Tuesday, December 27, 2011

No need for a civil war

MK Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich

Before the fall of the Second Temple, a terrible civil war tore the Jews apart. At the time, a cruel enemy lurked on the sidelines seeking to enslave the divided nation. This civil war was fueled by greed for power and the preference of personal interests above the good of the nation. We, with our own hands, brought about the destruction of the Second Temple. Two thousand years later, it appears as though we have learned nothing. Our elected officials' greed for power and delusions of grandeur have diverted public attention from the fundamental problems facing our state and our society. The chief justice in Israel's Supreme Court is a woman. The two main opposition parties in this country are headed by women. For years there has been an equal number of male and female judges serving in Israel's courts. Our Knesset boasts more women than most parliaments in the world. Instead of putting an emphasis on that and promoting full equality in every field, look at what we are dealing with: Someone went out of their way to find a mentally unstable member of some weird extreme ultra-Orthodox sect and from there arrived at the conclusion that we live in a fundamentalist country.

Criminals should be punished, but we must avoid inciting a civil war against the ultra-Orthodox in the service of political interests. Much to the chagrin of the ultra-Orthodox warmongers, they are our brothers, and we also have plenty to learn from them. They could teach us about mutual responsibility. Neglecting this mutual responsibility and compassion is what brought about our widening income gaps, which in turn sparked the social justice movement last summer. Our brotherly Jewish love for one another has been replaced by hatred, fuelled by the calls of those who seek power. Picking on the ultra-Orthodox has become the new national pastime, replacing the social justice protest, which was abandoned the minute it became clear to power grubbers that the protests would not topple the government.

A Jewish state means more than a menorah and a flag. We have to remind ultra-Orthodox extremists of the saying by our sages, who taught us that kindness toward man comes before keeping the laws of the Torah. We will not allow discrimination against women, or restrictions on women's freedom, but at the same time let us remember: "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Avidly protecting the principles of democracy is not the same as unbridled incitement.

There are those who are doing everything in their power to make Israel look as racist as South Africa, as backwards as Syria and as oppressive to women as Iran. Even U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contributed to this effort. These people think that, like 2,000 years ago, our leadership will be replaced thanks to external intervention. I have news for them: The people of Israel are not buying it. Our people will not tolerate incitement by one sector against another.

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