Introducing Israel's new government, a government as diverse as the nation itself. The Prime. Minister even went to school in New Jersey (see the photo on the left).
Perhaps the most important speech written over the course of this transition wasn’t even delivered. It was set to be given by Yair Lapid, now the Foreign Minister and alternate Prime Minister of Israel. Lapid was doggedly persistent in somehow finding a way to scotch tape eight disparate parties into a government, against all odds; a move that changed the course of Israel’s history – and Jewish history as well.
He didn’t deliver his speech at the Knesset on the day of the government’s confidence vote, because he had just seen his comrade Naftali Bennett shouted down repeatedly by hecklers determined to grind the wheels of democracy to a halt.
Here’s some of what he planned to say to those hecklers in the hall:
“We are not enemies. Even the most strident opinions, even the most heated arguments, will not turn us into enemies. We will not let extremists destroy our ability to speak to one another and to work together for the good of the country.”
In subsequent speeches that he did deliver, Lapid pledged to repair ties with Jews in the Diaspora, many of whom have felt alienated from Israel over recent years. “The support of Christian evangelicals and other groups is important and heartwarming,” he said. “But the Jewish people are more than allies; they are family. Jews from all streams – Reform, Conservative and Orthodox – are our family. And family is always the most important relationship and the one that needs to be worked on more than any other.”
It has been so long since we have heard such sentiments. And so, for those who have felt alienation, from Israel, from the established Jewish community, from Judaism itself, it’s now OK to jump back into the water.
Oh, there will be things that Jews will still disagree about. That’s what makes us Jews. And the wounds opened by the recent fighting in Gaza, which exposed dangerous fault lines and caused a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic attacks – there’s a lot of damage that will need to be undone. But as this new Israeli government takes root, we’ll begin to notice some good things. We’ll begin to see a moral compass re-emerge.
That’s exactly what happened when, just two days after the new government was sworn in, several thousand far-right Jews paraded through Jerusalem with Israeli flags shouting “Death to the Arabs.” To that provocation, Lapid responded, “It is incomprehensible how one can hold an Israeli flag in one's hand and shout 'death to Arabs' at the same time….This is not Judaism and this is not Israel.”
In a recent Times of Israel column, David Horovitz described the significant historical moment we’ve reached:
"Never in the history of this country have rightists, leftists, centrists and Arabs agreed to stake out common ground, together in government, in the cause of the greater Israeli good. While the ultra-Orthodox political apparatchiks have declared religious war on it, many key members of the “change government” have set it up with an almost messianic vision of internal Israeli right-left, Orthodox-secular, Jewish-Arab harmony. However hard this will prove to maintain, the very goal marks a laudable departure from Netanyahu’s divisive approach to retaining power."
During the summer – this year on July 19 – our calendar always returns us to the Fast of Tisha B’Av, with its focus on the destructions of the ancient temples. Chief among the causes for these debacles, according to the rabbis, was “Sinat Hinam,” “causeless hatred.” If causeless hatred has a cause, it is extremism.
Lapid wrote in his undelivered Knesset speech:
"After all the insults and the warnings, the real divide in Israeli society isn’t between left and right. The real divide is between moderates and extremists. Those who want to build and those who want to destroy. We will not let the extremists destroy the State of Israel. We will not let hate control us. Violent racists don’t become patriots just because they wrap themselves in a flag. They will not define for us what it means to love Israel."
Lapid and his counterparts in America and everywhere are responding to the populist-driven enmity of the past several years, fighting the hate wherever it is found - and slowly, slowly, the forces of love and moderation are winning.
Have a great summer – and don’t forget to pack your moral compass!
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman
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