In the early 1970s, when I first asked for permission to immigrate to Israel, the Soviet authorities denied my request. In those days, I was not alone. Many soviet Jews who sought to leave the Soviet Union were refused and became what we now know as “refuseniks.” Even though I was denied, I kept hoping. After several years, I was finally given permission to make Aliyah [immigrate to Israel].
I paid a heavy price to come here—money, career, family—and came to Israel penniless with a wife and newborn son to feed. I did this because I believed that Jews should live here, and I wanted to contribute my share to the revival of the Jewish people in their homeland.
I served in the army, and then worked for the Israeli air force as part of a team that calibrated navigation and stability systems of fighter jets. I knew that if I did not do my job right, I would risk the pilot’s life. I treated my job as a sacred duty and would not dare slight any aspect of it or allow myself any kind of negligence.
These days, a new kind of refuseniks has emerged. The new refuseniks are not denied anything. They are not refused; they are refusing. Many of them are Israeli air force pilots who declared that they refuse to partake in training or in military action until the government withdraws from its intention to overhaul the Israeli judicial system. They declare that they are doing this in the name of democracy, but their ultimatum attempts to force their opinion, a minority opinion, on the democratically elected government. Indeed, with each passing day, the true nature of our “democracy” is surfacing.
We should not be surprised. After all, we are the people of Israel, the obstinate nation where each member feels that they should be the prime minister. It is true that as we are approaching crucial times in the history of humanity, the people of Israel will have a special role and each member of the nation will have to function like a prime minister, but it will not be in the sense that we are absolute leaders and everyone obeys our orders. On the contrary, it will be by setting an example of kindness and love of others above all the differences. The current attitude, where anyone who thinks a little differently from me is my sworn enemy, is the exact opposite of how we should behave toward each other.
Worse yet, as time passes, we are growing increasingly vicious toward others. Our nation has a history of self-inflicted trauma. We do not need to go back to the days of the ruin of the Second Temple, when a ruthless civil war destroyed the city of Jerusalem and prepared the ground for the Romans’ takeover of the land. It is enough to look back at the days preceding, and during Israel’s war of independence, when Jews told on other Jews to the British authorities and got them hanged, or when Jews fought Jews over possession of arms that came on board the ship Altalena, resulting in multiple casualties by drowning and by gunfire, shot by other Jews, and the sinking of the ship with most of its badly needed weapons and munitions still on board. It was a classic case of Jewish egocentrism: Either I win, or no one wins.
The current struggle is no different. It is not about a judicial reform; it is about power. When we are willing to destroy our country if we are not in power, this is what will happen. We will sink the country just like Altalena sank. And just as with Altalena, the few survivors will blame each other for our destruction.
At the moment, the only way I see to reverse the trajectory of mutual destruction is through the world’s pressure. If the nations hate the Jewish state with sufficient ferocity, it may just be enough to force us to unite. But even then, we will remain united only while we are under threat. The minute the threat is gone, so will our unity.
Of course, we could unite of our own volition and resolve that nurturing solidarity is preferable to a pointless struggle to the death, but at the moment, I do not see that Israelis are even looking in that direction, they feel too entitled, and are too proud being refuseniks.
Photo Caption: Israeli soldiers walk near a F-35 fighter jet after it landed in Israel at Nevatim air base.