A suggested National Unity Day is garnering support on all sides of the political spectrum in Israel. The day, which started as an initiative to commemorate the memory of three teenagers who were kidnapped and slain by terrorists, has evolved into emphasizing the value of unity, giving, and mutual responsibility throughout the country and with all Jews all over the world. I am happy to see that unity is on the agenda, but in my eyes, dedicating a day to unity is nothing but a permit for division for the rest of the 364 days. Unity must be our daily work. Every day when we do not try to strengthen our unity is a day when we are not the people of Israel.
Unity is our motto. We forged our nationhood by agreeing to unite “as one man with one heart,” and all our struggles from the inception of our people to the ruin of the Second Temple were efforts to unite the people. Our nation did not arise the way other nations do. We started as an aggregate of strangers who followed Abraham because of his idea that kindness and love of others are the keys to a good life. Over time, as we practiced these qualities among ourselves, we forged unity. Gradually, the assortment of strangers became a nation.
But it was a nation like no other: Whenever unity prevailed among us, we felt as a nation and our unity shone as a beacon of hope that all of humanity might one day be united, just as we succeeded in doing despite our different origins. Whenever division took over, we became a throng of strangers pressed together against their will, and we reverted to mutual hatred that no other nation exhibited. In those times, we were the epitome of evil, the nations loathed and despised us, and wanted to do away with us. In the end, we succumbed to hatred and the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and exiled us for the next two millennia.
Now that we are back in the land of Israel and have established a Jewish state, it is our duty to work on unity every single day. It is our obligation to the world to reignite the beacon of hope, to show that strangers can form a bond that is stronger than any other connection, and that peace is not an empty slogan but a feasible aspiration. Dedicating one day a year to this most sacred task, to the vocation of our people, is a mockery of our calling. What will we do the rest of the year, hate one another as we do today?
A National Unity Day is an alibi for more division; we need the genuine article. Anything less than true bonding of hearts will not do. Unless we strive to be “as one man with one heart,” as our vocation mandates, we will not be the authentic people of Israel, the nation that hallowed the motto “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and which the entire world is anxious to see arise.