. High-tech companies are beginning the process of relocation. The economy threatens to crater. Reservists are refusing to serve and the IDF warns that its readiness could soon be in danger.

A friend in Australia tells me that the number of members of her Facebook group for emigrating Israelis has skyrocketed. People are seriously discussing leaving the country for the first time in their lives. A group called “The Separation Movement,” which calls for dividing Israel into a secular, democratic “New Israel” and a theocratic “Judea,” has gone viral on social media and is getting a serious hearing in the public discourse.

Israel’s enemies are gloating and no doubt looking for ways to exploit the situation.

One can support or oppose the law just passed and indeed the rest of the proposed reforms. We have reached the point, however, that this has become irrelevant. Whether either side likes it or not, we must face the reality that Israeli society is being torn to pieces.

Indeed, this crisis is pitting Israelis against themselves in a manner more violent and intense than ever before. It has sharpened existing divisions between religious and secular, right and left, Mizrachi and Ashkenazi to a razor’s edge. Half the country does not merely oppose but hates the other half, and the feeling is mutual.

It appears, at the moment, as if many in the anti-reform camp wish that religious and right-wing Israelis would simply disappear. Needless to say, this is not going to happen. At the same time, many pro-reform activists appear to hope all secular and left-wing Israelis will simply leave the country and the Biden administration unceremoniously told where to get off, as if what Israel most needs is fewer Jews and fewer supporters. The demented ambitions of both sides are not simply reprehensible, they are suicidal.

This is unsustainable.

One thing then, is clear: Dai, “enough, stop it, let it go.” Put simply, the government must give up on further reforms and it must do so now. The government has gotten its pound of flesh and the opposition has shaken the country almost to its foundations. To push this any further would be reckless to the point of derangement.

Certainly, neither side is exempt from this responsibility. The Supreme Court may well override the just-passed reform, which would only confirm the pro-reform camp’s belief that Israel is a “judicial tyranny” and escalate the crisis further.

Unfortunately, however, the primary responsibility falls upon those who support the reforms and the Netanyahu government itself.

This is not a responsibility they wish to shoulder. The government was democratically elected, they say. We cannot allow the left to use the mob to get what it wants. All of this is just a bitter reaction to having lost an election. Domestic issues are none of America’s business. The views of American Jews are irrelevant. Reform will strengthen, not weaken, Israeli democracy.

All of this may be true. And it doesn’t matter. We are faced with a matzav—in English, a “situation.” That situation exists. It is dire. It must end. The only way to end it is for the government to forgo further reform.

I have no doubt that the government will find this a bitter pill to swallow. Its members are loath to hand what they see as a victory to an opposition many of them despise. Why, they probably think, should we be the ones to give up? After all, we won the election.

They did indeed win an election, but ironically, this places the onus on them. They are the government, they are the ones in power, they are the ones entrusted with the future of the country. As such, they bear a responsibility that the opposition does not. This may be unfair, indeed it is unfair, but it is a fact.

Nor need this be the end. Supporters of reform can regroup, make their case again and attempt to do what they conspicuously failed to do this time: Forge a broad consensus in their favor. If they cannot, they should understand what this means.

The pro-reform camp has gotten a piece of what it wanted. A piece is not everything, but it is something. Its members should say dayenu: This is enough for us.

If they persist in what must regrettably be called a kamikaze mission, the situation will quickly become hopeless. But Israel was built on hope. The Jewish people cannot survive without hope. If despair carries the day, something in Israel’s soul will die.

No one can want this except our fanatics, and most of us are not fanatics. It is time for most of us to be heard: Dai, “enough, stop it, let it go.”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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