We think our struggle with the Palestinians is over territory, but it isn’t. It is a purely spiritual conflict, and not with the Palestinians, but with ourselves. Since the Jewish people has abandoned its cause, it lost its legitimacy to exist as a nation. Until we restore our unity, we will be pariahs in the eyes of the world, which will tolerate our presence only as long as it hopes that at some point, we will return from oblivion, restore our solidarity, the essence of our nation, and be the example that everyone expects us to be. If we wake up in time, the world will unite around us. If we overstay its patience, it will unite against us.
Any attempt to attribute a historical aspect to the conflict misses the point and distracts us from our task. Instead of trying to prove that we were here first, which is like the chicken and egg argument, we should accomplish what we were made to accomplish, and this will end all the arguments and conflicts since everyone will support us.
To accomplish our task, we must remember that the Jewish nation is unlike any other nation. It began as an eclectic cluster held together by the idea that unity and solidarity are the keys to a solid society. The early members of the nation left their homelands and countryfolk to join a group whose members they did not know, and who often came from rivaling clans and tribes, yet subscribed to Abraham’s ideology that solidarity should be the backbone of society.
Our ancestors struggled quite a bit among themselves, rising and falling according to the level of their unity. Nevertheless, by the time of the Second Temple, the word of the innovative society had gotten far and wide, and people from all the nations came to see the miracle. Greeks scholars came, learned from the prophets, and returned home to develop the Greek philosophy. Ptolemy II, king of Egypt, summoned seventy sages from Jerusalem to translate the Five Books of Moses into Greek, thereby creating the first translation of the Bible. But before he let them translate, he sat with them and learned from them. According to Flavius Josephus, after two weeks of extensive learning he said “he had learned how he ought to rule his subjects.”
The renowned philosopher Philo of Alexandria wrote that Jewish pilgrims, who gathered in Jerusalem three times a year, “made friendships with people they had not met before, and in the merging of the hearts … they would find the ultimate proof of unity.” Likewise, the book Sifrey Devarim writes that gentiles would “go up to Jerusalem and see Israel … and say, ‘It is becoming to cling only to this nation.’”
Eventually, we fell from unity and invaders started flooding the land. First came the Hellenists, the Jewish converts who adopted the Greek culture and abandoned unity. Then came the Seleucids, who destroyed the Temple once. The Maccabees defeated them, rebuilt the Temple, but not the unity, and so the Romans came and ousted us from here entirely.
We didn’t lose the land because we were weak; we lost it because we were divided. When we are divided, the world stops loving us, stops seeing us as an example they want to follow, and does not want us around. Following the crushing of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 AD, The Roman emperor Hadrian wanted to do away once and for all with the pugnacious Jewish people. To achieve this, he not only dispersed the remaining Jews in Judea around the Roman Empire, he changed the name Judea into Syria Palaestina (lit. Palestinian Syria).
To this day, the world sees this stretch of land as Palestine, and not as Israel, since we have not lived up to the name Israel, which entails mutual responsibility and love of others. If we want the land of Israel to become Israel once more, we first have to become the spiritual people of Israel: united “as one man with one heart.” Only under this condition will our struggles be through and we will find peace among ourselves and with the nations.
An Israeli artist places 67 dolls at Habima square in Tel Aviv to represent the Palestinian and Israeli children who died in the last confrontation between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.