Among the many divisions that plague the Israeli society, one of the fiercest is the dispute between those who want to define Israel as a nation state for all its citizens and those who want to define it as the nation state of the Jews. Currently, the chasm between them seems irreconcilable. There is a way to resolve it in a way that benefits both sides and which the world embraces, but to do that, we must revive the original spirit of Judaism.
Maimonides writes in Mishneh Torah that in ancient Babylon, Abraham discovered that a single force governs nature, but it divides into the two opposites that we experience as day and night, winter and summer, cold and hot, male and female, and so forth. He also discovered that when you realize that the opposites come from a single source, you see how they complement each other and together create our reality and maintain its balance and harmony.
Abraham told what he had discovered to anyone who took interest in his words. In those days, Babylon was in a social crisis and tensions and violence grew among its people. The book Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer details the conflicts that Abraham observed: “They wished to speak each other’s language” as before, but “they did not know each other’s language. What did they do?” asks the book, “They each took his sword and fought one another to death. Indeed,” concludes the book and describes the inevitable outcome: “half the world died there by the sword.”
When Abraham introduced his idea that differences are inherent in nature and complement one another rather than compete with one another, many people in Babylon took to it and Abraham began to garner followers. Gradually, people from all over Babylon united around him. When he moved out of Babylon and headed for Canaan, still more people joined him along the way.
Isaac and Jacob, continues Maimonides in his description in Mishneh Torah, followed in Abraham’s spiritual footsteps. Under their leadership, the alien individuals became a nation united by the idea that opposites complement rather than compete.
These were the ancestors of the people of Israel. They were individuals who came from countless tribes and nations, cared nothing for each other, had no relation or affinity for one another, but believed in the tenet that opposites complement rather than compete, and this is the secret to nature’s vitality and harmony; this is the secret of life.
Eventually, they were called Jews for two reasons: One was that they settled in Judah, and the other was that the Hebrew word Yehudi [Jew] comes from the word Yechudi [united/unique]. The unity-above-oppositeness that they had attained made them a nation and gave them their strength.
Over time, Jews often fell from their sublime perception. When they were overcome by competitiveness and hostility, they became divided and weak, and other nations conquered and tortured them. When they restored their unity above oppositeness, they regained their strength and other nations venerated them.
The current State of Israel is rife with division and replete with clashing opposites. There is no Abraham to tell them to unite above their disputes, that opposites complement rather than compete, and that one-sidedness is their worst enemy. But if we want the State of Israel to persist and for the world to appreciate it, we must nevertheless return to our core tenet of complementary opposites.
Currently, the world hates us because instead of demonstrating how to make opposites complement, we are exporting high tech weaponry and cyberwar software. If we want peace to prevail, we must do it the way we teach Israeli officers to lead: by personal example.
Only if we realize that no one will win the argument over defining Israel as a nation state for all its citizens or only for the Jews since we are meant to complement these opposites rather than win the argument, only then will we be able to make peace among ourselves. And as we do so, we will find that the world welcomes our newly found unity and embraces the idea of unity above divisions. If, however, we insist on division, the world will divest from us, boycott us, and sooner rather than later, the country will dissolve.