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Israelis are Turning Against Each Other: Can We Step Back From the Abyss?

As the nation approaches its seventy-fifth anniversary in May, an ancient question is haunting Israelis: Can we hold together?
Omer Toledano via Wikimedia Commons
Omer Toledano via Wikimedia Commons
Yossi Klein Halevi is a Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Together with Imam Abdullah Antepli of Duke University and Jennifer Raskas, he co-directs the Institute’s Muslim Leadership Initiative. Yossi is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor and co-host with Donniel Hartman and Elana Stein Hain of the Institute’s award-winning podcast, For Heaven’s Sake. He is also the author of Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli

“The fear of schism runs deep. In Jewish memory, loss of national sovereignty is invariably preceded by internal disintegration. At the peak of ancient Israel’s power, just after King Solomon’s death, the nation split into two, weakening both entities and leading to the destruction, by Assyria, of the northern Israelite kingdom in 722 BCE and of the southern Judean kingdom, by Babylonia, in 586 BCE. Reconstituted Judea was destroyed by Rome in 70 CE; during the siege of Jerusalem, as the city starved, rival factions burned each other’s granaries.

The dread of repeating a fatal, self-inflicted wound is a powerful undercurrent in Israeli discourse. One indication was the improbable success of a recent film, Legend of Destruction, which told the story of the Jerusalem siege through still paintings.

What makes this moment especially fraught is that, for the first time in Israel’s history, a governing coalition is attempting to simultaneously transform the meaning of the nation’s two foundational identities — as a Jewish and a democratic state. The result is a society more divided than at any time since the bitter debate around the Oslo Peace Process of the early 1990s, culminating in the assassination by a far-right activist of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.”

Read the full op-ed on ABC Australia

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