Sukkot symbolizes unity, but in Israel today it feels like a distant dream

Opinion: Currently, each person sits in their own sukkah and Israel seems more divided than ever; all we can hope is that by next Sukkot we will grow, elevate ourselves, and remember that we are one nation, even if we have different political opinions

Arye Erlich|
In Israel, there are no true leaders. Instead, there are politicians who are either elected or self-appointed, and none of them possess the fundamental quality required of a leader: the ability to see beyond the current expediency and the prevailing Twitter and Facebook sentiments, and to simply say what logic and the Jewish heart demand, even if it is unpopular among the vocal base of voters.
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The hours following the colossal Jewish catastrophe that unfolded on Yom Kippur in Dizengoff Square were well-exploited by all politicians. Each one seized the opportunity to strengthen their position. None of the politicians from the center-left camp reflected genuine, unified, and true pain in the face of a prayer that erupted in a horrifying manner on the holiest and most consensus-driven day in Israeli society.
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 Itamar Ben-Gvir and Benjamin Netanyahu
 Itamar Ben-Gvir and Benjamin Netanyahu
Itamar Ben-Gvir and Benjamin Netanyahu
(Photo: Dana Kopel, Reuters, Dani Kotz)
It was particularly disappointing to find that in the center-left camp, not one politician – neither Benny Gantz nor Yair Lapid, and certainly not the others – knew how to rise above political gain and express genuine shock. Even those leading the protest movements hesitated initially, only to quickly backtrack once they realized the public sentiment in the polls. Even then, they hurried to exploit their previous hesitation, as the anger within the protest groups cast them as disingenuous.
Throughout Israel's history, Jews were never expelled from Yom Kippur prayer. Such events occurred at various times and places in history and are etched in our collective memory as historical traumas. To prevent their recurrence, a unique Jewish state was established. If a similar event were to happen in Berlin or Buenos Aires it would draw international outrage. But in the Jewish state, under the guise of political correctness, all boundaries can be crossed, and no one seems to care.
Here is a statement that transcends political affiliation: My friends on the right, you should know that it's not just the left. The majority of the Jewish people respect the tradition of prayer in synagogues, including the custom of gender segregation practiced in Orthodox synagogues. Most of the Jewish people deeply revere the Yom Kippur prayers. Most of the left certainly knows what it means to be Jewish. A radical minority acted in a reprehensible manner and wounded the hearts of us all.
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ברכת הכוהנים בכותל
ברכת הכוהנים בכותל
Sukkot prayer in Jerusalem
(Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
These destructive acts were carried out in the name of some imaginary contract that was opened, and according to their actions, its opening allowed them to trample upon every Jewish or human value. Thus, on the last holiday, we were exposed to a group of men over the age of 50 who, in the name of a supposed liberal struggle, decided to physically intimidate young Haredi girls who came to watch a movie in Jerusalem, adhering to their faith.
When you disrupt a prayer on Yom Kippur or any regular day, when you harass Haredi girls, when you dismantle a tefillin stand, when you bomb a television broadcast from a sukkah, and when you mockingly berate a Knesset member who wears a sheitel, or wig – you are not challenging those who adhere to the commandments, with whom you may have disagreements. You are challenging yourselves, your heritage, the place you come from and the central foundation of the Jewish state.
None of us owns Jewish heritage, but those who love their heritage do not belittle it. Those who respect their tradition do not mock its practitioners or disrupt their prayers. In the absence of worthy leaders, it is time for all of us, as different segments of the nation, to understand this: There are things that should remain outside the boundaries of protest.
Sukkot is meant to symbolize unity. This year, to our great sorrow, the value of unity seems like a distant dream. Every person has their own sukkah, and Israel appears more divided than ever. It has reached a point where even brothers no longer share the same text. Let us hope that by the next Sukkot, we will grow, ascend and remember that, before politics, we are one nation.
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