By Leah Garber
In Judges 3:11 we read: “The land (of Israel) was quiet for forty years.” This phrase repeats itself often in the Bible, summing up periods in which major events were sparse to focus on significant events instead. Our forefathers fought fiercely to defend their land, and in return they enjoyed periods of grace, of quiet for 40 years.
Our history here in the State of Israel is still being written. Unlike in the Bible, we do not skip over quiet periods. Every day is essential. Who can even begin to imagine 40 years of much-needed stability and security, in which we direct all resources to growth, and prosperity rather than to armaments and war?
We would be grateful for four.
After four ugly election campaigns in two years and too much political slander, profanity, and division, we had hope that the formation of the current government would finally bring us stability, perhaps even quiet. Even if it didn’t last for 40 years, we hoped for some period that would allow us to heal from internal divisions, focus on defending ourselves against outside enemies, and recover from the pandemic.
The current government, a historic coalition that formed new ties and bridged extremes, was established in Israel about a year ago. It reflected an honest attempt at discourse among partners who represent a broad political spectrum. Led for the first time by a religious Jew wearing a kippah, the government committed to a rotation between its two leaders—Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid—in a democratic and egalitarian manner. It was a government that, for the first time in the country’s history, included an Arab party as a full partner and could focus on mending rifts among all sectors.
This was a government of hope for many Israelis—including me.
Last week, in a move that disappointed many, Prime Minister Bennett announced the dissolution of the government in the face of political blackmail by elements in the coalition who, one by one, threatened to leave if their demands were not met.
Politics is a complex, cold and calculated business. It is not a place for sentimentalists or those with sensitive, thin skin. It requires ruggedness and resilience, and sadly, all too often, it reveals intrigue and a preference for personal interests over the common good.
Winston Churchill once said: “Democracy is the worst form of government—except for all the others that have been tried.” Although that statement may be true, we are still proud of our democracy—even when, it shows us its flaws.
I have great respect for Bennett and Lapid and their tireless efforts to build this historic coalition. Sadly, members of the opposition did absolutely everything in their power to overthrow the government from the beginning—opposing legislation they previously supported and voting contrary to their own ideology—forcing Israel, with a bleeding heart, to return to the polls for its fifth election in three years.
Like those that preceded it, this will be another election campaign driven by hatred and slander, by lies and deception—and an end that is already known. Worst of all, it will not lead to 40 years of quiet for us or our country.
I apologize if I sound gloomy and desperate. I am generally optimistic, but disappointment in the face of these recent political developments, no matter our political leanings, leaves little room for joy. Politically and unfortunately also in terms of security, our beautiful and beloved country is not quiet. It has not been so for 40 years—nor for 40 months.
In so many respects our country is a source of hope and pride that expands our hearts and soothes the wounds of politics that have scarred it—and us.
I recently was privileged to tour the country with David Wax and Doron Krakow, chairman of the board and president and CEO, respectively, of JCC Association of North America. We trekked from south to north, and at every moment we marveled at the people of this land—good and talented, decent and inspiring.
In our travels, we encountered community resilience in the face of enemy threats; scientific thinking and knowhow that places Israel at the forefront of the world’s scientific and technological achievements; scholars who are shaping public opinion around reconciliation; and historians who taught us lessons from the past and promised the future would be brighter.
We saw the infinite beauty of our prosperous land and the flowering wilderness transformed from a dream into reality by previous generations. We saw that acts of peace and reconciliation efforts with nearby and distant Arab states do not cease—even for a moment. And despite its political challenges, our country continues to embrace Ukrainian citizens, with many Israeli organizations working tirelessly at the border and within the war-torn country to help the innocent victims—Jews and people of other faiths. Here at home, we are hosting refugees in hotels across this land that have closed expressly to house them.
Through the eyes of David and Doron I fell in love with my own country all over again. Of course, it’s not that I lacked pride in my homeland or that my love for this land was fading in any way, but it is always good to see an old love through the eyes of others and, through them, witness her greatness.
If a utopian world is not achievable and political ills are part of our lives, we must remember—and remind our leaders, whomever we support—about the importance of the people they serve and in whose name they argue. After all, in this mighty and wonderful project called the State of Israel, we are all partners, and we are shaping its destiny, together. Only in this way can we continue to strengthen our homeland, cherish it for its wonders, and long for it—and for us and for our children—to attain the quiet it deserves, maybe even for 40 years.
Leah Garber is a vice president of JCC Association of North America and director of its Center for Israel Engagement in Jerusalem.