What’s going on in Israel is sad, scary, and unlikely to end well
Editorial

What’s going on in Israel is sad, scary, and unlikely to end well

It’s hard for a weekly newspaper like this one — a publication on the kind of old-fashioned schedule that results in a physical object, because creating physical objects takes time — to address a situation moving as quickly as Israel’s right now.

But we can’t ignore it either.

The country’s parliamentary system, its lack of a constitution, its lack of checks and balances, and the enormous chasms between many of its citizens, are leading to chaos.

It’s not an overstatement to say that Israel is in more real danger of explosion than it’s ever been — it’s not at risk from outside enemies, although certainly some of them might well take advantage of the opportunity posed by the rage, fear, and extraordinarily poor judgment and disregard for the rights of others on blatant display right now. But this explosion is coming from the inside, from the tamped-down fury and the match that has been set to it.

And it’s happening in the days before Tisha B’Av, when we commemorate the sinat chinam, the baseless hatred, that ended up in the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem.

Don’t take my word for it.

Here’s a quote from an op ed by Gary Rosenblatt, the longtime editor of the New York Jewish Week, who lived in Teaneck for decades:

In an essay titled “The Israel we know has fallen,” he writes:

Israelis sent out many variations of this image. This one came from Abe Foxman. It reads: “We experienced a stormy day yesterday. This morning, July 25, 2023, the front pages of the newspapers were covered in black by one of the ‘high-textim.’ We will not forget and not give up on a democratic and free state.” The newspapers shown here are Ha’aretz, Yisrael HaYom, the Hebrew-language version of the Economist, and two copies of Yediot Achronot.

“In what appears to be a tragic convergence, in the week of Tisha B’Av, when we mark the destruction of the Temple, attributed by our sages to bitter hatred among Jews, the Knesset has passed the first piece of judicial reform that has torn Israeli society asunder.”

In an essay called “The Day the Music Died,” the Israeli/American writer, thinker, and passionate Zionist Daniel Gordis wrote:

“Yes, we needed judicial reform. Almost everyone knows that. But we needed unity more than that. And we could have had both.

“And today, any semblance of unity, or even the possibility of restoring unity, died. More precisely, Israeli society as we knew it was murdered.”

The American/Israeli politician and writer Michael Oren, who grew up in West Orange, told Daniel Gordis that “The ideological roots of democracy in this country don’t run deep.”

Let’s hope he’s wrong.

And the British-born devout centrist Israeli David Horovitz, who made aliyah and later created and now presides over the Times of Israel, is in despair.

“The Netanyahu coalition steamrolled to a Knesset victory on Monday afternoon,” he wrote. “But Israel, hitherto relatively harmonious and extraordinarily resilient, has sustained a dangerous defeat.”

Here is an image that Abe Foxman, Mr. Optimism, sent me. It shows the newspapers that greeted Israelis as they looked at newsstands on Tuesday morning.

By the time these words are printed or posted, Tisha B’Av will be over, and we will be on our way toward Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of comfort, as the people of Israel moved toward the light.

Maybe something will change for the better.

We should be so lucky.

—JP

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