Membership in the Jewish People

A major consideration in forging a peace between Israel and the Palestinians is the relationship between the diaspora of each of the nations to their respective homelands. In the case of the Palestinians, the relationship is best captured in a discussion of the right of return of refugees. In the case of Israel, the relationship is best analyzed in understanding the implications of Zionism, the movement for self-determination of the Jewish people. Once a State of Israel came into being, did the relationship of the diaspora, of tfutza, or the exile, galut,change beyond giving diaspora Jews the right to make aliyah, to migrate to Israel?

The first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, and Jacob Blaustein, the president of the American Jewish Committee at the time the state was declared, both understood that this was an issue and debated its interpretation and significance. The latest issue of the Israel Studies journal (25:3) took up that debate. Blaustein and Ben-Gurion opposed versions of Zionism that did not envision aliyah, immigration to Israel, as the ultimate goal of every Jew. They envisioned the eventual dissolution of the diaspora. Clearly this goes far beyond that of the relationship of members of the Palestinian diaspora insisting on a right of return, for refugees only, to their original homes, or, at the very least, to their homeland. However, in Ben-Gurion’s and Blaustein’s view, although return is an obligation and not just a right, nevertheless Ben-Gurion accepted that American Jews owed, as a primary duty, allegiance to the United States so that migration to Israel, though a moral obligation, was one determined by a decision of the individual.

Jews had a hierarchy of obligations. At the peak, they were responsible for being witnesses and advancing the redemption of all of humanity. Each Jew was then also responsible for the redemption of the whole of the Jewish people. Third, they have a moral and political obligation as citizens of the state in which they live both in the sense of loyalty to the state as a whole over and above personal ideologies and interests, and in the sense of national patriotism to the American nation as the prime example of a diaspora state. The second and third potentially could be at odds if the mamlachtiyut, loyalty to the state of an individual Jew, is divided.  Finally, each Jew had a moral obligation to his or herself to offer oneself, to sacrifice, to engage in halutziyut (pioneering) to forge a better world, to enhance the Jewish people, and to advance the Jewish and/or home state.

Others went even further and made a claim for primary loyalty for the Jewish heart. The Israeli poet, Natan Alterrman, in the year of my birth (1938) penned the poem, “On the Highroad.”

There’s a tinkling in the pasture and a whistling
And the field lies in gold till evening.
A hush of green wells,
My wide open spaces and a road.

The trees risen from the dew
Gleam like glass and metal.
I shall never stop looking, I shall never stop breathing
And I shall die and will keep going.

Even beyond the grave, Jews must use all their energy to advance the lofty vision of Israel. That duty and identification goes well beyond offering “material and moral support, warm-hearted and practical idealism.” The other side of the coin of his 1938 poem is one he wrote almost ten years later, after the partition resolution was passed by the UN in November of 1947, “The Silver Platter,” (מגש הכסף‎ magásh ha-késef). Chaim Weizmann had said that, “No state is ever handed on a silver platter… The partition plan does not give the Jews but an opportunity”. The Jewish People are waiting to receive the Jewish state, as the Israelites were waiting to receive the Torah at the foot of Mount Sinai,  they see two youths, a boy and a girl, wounded and near dead with exhaustion. When asked, “Who are you?” they reply, “We are the silver platter on which the state of the Jews was handed to you.”

The Silver Platter Natan Alterman And the land grows still, the red eye of the sky  slowly dimming over smoking frontiers

As the nation arises, Torn at heart but breathing, To receive its miracle, the only miracle

As the ceremony draws near,  it will rise, standing erect in the moonlight in terror and joy

When across from it will step out a youth and a lass and slowly march toward the nation

Dressed in battle gear, dirty, Shoes heavy with grime, they ascend the path quietly

To change garb, to wipe their brow
They have not yet found time. Still bone weary from days and from nights in the field

Full of endless fatigue and unrested,
Yet the dew of their youth. Is still seen on their head Thus they stand at attention, giving no sign of life or death 

Then a nation in tears and amazement
will ask: “Who are you?” And they will answer quietly, “We Are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given.”

Thus they will say and fall back in shadows
And the rest will be told In the chronicles of Israel

That is what is expected of the pioneers – blood, sweat and tears. And that is what the youth gave in the War of Independence.

