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Our challenge: Unity during ordinary times

Now that Independence Day is over, let's make an effort to show solidarity not just in times of crisis and jubilation, but every day.

Watching the military airshow during Israel's 70th Independence Day celebrations in Jerusalem on April 19, 2018. Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Watching the military airshow during Israel's 70th Independence Day celebrations in Jerusalem on April 19, 2018. Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Haim Shine

Now that the pomp and circumstance of Independence Day is over, now that the flags have been taken down and the various awards and distinctions handed out, we are back to our normal routine in this wonderful place we call Israel.

But before we resume our normal infighting and impassioned debates, let’s put some thought into what we want Israel to look like at 71.

In times of tragedy and jubilation Israelis can show great solidarity. But during ordinary days what prevails is the competition, the day-to-day needs of every individual. This default state unravels the delicate fabric of Israeli society, a fabric comprising interwoven threads of silk and steel.

This fabric is very strong in times of crisis, yet very fragile at all other times.

The Jewish people have always suffered from infighting and internal jealousies. After 40 years of wandering in the desert, we entered the Promised Land—and partitioned the territory among the tribes. This decision has always boggled my mind. Why did we decide to divide the land, rather than use it as an opportunity to build internal cohesion, which is essential for any normal society?

Even when we were scattered across the globe for two millennia, we were plagued by tribalism. Each Jewry had (and still has) its own internal identity that set it aside from other Jewish communities.

We returned home after 2,000 years, in what can only be described as a true miracle. Within years of the state’s founding, we saw an ingathering of the exiles from dozens of countries, each with its own language, even though we were so few we could have all fit in a small town in China.

Some had initially hoped the Israeli melting pot would replace our Jewishness, but this did not come to pass. Our collective identity is thousands of years old and cannot be changed overnight, or even in 200 years. This genetic code is also why, despite having returned to our ancestral homeland, we have not let go of the infighting and heated debates, and that is why we continue to bring up old historical grudges.

This constant debate underscores the vitality of an ancient people, a people that has repeatedly reinvented itself and risen from the ashes.

The Hebrew word for tribe, “shevet,” means a collective of individuals who share unique characters—but it also has another meaning: a stick, for hitting people.

Our tribalism will continue, but we must never allow it to become a cause of violence. Yes, we can engage in heated debates, exchange ideas and raise our voices, but we must never hate, because we are all descendants of Adam.

As we look forward to next Independence Day, we must ratchet down the polarization and inflammatory rhetoric; we must come to terms with the fact that we have yet to arrive at our destination as a nation, and still need internal solidarity.

If we embrace our common destiny and close ranks, we will reach new heights—we will reach the moon, and even Mars.

Dr. Haim Shine is a faculty member of Israel’s Academic Center of Law and Science, and a member of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors.

This article first appeared on Israel Hayom.

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