May 29, 2024
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May 29, 2024
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I will not easily forget my recent trip to Israel. The magical experience of being in Israel is only part of that. What I will remember most is a confluence of events and conversations that caused me to contemplate the current situation in the Jewish State in a very meaningful and substantive way.

It began on the flight from New York to Tel Aviv. Prior to taking off, the pilot informed us that we would probably experience some degree of turbulence during our journey because of the weather. I’ve been caught on many turbulent flights, but the turbulence we encountered on that flight was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. For more than half an hour, the plane rocked back and forth and bounced up and down. The severity of the turbulence had me, as well as my fellow passengers, wondering if we would make it to Israel in one piece. One woman seated behind us wondered aloud if she would ever see her children—who were not traveling with her—again. It was a harrowing experience.

Once we landed safely, I realized that that kind of turbulence was especially appropriate on this trip to Israel because Israel is presently experiencing her own version of turbulence and is on an extraordinarily bumpy ride. With the tension between the various religious camps and the secular community at fever pitch, Israel is on the precipice of sociological calamity. There are distinct differences of opinion on an array of issues, including army service for those in the haredi world and the role that religious life should play in Israeli society.

My wife and I were pleasantly surprised when our daughter, who is currently in school in Israel, met us at Ben-Gurion Airport unannounced. Together, we took a taxi from the airport to Jerusalem. During our journey, the taxi driver, Eli, engaged me in conversation—in Hebrew. Our dialogue quickly morphed into a deep philosophical and sociological discussion, putting my linguistic skills and conversational Hebrew to an early test.

Eli is a secular Jew who goes to shul twice a year—on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He is also a very proud Israeli. He served in the Israel Defense Forces and continued his military service in the army reserves. As we drove along Highway 443 and passed a number of Palestinian villages, he spoke of our Arab neighbors with great disdain.

Despite his lack of connectivity to religious life, Eli told me that the most important thing to him is Jewish identity. He wears his Jewish identity on his sleeve and noted the Jewish pride which manifests itself in everything that he does. We said our good-byes in Jerusalem, and spent our first Shabbat in Efrat.

Chofni, the taxi driver who drove us to Tel Aviv from Efrat, is an observant Jew. While he has never been to the United States, he told us he has visited Italy, England, and Germany, though he did not truly enjoy those countries because he was concerned about antisemitism and never felt at ease there. Chofni declared he only feels comfortable in Israel.

As we drove through the winding hills, Chofni pointed out the majestic beauty of the land and the spectacular scenery. He told me that the more people come to Israel, the better off Israel and the Jewish people will be. “Eretz Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael, and Am Yisrael belongs in Eretz Yisrael,”Chofni proclaimed.

After the deep discussions with our drivers and spending some time observing interactions between Israelis hailing from varying points on the religious spectrum, I realized the turbulence Israel is experiencing is self-inflicted and certainly avoidable.

My two drivers, one secular and one religious, may have different perspectives, yet there is a commonality that ties them together. There is a deep love of Israel that transcends any ideological divides. The gratitude they feel for having the privilege of living in a Jewish State that they proudly call home is genuine. The appreciation they have for the Land of Israel and all of its natural beauty and historical and cultural significance is heartfelt. They are two people with divergent backgrounds who share an unbreakable bond, namely, their love of Israel.

As Israel continues on its turbulent journey, we ought to spend more time figuring out how to repair the potholes on that bumpy road so we can have a smooth ride. Israelis [and all Jewish people] must stop highlighting the disparities between them and focus on the one unifying factor that can help them rise above their differences: their appreciation of the Jewish State. While Israel may mean different things to different people, there is no denying the fact that it is the Jewish homeland for all Jews, irrespective of one’s religious beliefs or background.

Yes, army service requirements and religious doctrines are important issues that merit a healthy debate. However, we cannot allow disagreements over these issues to tear at the fabric of Israeli society and cause a rift that further exacerbates an already tenuous situation. People need to take a step back and stop fighting amongst themselves in order to focus on the things that unite us, not divide us. As we Jews fight a needless and senseless internal battle, our enemies on the outside view the infighting as a sign of weakness and it emboldens them.

By shifting the focus to the love and appreciation of Israel that virtually all of us feel, perhaps we can help stop the turbulence and enable the Jewish State to move forward smoothly.

N. Aaron Troodler is an attorney and a principal of Paul Revere Public Relations, a public relations and political consulting firm. Visit him on the Web at TroodlersTake.blogspot.com, www.PaulReverePR.com, or www.JewishWorldPR.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @troodler

By N. Aaron Troodler, Esq.

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