That is the case even when diaspora Jews who are non-Zionists, owe a primary fealty to the state where they are citizens. When Ben-Gurion openly aligned with the non-Zionist American Jewish Committee (AJC), he adopted a pragmatic ideological opposition to imposing the obligations of Zionism on all Jews in the diaspora that on the surface seemed at odds with his belief in Israel as both a nation state and as a Jewish state acting on behalf of Jewry as a collectivity. This did not mean that Jews in the diaspora could not or should not act on behalf of Israel’s foreign policy, as, for example, on Iran. Ben Gurion favoured a strategic alliance with diaspora Jews oven at the risk of ideological capitulation.

In an address to the Herzliya Conference (1/24/2007), Prime Minister Ehud Olmert argued for support of diaspora Jews in tracking Iran’s intentions, increasing international awareness of the threat Iran posed to Israel and mobilizing international support on behalf of Israel. Thus, although diaspora Jews owed a primary obligation of fealty to their home state, they also carried a burden of advancing Israeli foreign policy, particularly in the face of any existential threat, especially from Iranian development of nuclear weapons and support for terrorism.

Rwanda – Ethnic War, Refugees and Repatriation

Rwanda is a densely populated small state in the Great Lakes region of Africa where it meets East Africa in the Great Rift Valley. Because of the elevation, the climate is more temperate than tropical. Rwanda became known around the world in 1994 when, at the end of a civil war between Tutsi and Hutu, the Akazu Hutus led a genocide that murdered 800,000 Tutsi ad moderate Hutu in 10 weeks. Where Israel/Palestine has a population of about 12 million, half Jews and half Palestinian, Rwanda has a slightly larger population of 12.5 million. The land size is just over 12,000 square km., about twice the size of the Palestinian territories; the combined Israeli-Palestine territory is slightly over 20,000 sq. km.

Rwanda is also akin to the Israel/Palestine in its experience of decades of civil strife between ethnic groups, in this case between Hutu and Tutsi. There are two major differences, however. The two ethnic groups speak the same language, Kinyarwanda, have the same cultural practices and are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. In contrast, the Palestinians and Israelis speak different languages, Arabic and Hebrew, have very different cultural practices, and belong to two different religions – largely Muslim with some Christians on one side and members of the Jewish faith on the other. The main difference is in the proportions of the two groups. Hutus constitute 85% of the population while Tutsis are 14%. Yet since 1994 and before 1969, Tutsis dominated the political realm even though, since the military victory of the Tutsi-led invasion or return and the end of the genocide, Rwanda has advertised itself as consisting of a single national group , a unitary state.

In the 35-year interregnum when the Hutu rose from a subjugated group to rulers between 1959-61 and 1994, the Tutsi were persecuted. In the civil war which overthrew the Tutsi monarchy in 1959, 550,00 Tutsis were forced to flee the country over the next two years, mainly into Uganda (200,000) and Burundi (245,000). The Tutsi in exile demanded a right of return but were denied. About half of them supported the use of violence as a means of return, but a serious defeat in 1963 ended that effort for 27 years until a Tutsi led army, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), invaded from Uganda.

The victory of that RPF followed the genocide of 800,000 domestic Tutsi and moderate Hutu. It was followed by the exodus of over 2,000,000 Hutu refugees (the figure is usually grossly exaggerated) who mainly fled into the Congo. They did not demand to return. In fact, they were kept from making any such demands by the defeated Hutu Rwandan army that induced or forced many to flee. They only returned two years after the end of the war when the new Tutsi dominated army invaded Uganda in reprisal for guerilla attacks and decimated the remaining old army. Hutu refugees then voluntarily or under pressure marched back into Rwanda.

Thus, in both movements, the Tutsi return in 1994 and the Hutu return in 1996, there was no return as a matter of right but a return under force of arms. The new Rwandan government had set out on a policy of forging a single predominant nationality and leaving the Hutu/Tutsi divide in the ashes of history. Further, one cannot find a case of refugee return as a matter of right but only when accompanied by a victorious army.  (Cf. Howard Adelman and Elazar Barkan No Return, No Refuge: Rites and Rights in Minority Repatriation) How can there be rights with no instances of those rights?

Whether refugees return by right or under force of arms, there remains both the issue of restitution and reintegration. Given the goal of replacing the Hutu/Tutsi divide with a common citizenship and primary identity, how is that achieved. Rwanda set up ingando camps, really reeducation and indoctrination centres to alter the way Hutus had been taught to view Tutsis. While in the camps, the returned refugees wear military uniforms of the Rwandan army, live together and participate in shared activities. The government calls them solidarity camps engaged in civic education to facilitate reintegration. Among the very wide variety attending such camps, those that interest us include ‘old caseload’ and ‘new caseload’ returnees, ex-FAR soldiers and demobilised rebels (adult and youth ex-combatants), but also provisionally-released prisoners and those serving ‘alternative sentences.’

