It didn’t take long after leaving Egypt for the whining to begin. We take the “two Jews, three opinions” syndrome as a fact of life, but every so often we get a glimmer of what it would be like if we could all just work together.
The newly formed government of Israel gives us hope that government can free itself from the demands of special interest groups and ideologies and focus on the needs of the mainstream.
But if the Passover story teaches us anything, it’s don’t underestimate our challenges or sugar-coat our past.
Ideological stratification and political infighting have plagued the Jewish State even before independence was declared. I share with you an excerpt from A Survivors Haggadah, originally published in Munich 1946 for the First Passover after liberation by the US Army of occupation.[i]
In wrenching detail this Haggadah relates how the Holocaust survivors are lobbied by shlechim (emissaries) to join a political party….
Now THAT the Saved Remnant is redeemed, the orphaned children of Israel are taken in. Each group (Hebrew “Shevet”) of the Remnant makes a claim on the children and is envious of other groups on their account, because each group wants to increase its number. And while the children of Israel are being collected like abandoned eggs, the contention increases as each group tries to pull them its way. The children cannot withstand the many enticements, promises, and trials, such that some children go this way and some another. And it so happens that the non-Orthodox snatch the children of the Orthodox, and the Orthodox snatch the children of the non-Orthodox. And each and every group has its own school where children learn Torah.
And after they study for a time, they grow clever; and a child behaves like a man of seventy who has opinions about how the world should be run, or how or when to settle the [Promised] Land and manage affairs of state. The children argue, and all are eager to advance their own positions and views, so that brothers are set apart, unable to agree on the question of the State [of Israel], unable to sit peacefully together.
Meanwhile the sons from our Holy Land [Palestine] shed their blood in an effort to bring survivors to Israel: for the gates of the Land are shut. No one can go in or out. And so emissaries go out from the Land [Palestine] to the surviving remnants with all kinds of keys to classify them and unlock their hearts. The emissaries come to meet the remnants, and when they meet Israel, they ask: Which group do you belong to? But the survivors do not understand them and wonder at the question. And even members of the [Jewish] Brigade in Italy reply: What is the meaning of this? Are we not, all of us, Israel? The emissaries say: You must have been sleeping for seventy years, because the unity of Israel is a fable. It’s no longer possible; each person must join a group. The remnants answer: But was not all of Israel slaughtered together? Is not all of Israel to rebuild the land together? The emissaries say: The unity of Israel is a fable. The land of Israel is being built by different factions. (Hebrew: Miflagot)
The remnants answer: We all belong to one group, we are Israel, all of us, and we have no interest in factions.
The emissaries say: That is impossible; the reality of Israel requires it.
One could argue: This rivalry is like a rivulet; just as the rivulet flows down, riving the ground and irrigating it to make it fertile, so does division divide Israel and bestow blessings on it. For it prepares the ground for all kinds of beliefs, so that people can go and die for the tip of every letter in their own torah. Thus rivalry breeds strength which increases the might of Israel.”
[i] pp 33-35