Israel in Limbo
Hatred knocks one out of kilt.
Every few hours on all the major media outlets in Israel there are public service announcements on how to deal will trauma and stress. Good-looking presenters with calming voices hand out advice: get some exercise, listen to music, that sort of thing. Eventually it sinks in, and over the past few days while thinking about the awkward situation of our Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, the word “Limbo” stuck in my head. Eventually a pleasant tune from the recesses of my mind became a soundtrack for my thoughts, and finally I looked it up and listened:
I listened from the beginning until the end. This is a rare thing for me during times like these. There is no desire to relax, or more accurately, no ability to relax. You feel a need to keep your head clear and ears alert for sirens and the like. It has been many a year since I have listened to an album straight through. Life itself has seemed too important and demanding. As I listened to Jimmy Cliff I thought that the song could be heard as a dirge for Netanyahu the politician or as an anthem for Netanyahu the political survivor. In other words, limbo. Neither here nor there. His haters and his lovers can both take heart.
In this way Netanyahu-the-idea can be seen as a suitable and authentic representation of the country that he represents. Israel is either loved or hated, as is Netanyahu, and in both cases it is difficult to envision smooth transitions into the future. The Jews still walk their rocky road, as does Netanyahu.
In political terms, Netanyahu has been a force of nature, as even his worst enemies acknowledge. Those same enemies also find themselves in limbo, seeing that the object of all of their efforts—removing Netanyahu from office—has been achieved in a manner entirely detached from any of those efforts. The accomplishment of their objective only emphasizes their impotence. This brings with it a special kind of frustration, but in these difficult times there is a value to the amusement created by activists furiously demanding the immediate resignation of the prime minister. They have been swinging and missing for years now, and are now flailing at phantoms. No sane Israeli wants Netanyahu to resign in the middle of a war, but he cannot politically survive this security fiasco; he will not remain Prime Minister after this war.
True hate. True love. And the limbo between. When love walks out:
Both of these songs have an upbeat ending. “Well they’re putting up resistance but I know that my faith will lead me on.” A Caribbean version of the Israeli national anthem, HaTikva (The Hope). The second song ends with a reverse theme: “When love walks in, the blues walk out,” signifying the rebirth of a jilted lover. This can be Netanyahu in retirement, writing with his truly deep understanding of strategic matters of the world, no longer a political entity.
Burning love and burning hate knocks one out of kilt. Like passing too close to a black hole where time and space are warped by the intense gravitational pull, intense love and intense hate warp our view of the world, and warp our actions; one for the Good, the other for Evil.
“Abraham awoke early in the morning and saddled his donkey; he took his two young men with him, and Isaac his son; he chopped wood for the burnt offering, arose, and went to the place that God told him” (Genesis 22:3).
“Abraham awoke early in the morning and saddled his donkey” – Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai said: Love upsets one’s usual practice and hatred upsets one’s usual practice. Love upsets one’s usual practice, as it is written: “Abraham awoke early in the morning [and saddled his donkey]…” Did he not have several slaves [who could do this for him]? The explanation is that love upsets one’s usual practice. Hatred upsets the natural order, as it is written: “Bilam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey” (Numbers 22:21). Did he not have several slaves? The explanation is that hatred upsets one’s usual practice. Love upsets the natural order, as it is written: “Joseph harnessed his chariot, and went up toward Israel his father” (Genesis 46:29). Did Joseph not have several slaves? The explanation is that love upsets one’s usual practice. Hatred upsets the natural order, as it is written: “He [Pharaoh] harnessed his chariot” (Exodus 14:6). Did he not have several slaves? The explanation is that hatred upsets one’s usual practice.
Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai said: [God said:] ‘Let one saddling come and counteract the other saddling.’ Let the saddling that Abraham our patriarch saddled in order to go and perform the will of the Omnipresent, of Him who spoke and brought the world into being, as it is stated: “Abraham extended his hand [and took the knife to slaughter his son]” (Genesis 22:10), counteract the saddling that Bilam saddled in order to go and curse Israel. Let the harnessing that Joseph harnessed to greet his father come and counteract the harnessing of Pharaoh to go and pursue Israel.
Rabbi Yishmael taught: Let the drawn sword that Abraham our patriarch wielded, as it is stated: “Abraham extended his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son” (Genesis 22:10), counteract the drawn sword regarding which Pharaoh said: “I will draw my sword [and my hand will destroy them]” (Exodus 15:9).
The idea that the protagonists are driven by excessive love or hate to rise early and take their own initiative instead of following normal protocol can be distilled to a general observation about what motivates humanity to action. What does it take to get you to jump out of bed in the morning? Answers: Love and Hate. Maybe both. But always, always, at least a bit of one of them.
Look and see how this simple observation is playing out before our eyes. While Israel was reeling from the initial attack and organizing a response, close attention was given to our northern border with Lebanon, because that was the direction from which this type of attack was expected, by the Iranian controlled Hizballah. They have many more trained terrorists, many more rockets, and have continually threatened such an attack over the years. Why did they not join Hamas? There is no doubt that the ensuing combined attack would have wreaked havoc on Israel. Professor Mordechai Kedar offers an explanation. He said that the plan was to wait until Iran had gone nuclear, and then attack Israel on all fronts at the same time, including the Arab citizens of Israel along with the Arabs of Judah and Samaria.
From the point of view of those who hate Israel, this is nothing less than a dream scenario. From Israel’s point of view, a living nightmare. So what happened?
Hatred knocks one out of kilt. Hamas could not hold back. They are an abject failure at running the Gaza strip. They know it. Their misery-ridden population knows it; the whole world knows it. When autocratic leadership fails, blame must be deflected elsewhere. The masses need to be distracted. A nice slaughter of Jews would be just the ticket. And so it was, and because of Hamas’s inability to corral its hatred of Jews, Israel was spared a much larger conflagration.
After this war, when Israel’s enemies have been eliminated, a new, different Israel will emerge, with new leadership. It is clear that the new-found solidarity between formally antagonistic groups in Israeli society is a lasting one—there is nothing like the slaughter of Jews to unite the Jews. This new Israel will be more Jewish, and more democratic than before. This mutual embrace of the Israelis of Tel Aviv and Jews of Jerusalem will birth a social dynamic that will be unprecedented. A light will begin to show forth upon the nations.
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