As Israelis dash for shelter from Hamas rockets, as Israel Defence Forces soldiers continue to make the ultimate sacrifice to destroy Gaza’s terrorist infrastructure, as European Jews consider relocating to safer parts of the world, it’s essential that all Jews stand together. This crisis must reinforce our Jewish identity.
Amid the darkness of the last four weeks, the outpouring of achdut – Jewish unity – has been a rare bright spot. In Canada and across the Diaspora, Jewish communities have mobilized to support Israel. Where they have encountered violence and hatred – most notably in Europe, but also here in Canada – it has served as a reminder why the security of Diaspora Jewry is intrinsically tied to the security of Israel.
Pro-Israel rallies are only part of the push for unity. Emergency missions to Israel, organized by Jewish community organizations and privately, are also sending a powerful message of achdut. Meanwhile, grassroots campaigns are supplying IDF soldiers with all sorts of items, from extra pairs of socks and shoes to pizza dinners. These simple gestures go a long way toward unifying Jews worldwide and shrinking the gap between Israel and the Diaspora.
It’s important to acknowledge that achdut can mean different things to different people.
For many Jews in the Diaspora, achdut signals total validation of the Israeli government and the IDF. In times of war especially, according to this line of thought, there is no room to be critical of Israel, because it can only strengthen the cause of those who hate Jews, wherever they live. Israel, many have noted, has gone far out of its way to limit the danger posed to Palestinian civilians, while Hamas is manipulating them as pawns. When the enemy displays such contempt for human life, it’s a tragedy. Full stop. Peace with the Palestinians is a goal worth working toward, but right now the IDF has a job to do, and Israelis have every right to security.
Others see achdut differently. Their support for the Jewish state remains steadfast, but they argue that doesn’t mean you can’t critique Israel sometimes. As the Palestinian death toll has risen, these voices have publicly called on Israel to end the Gaza incursion and make peace with the Palestinians. And while they recognize that Hamas’ method of fighting has exacerbated the number of dead in Gaza, and that the IDF is a uniquely humane force, they nonetheless cite the Jewish tenet of tikkun olam as motivation to pursue peace, first and foremost. There may be no easy solution at present – and perhaps not even a partner on the Palestinian side – but that shouldn’t preclude Israel from trying.
Whichever category you belong to, or if you’re half in one and half in the other, it’s crucial to remember that we can disagree and still be unified. Because in the end, there is a lot we do agree on.
All of us want to see an end to this conflict and the larger Israel-Palestinian issue. We want Israelis to be safe in a strong homeland and Jews to be secure wherever else they choose to live.
That much doesn’t change, no matter what else achdut means to you.