This is the period when the Jewish people remember and mourn the two destroyed Holy Temples that once stood majestically in Jerusalem, the long and painful dispersion, the suffering and genocides of almost two thousand years of exile. Still, the traditional reading of the Book of Lamentations, written by the Prophet Jeremiah, ends on a hopeful note: "Bring us back to you G-d and we will return, renew our days as of old."
In this week's article, I will take the liberty to describe, in random order, some other, more current reasons for us to weep.
Here in the Jewish state, I mourn the decline of the Israeli feeling of unity. Sectors and sub-sectors seem to be moving further and further away from one another and the feeling of a shared destiny is more and more blurred. The state is seen as a strong and secure given, and the once ubiquitous feeling of personal and group responsibility for preserving the security and future of the only Jewish state in the world is being replaced by a sectoral identity in which emphasis is on the group rather than on the Jewish-Israeli commonality. Personal benefit and interests often seem to be put above those that affect the country's future.
I am sad about the limited abilities of the public's elected representatives, the Knesset MKs who allowed the judges in their legal ivory tower to take over the state, revoke at will the laws passed by the democratically elected Parliament, and to steer government policy in the direction of the new winds blowing in foreign corridors. The judiciary now establishes our borders, has taken charge of managing the army, measures the Jewish People's level of morality, defines what is proper and what is not, although most of these issues have nothing to do with law and justice but much to do with the general moral perceptions of today's society. These issues have no place in a court of law.
I am deeply concerned about the takeover of central institutions of the state by a large number of organizations and people funded by and acting according to the directives of the New Israel Fund. These include the legal, administrative and public systems of the country. This dangerous fund was established in California and has been active in Israel for almost 40 years, attempting to change Israel into an entity that will find favor in the eyes of those to whom Judaism is irrelevant. Graduates of the courses, training and in-service training run by the fund can be found throughout the length and breadth of the state's public service sector and they cannot be fired. Their extremely damaging influence can be found in the legal advisorship of government offices, mainly in the Justice Ministry, Defense Ministry and the IDF.
As a result of the NIF and its affiliates' activities in the educational, judicial, academic, arts and communications systems of the Jewish state, the IDF has lost its desire to defeat the country's enemies. Instead of a conclusive victory, the IDF "contains" problems, "manages" challenges and instead of acting, tries to find ways to maintain calm, even at the expense of increased danger in the future. The fires burning throughout the communities near Gaza for the past four months are the most striking example of the legal helplessness that has taken over the army, its Chief of Staff and the Minister of Defense. Anyone with a modicum of common sense realizes that those sending over the kites would like to set us all ablaze, if they only could – the kibbutzim, moshavim, and cities along with their men, women and children. Despite that, we have forgotten the simple and realistic Jewish halakhic dictum that says that if the enemies of Israel begin a conflict at the country's outlying borders over "issues of straw and hay," (i.e. seemingly unimportant topics) it is permissible to profane the Sabbath to deal with them. Jewish ethics take into account that border areas are where there is friction with the enemies of Israel, perhaps starting with "issues of straw and hay," that if ignored and not fought with sufficient resolve, invariably lead to violence and bloodshed.
It pains me to see how the political system of a "wise and intelligent people" behaves without the most basic understanding of the Middle East and the forces that are in play in this region, the considerations that guide the area's decision-making and the culture that controls its citizens from birth to death. Israelis think like modern liberals and while looking through their cultural lenses attempt to understand, relate and act towards people and states whose culture is Arab, Islamic and traditional. Israeli politicians, not just the man in the street Israelis, are confident that they know everything – although their knowledge is severely limited in scope, if it exists at all. This is obvious from the things they say, do and agree to sign. Unfortunately, this problem is shared by left wing as well as right wing governments.
I find it apalling that the teaching and status of the Arabic language is in the process of being shunted to the sidelines. A fifth of Israel's citizens are Arab. What message are they getting when their language is viewed as unimportant? How, in that case, does the state expect to convince our neighbors, in and out of the borders of the country, that we are an inseparable part of this region? Arabic is significant beyond measure because it is the most basic tool for transferring messages and feelings, even when the contents are completely Zionist, Jewish or Israeli. Our ability to get our message across to our neighbors is the best way to convince them that we have returned to the land of our forefathers – for good.
It saddens me to see how, again and again, as a result of the lack of basic understanding of the thought processes that guide the Hamas leadership, Israel's governments fail to settle our relations with the Hamas state established in Gaza in 2007.
Relations between Israel and Hamas must be based on a constant threat to the Hamas leaders' lives, the only thing those terrorists understand. The suffering of Gaza's residents does not interest them in the least. In fact, it is just the opposite: the more the residents suffer, the greater their value to Hamas, which uses their suffering to prey on Israeli, Arab and world consciences (and their pockets). The sole reason Hamas still holds on to the bodies of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin and the two live Israeli prisoners, Avera Mengistu and Hasham Alsaid, is that Hamas leaders have not been made to pay a price for the suffering they have caused the families and all of Israel for keeping them in Gaza. Hamas leaders will set free the living and the dead, unconditionally and without any deal, only if they are made to feel that the personal price for not doing so is too high for them to bear.
I am extremely worried about what is happening to overseas Jewish communities. In Sweden two years ago, the Jews decided to cease being a community and left it to each Jew to decide whether to stay in the Islamizing country or leave it. In France, the Jews are voting with their feet and fleeing en masse to Israel, but it hurts to see that some prefer to go to other foreign lands – "Exile after exile did Judah undergo,"to quote the sad elegies chanted on the 9th of Av. In the UK, the sounds of anti-Semitism are increasing in volume in political spheres as a result of the great Islamic migration. Members of Parliament feel they will not be elected again by the Islamizing streets if they do not express clear anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments. My feeling is that within five years, most British Jews will feel that the time has come to leave the suicidal kingdom and find a more comfortable place to live.
Worst of all is what is happening in the United States, because of America's vastness and the important role its Jewish population has in ensuring the existence and security of Israel. American Jews who are not affiliated with an Orthodox community have a high rate of intermarriage, so high that some estimates claim that the Jewish People lose about a hundred men and women a day, people whose children will not be Jews. Even within some Orthodox communities there is a deterioration in support for Israel as Holocaust memories dim and integration into American society deepens. The feeling is that America is the promised land where Jews have physical, economic and cultural security. Israel, to some of the liberal Orthodox, seems more of a burden than a necessity. Political correctness has taken over speech and thought in the USA and it trumps the religious and national viewpoints that form the foundations of Israel's existence for Jews and non-Jews alike. There are, of course, bastions of conservative belief systems, among Jews and Christians, especially the Evangelists, but they have to deal with ever-growing liberal and progressive trends, caused in part by Trump's being chosen as US president.
The problems are many, both inside and outside Israel – and we haven't even mentioned the Iran security issue. They should be disturbing the sleep of anyone who cares about the future of Israel as the home of the Jewish people. May the words in the prayer "renew our days as of old" come true speedily, in a rebuilt Jerusalem.
Translated from Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky, Arutz Sheva Op-ed and Judaism editor.