The latest whim among those who want to see Israel disintegrated is to split it into cantons. “It makes perfect sense,” they exclaim, “We will be like Switzerland!” And why not? Those who want a liberal lifestyle will live in the Tel-Aviv canton, those who want an Orthodox lifestyle will live in the Bnei Brak canton, and so on and so forth. Everyone will have their way and we will all be happy.
If we do that, we might as well pack up and leave now. We didn’t come to Israel to live in separate tribes; we came here to reunite the Jewish people. We can’t expect 2,000 years of exile not to leave its marks on all of us, but if we don’t want to revive our common identity, we might as well leave now because it defies the purpose of our coming here, and the meaning of being Jewish.
Jews have never been similar to one another. Our forefathers were outcasts from various tribes, and believed that only when we rise above our differences we can achieve true unity. King Solomon called this motto, “Love will cover all crimes” (Prov. 12:10), and RASHI explained that Rabbi Akiva’s motto, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is the great rule of the Torah.
In other words, we weren’t meant to let our separateness remain, but to rise above it and unite. The whole world consists of separate nations that have no idea how to unite. They fight each other to death; they’ve been through two world wars; they are well on their way to another one, and no one knows how to prevent it. The only way this can be stopped is if people find a way to unite above their inherent and immutable differences.
We, the Jews, were the only ones who ever attempted it, when we first formed the nation, and the only ones who succeeded, albeit for very short periods and with countless clashes in between. Nevertheless, that successful attempt, or perhaps better defined as “effort,” has earned us the mission to be “a light unto nations,” to show the way to forge unity among different and hostile peoples.
Subconsciously, this is why the nations voted in favor of establishing a Jewish state in the land of Israel in 1947. The Holocaust was certainly an impetus, but we shouldn’t be so naïve as to believe that countries that wouldn’t let in pleading Jewish refugees before and during World War II had suddenly become philo-Semites when it ended.
Despite its innate dislike of Jews, the world has given us a sovereign state, a chance to reestablish our nationhood. And since our forefathers were aliens who united, when we are not united, we are aliens. If we embrace our alienation and divide the country into cantons, we will admit that we are unable to connect, the nations will feel that we have given up on the effort to unite and set the example of unity above hate they so desperately need, and that will be the end of the state of Israel.
The divisions between us will not vanish; we will never agree. But they must not deter us from striving for unity despite them. If we strive for unity as a value in itself, a worthy goal we must achieve, even if only so as to serve as an example, we will find that our rejection of each other is but the reason and the impetus to form unity and solidarity. Without the hate, we’d have no need to build love. Without rejection, we’d have no need to forge connections. And without connection, we are not a nation.