I have lived in Israel for the last 18 years and most of the political disputes I have witnessed had some measure of nuance to them. Moreover, I have been generally satisfied with the trajectory of our country’s growth. However, it is now clear that internal political disputes are creating division on an unprecedented scale.
I hoped that the last election would bring right-wing leaders like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich to power in order to counterbalance the left and ensure that the political establishment would always keep the interests of the people in mind. But instead of being a counterbalance, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are now perceived as the sole drivers of the government.
As someone who lives in the Binyamin region with my wife and seven kids, I voted for Ben-Gvir and Smotrich because they were aligned with my interests in promoting economic Zionism and strengthening the Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria, Binyamin and the Jordan Valley.
I have even started several initiatives that promote family-run small businesses in the region, hoping to normalize these areas and create unity between Hebron and Herzliya. The key takeaway from my work is the importance of the concept of “normalization” rather than imposing my worldview on others.
Here lies the problem. What if right-wing policies are being pushed so forcefully that they are causing irreconcilable differences and division among our brothers and sisters? What if the fabric of our society is unraveling before our eyes? What if we call our brothers evil, dehumanize them and turn them into our enemies?
In Judaism, there is an idea that God’s judgment takes into consideration the strict letter of the law, but also views the people and circumstances involved with mercy. I believe that judicial reform is required and long overdue, but at what cost? At what cost will we stand on our pedestals with an iron fist and talk about majority rule, emphasizing the letter of the law without taking mercy into consideration? At what cost will we marginalize a large part of Israel’s population, even if they are a political minority? At what cost will we continue to allow this battle between brothers to escalate?
Taking a step back, I am astounded by the timing of this division. While Iran is on the threshold of a nuclear weapon, we are fighting each other. While Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah, led by the Palestinian Authority, are either murdering us or planning our demise, we are fighting each other.
We were in exile for over 2,000 years and prayed constantly for the ingathering of the exiles and the reestablishment of Israel as our homeland. We came from all corners of the globe with our own experiences, cultures and languages. What do we expect? That we are in the times of the messiah and everything is going to be rainbows and butterflies?
It is only natural and expected that when we come together to build a country, there will be arguments. However, we must not allow ourselves to reach a point where we no longer see each other as brothers and sisters, or even worse, as enemies.
We Jews have been around long enough to know how this plays out. Therefore, it is time for the right-wing government to climb down from the tree. Although we cannot be held hostage by the left, the truth is that it encompasses too many people to ignore. For the sake of unity, the right must take a breath, step back and bring down the temperature of the country. It’s time to stop being activists and start being pragmatists.
Gedaliah Blum is a resident of Eli in the Binyamin region and a co-founder of the Heartland Initiative.