Traditional and religious holidays in Israel are usually times of national unity. These days, Israel is celebrating Hanukkah, a holiday whose essence is the triumph of the Jewish spirit of unity over the Hellenistic spirit of exalting the self. Yet, precisely now, prominent elements in Israel’s society, including the (still) incumbent prime minister, are calling for civil disobedience to protest the policy of the newly elected government before it has even been sworn in, and they are doing it by advancing displays of Christian symbols instead of, or more conspicuously than the Hanukkah Menorah. Despite being a primarily political initiative, this disobedience symbolizes the level of division spreading in the nation, and a divided Israel is a short-lived Israel.
Not only politicians and opinion leaders are pushing for prominence of Christian symbols over Hanukkah symbols in Israel. Santa Claus, elves, deer, and of course, the Christmas tree can be seen in some shopping malls in Israel, and no trace of the Menorah. Universities also place large Christmas trees at the entrance to some of the buildings, either with a small Menorah next to it, or with none at all. Even the Tel-Aviv municipality has asked visitors to its Facebook page which holiday they like better, Christmas or Hanukkah.
Having different political agendas and maintaining diversity of views are the essence of democracy. It is a precondition for the advancement and development of society. Countries that maintain diverse opinions thrive, while countries that allow only one narrative to dominate, whether from the Right or from the Left, become degenerate and sink.
In the case of Israel, diversity is not only a matter of evolution or devolution. For Israel, smothering diversity poses an existential threat.
The essence of the Israeli nation is unity above diversity. The ancient Israelites came from many nations, held different ideas about everything, and were very adamant people. When they came across Abraham’s teachings (or those of his descendants Isaac and Jacob), they learned that if they do not suppress other people’s views, but unite with them despite the differences, they form a bond that makes them stronger and wiser than any biological nation. When enough people had adopted that principle of uniting without suppressing disputes and disagreements, they became a nation, the nation of Israel.
When they were united, their differences complemented one another creating a tapestry of views that did not exist in any other nation. The unity that they had had to form in order to maintain their nationhood above such diversity had to be that much stronger than any other nation.
Nature, too, consists of complementary opposites; this is what makes creation harmonious and evolving. When the people of Israel were united, they were just like the rest of nature, harmonious and evolving, and that was the secret of the success of the ancient Israeli nation.
But when the people of Israel were not united, they immediately split back into the many nations from which they came. This is why when Israel are divided, they strive to assimilate among the nations and not remain Israelis or even Jewish.
However, Israel cannot afford to lose its unity and vanish altogether. The whole purpose of the existence of the Israeli nation is to demonstrate that unity above division is possible, and that it creates a thriving society. If people do not realize that diversity must be nurtured and embraced, they will be embroiled in eternal conflicts, and humanity will destroy itself.
If Israel does not practice unity above division, it disintegrates. At that time, the world hates the Jews for advancing conflict instead of peace. However, it does not blame us because we pit countries against each other, but because the fact that we do not present an alternative to conflict forces the world to engage in the only solution it sees: eternal war. And it blames Israel for it.
Only when Israelis learn that their challengers from within are not their enemies, but their partners to the task of setting an example, they will be able to unite above their contradictions. Until then, Israel and the world can only expect strife and conflict to keep building up.*
*For more on this topic, read my books 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘑𝘦𝘸𝘪𝘴𝘩 𝘊𝘩𝘰𝘪𝘤𝘦: 𝘜𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘰𝘳 𝘈𝘯𝘵𝘪-𝘚𝘦𝘮𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘴𝘮, and 𝘓𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘢 𝘉𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘭𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘙𝘦𝘦𝘥𝘴.
Israel’s outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid heads a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on November 20, 2022. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS