The Jewish Experience

The Current Rupture in Israel

Yossi Shain

The "lack of unity is creating serious and lasting harm," writes Shain.

June 9, 2023

Georgetown and Tel Aviv University Emeritus Professor Yossi Shain is providing a recurring dispatch from Israel, commenting on current events.

Shain has been named a special adviser to President Liebowitz, helping to establish collaborations with Israeli universities and institutions. This initiative envisions conferences, academic meetings, lectures, residencies, and other academic collaborations during Brandeis’ 75th anniversary.

Brandeis thanks Professor Shain for sharing his personal views with readers. Any opinions are strictly Professor Shain’s and are neither reflective of nor constrained by Brandeis University, its faculty, staff, or administration.

By Yossi Shain

On June 4, thousands gathered in New York City for the annual Celebrate Israel Parade. Every year, this parade provides an opportunity for Jewish people to come out and show their support for the state of Israel.

This year, however, the parade was marked by controversy, as many protestors attended, due to the ongoing rivalries that have erupted in Israel around judicial reform and other issues that could very seriously affect what Israel is going to look like in the future.

Many Israeli ministers and members of the Knesset were in New York for the parade but were reportedly confronted by demonstrators wherever they went in the city. In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked many of his ministers not to march in the end, fearing that they would be seen on television in a poor light.

This is just the latest public example of how ruptured the state of Israel has become. There is a virtual split down the middle between those people who are more religiously orthodox and perceived to be on the right, and those who are on the left, including Reformed Jews and secular, liberal Jews. The Jewish community, in Israel and the Diaspora alike, is feeling the pain and the agony of what is happening in Israel.

Moreover, there is a real sense that this lack of unity is creating serious and lasting harm. This coming weekend, another such display of fracture will take place, as Netanyahu will not attend the upcoming international meetings in Israel hosted by the American Jewish Committee, reportedly for fear of demonstrations against his government.

The ramifications are potentially disastrous: Enemies of Israel in countries such as Lebanon and Iran view our internal strife as an opportunity, as we are seen as more vulnerable to attack.

Within our country, as well, many have been emboldened to seize on this lack of unity; since the establishment of the government in January 2023, homicides among Arab Israelis have tripled, a sign of societal collapse, lack of leadership, and an abysmal failure of the police.

The current debate on judicial reform could also have a major lasting impact on our economy, as Israel has just passed a budget that many have seen as caving into the demands of the ultra-orthodox parties. Fourteen billion shekels (about $4.5 billion) of the budget have been earmarked for educational, religious, and cultural programs for the ultra-orthodox; while similar investments have not been promised for more secular programming for advancing the sciences and academic education.

Israel’s 75 years of history, like Brandeis’, are characterized by our start up attitude and our ability to advance at a remarkably fast pace. Many are afraid that judicial reform, and those arguments that come with it, including how to form the budget, the battle over the culture of Israel, and the rivalry between religion and state, may send the country backwards.

For these reasons, it remains incredibly important that Jews around the world find ways to come together to have conversations about where we can find unity in support of the state of Israel. The meetings last month hosted jointly by Tel Aviv University and Brandeis, which included members of the Israeli government, and other experts from around the world, was a great starting point.

We will have more initiatives to announce in the coming weeks and months. Please stay tuned to this space for more about how you can get involved.