Wednesday, June 29, 2022 -
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Israel’s Gordian knot

Israel seems to be entangled in what the ancient Greeks called a Gordian knot, an intractable problem that is difficult to untangle.

As of today, it seems Israel will be having its fifth elections in two years. A campaign season every few years is a signature of democracy. But a campaign season by definition is divisive, with emotional undercurrents that temporarily catalyze a more polarized society. Then, when the election is over, you hope for a more unified front, with the energy shifting to a productive mode to promote and execute tangible achievements.

An unnatural frequency of elections undermines this healthy ebb and flow of a society and can erode the natural sense of coalescence that, even if passively, in time often becomes a post-election rhythm.

I’m worried for Israel. I’m worried for the hateful rhetoric and divisiveness another campaign season is such quick succession can engender.

Both sides of the political spectrum seem to have descended into a rhetoric that is cringe-worthy, deeply concerning.

Ripping the Jewish people apart from the inside is dangerous. 
 I wonder whether there is a way for a concerted effort by regular Israeli citizens to steer the discourse back to a more positive place. Never mind politicians; their ultimate agenda is, well, political.

I wonder whether a large-scale endeavor for neutral, non-political, enriching posts can find their way into social media. Let’s create that kind of algorithm! Maybe a group of citizens can take the lead, so as to deflect from the divisive discourse and plant something new, unrelated to politics.

I know, I’m dreaming and might be in la-la land, but sometimes all it takes is a first step in order for ideas to ripple out.

It was interesting to read my feed regarding the responses to the cobbled together Israeli government falling. From the schadenfreude of “Baruch Sheptarani” (“Thanks for ridding me of this”) to the cynical “What do you wear for final elections” was my range.

While the government presented itself as a sort of life saving version of the story in the Silver Skates of a little Dutch boy who plugs a dike with his finger, the critical mass in Israel was not behind it. A government that does not represent the people will have a difficult chance sustaining itself.

The grief and disappointment at the news of the government falling was palpable in some sectors, yet ultimately, since the people’s will was not represented, the joy at the news of its termination proliferated widely.

I do find the idea of a prime minister for a brief transitional period of three to four months a matter of concern. Admittedly, when there is no active government and no laws can actually pass, a transitional PM may be impotent, but I can see how he might seize his brief opportunity to try to make his mark by ramming through whatever he can during the narrowing window of his leadership.

Monumental decisions regarding the destiny of the Jewish people should not be decided and reached from such a position.

One core constant for Israel is the issue of security and of survival.

This is the Middle East. This is Israel, surrounded by countries sworn to her destruction. Inevitably, threats to Israel’s security arise unexpectedly and sometimes in increments of days, weeks or months.

You can be sure that Israel’s enemies are watching its political instability. I just hope they are not girding themselves for an opportunity to strike while Israel is vulnerable with a militarily inexperienced prime minister at its helm.

Still, I keep circling back to the idea of prioritizing Israel’s quality of conversation in this fifth election season.

I truly hope that each political party will make a mindful effort to speak from a place of purpose, defining its mission in what it seeks to accomplish, instead of denigrating the other. Disagreement should not yield demonization.

Easier said than done, especially in light of the current political climate of frustration and stalemate. Yet, an effort to emphasize our sense of peoplehood is what I hope this fifth campaign season will bring. It is the call of the hour. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the first step in untangling this Israeli Gordian knot.

Israel is the only sliver of land the Jewish people has ever known, that we have ever had, and will ever have. It is our precious little place, it is the gift our generation was granted. We must protect it with all of our might — be it Israel’s security or Israel’s internal character ruled as ethically as humanly as possible within the thorny reality of the security circumstances.

Untangling the political Gordian knot is the first step, and hopefully just a temporary challenge.

Continuing to weave the tapestry of our one and only Jewish homeland into a tight and colorful creation and textile imbued with meaning, beauty and continuity of tradition, is history’s call to each and every one of us.

Copyright © 2022 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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