Asimov’s "Foundation" trilogy has lessons for Israel

Asimov’s "Foundation" trilogy has lessons for Israel

As I was writing this week’s lead editorial, about haredi-secular tensions, I was reminded of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.

As it opens, the galactic empire is strong and appears to be thriving, but the brilliant Hari Seldon, using the (fictional) science of psychohistory (a finely tuned combination of sociology and mathematics/statistics) foresees that it will fall and the galaxy will suffer 30,000 years of barbarism.

The fall is unavoidable, but Seldon maintains that the fallout, so to speak, can be minimized. To that end, he oversees the creation of two foundations, at opposite ends of the galaxy. The first foundation is made up of physical scientists; the second foundation is a little less clearly defined but emerges as made up of what might be called mental scientists. And that is as far as I will summarize for fear of revealing too much to people who intend to read the books.

What does this have to do with Israel and the haredim?

In a sense, Israel is home to (at least) two “foundations,” the secular and the fervently observant. These often are in tension with each other, even perceiving each other as enemies.

But – my conclusions, not Asimov’s – for the state to be strong and not fall (under many different kinds of strains), the foundations must work together. And “must” is the right word.