President Herzog's Selichot
President Herzog's Selichot Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Israeli President Isaac Herzog held the traditional Selichot prayers to mark the end of the Fast of Gedaliah at the President's Residence Wednesday night and warned that the assassination of the political figure more than 2,500 years ago which gives the fast day its name has parallels in the heated political discourse which permiates Israel's current election season.

“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight’s traditional Selichot service at the President’s Residence takes place at the end of the Fast of Gedaliah, a tragic day in Jewish history, commemorating a terrible political murder etched in our nation’s history. Only yesterday, we asked in synagogues: ‘Our Father, our King… end all baseless hatred within us.’ We are in a period before elections in Israel. I do not intend to be particularly politically-correct or polite. I am disturbed and worried. The violent incidents of recent days and weeks are keeping me awake at night," President Herzog said,

“Violence is on the rise. Verbal violence—accusations of treason, comparisons to the Nazis, threats and curses—in the public sphere and on social media. Verbal violence never remains that way. Concerningly, we see insults turning into physical violence. Into curled fists, into assaults, into bloodshed.

“One cannot avoid the disturbing thought: what’s next? Knives? Gunfire? Fatalities, God forbid? After all, we have already been through this story before, and this time—we must not hold back or bite our tongues. I forcefully condemn these violent phenomena. And I say to everyone, before your next nasty post, before your next hate-filled tweet or reply, before fighting, attacking, and hitting—stop! Don’t come along later seeking forgiveness or apologizing—stop now! Before it’s too late.

“I call on the Israeli people and their leaders, across the political spectrum: raise a voice of moderation and responsibility! Do not let the voices of extremism and violence lead us into an abyss of hatred! We must not view those who think differently from us as enemies.

“Of course, arguments have an important place among us, as long as they take place respectfully. Let us prove that there is a way to make important decisions without dismantling our home. Let us remember that we have a country to live in together, the day after the elections as well. Let us always remember, we are all here together, and nobody is going anywhere. We live together, we dream together, we achieve together.”