Andrea Purdekova from Oxford University in her 2008 article, “Repatriation and reconciliation in divided societies: the case of Rwanda’s ‘ingando’,” and in her 2011 Refworld article, Rwanda’s Ingando camps: “Liminality and the reproduction of power,” described the purpose of the camps initially as raising awareness of being a Rwandan (rather than a Tutsi or Hutu) and reinforcing solidarity through self-help. The re-education programs also took on the provision fo military training as a mode of politicization of the diaspora experience and transforming it into a new nationalism.

Can one imagine Palestinians attending an IDF-run reeducation camp intended to inculcate an Israeli identity in Palestinians, or PLO-run camps in which Israelis are persuaded to adopt a Palestinian identity, all in the promotion of one version of a unitary state or another? The promoters of the one state solution do not envision such a project. Jewish Israelis do not expect Palestinians to identify fully with the state and Palestinian promoters of one Palestinian identity for Jews and Palestinians do not go as far as envisioning Jews in the settlements and in Israel attending such reeducation centres.

Yet without a strategy of consolidation of a uniform identity (inspired by Maoist principles), no construction of a unitary state will succeed in which Palestinians and Jewish Israelis will enjoy equal citizenship. The dreams of Peter Beinart, or Salem Barahmeh, Amjad Iraqi and Dr. Yara Howari from an opposite angle, will remain fantasies. Can you envision Howari indoctrinating Jewish Israelis into the conviction that Zionism all along was a colonialist enterprise and that it is incumbent on those Jews who want to remain and live in Palestine to identify as Palestinians? Even more than that, the culture of the camps accent discipline and respect of authority. For Israelis? The proposers of the unitary state do not even stretch their imaginations into a government-employed strategy of social re-engineering that would be required on a large scale.

Even with all the experience and thought given to re-education, the activities of an ingando are known to be fraught with suspicion and distrust even when the focus is on the next generation. Parents feared their children would be killed. The primary challenge of a re-educator is to overcome that fear in order to “open the reality of the country,” build confidence among people, and, most importantly, build a sense of national unity. Further, in spite of the rhetoric of such lofty goals, the real underlying purpose is to clean minds, detoxify them and substitute a new way of perceiving things. Old beliefs and previous ideologies must be erased and minds reoriented and “sensitized.” Without such a process, creating a unified identity is viewed as impossible. The view is that, unlike Israel, one needs a consensus to build a nation – and that is clearly articulated in the views of the Palestinian opinion leaders I featured. The PLO needed to speak with a single voice. The question is how a democracy and respect for multiple viewpoints can be erected upon such a foundation of re-education and the desire for a unified vision.

The Israeli culture encourages debate and difference as indicated by the dissidents I have highlighted. Bringing citizens into “accord” and stressing that “convergence is unity” would seem to be anathema to the Israeli spirit. The idea that one needs consensus to build a nation is inherently not a democratic foundation. Yet how else can one bring such different cultures that so distrust one another into sharing a common citizenship, the same ideas about history and, in the Palestinian vision, a common national identity? In fact, such ideological brainwashing encourages a repressed distrust even as it is advertised as getting to sort out differences and “see things the same way.” Instead of ethnic cleansing at one extreme, you have mental cleansing at the other end of the spectrum.

All this is just to say that neither Peter Beinart at one end of the unitary state thesis and Palestinians at the other end have thought out the implications of what they are recommending as a movement towards a unitary state. The Rwandans learned that a government of unity promoting a single overarching nationality requires abandoning certain attitudes and beliefs, creating a convergence of knowledge and opinion, and adoption of consensus on key topics such as history and government policy. Such an effort is incompatible with democracy. Yet the two-state solution seems to be dead-ended. A confederate state would simply institutionalize the distrust between the two peoples.

What then – simply accept that nothing can be done to advance a reconciliation agenda? I suggest that a program does suggest itself, one that does not try to sort out the polity for each group or the geographical boundaries of each nation’s state but recognizing that Israel is already a binational state and making it work. Launch a program to ensure that all Israeli citizens genuinely and more fully have equal rights. There should be no excuse for second class citizenship. Encourage Palestinians to develop their own communal sense of a national identity with the requisite instruments to advance such identification while remaining loyal to the Israeli state.

Further, instead of moving towards an Israeli identity for Jews, move to strengthen their Jewish identity both in Israel and the diaspora. That would mean making knowledge of Hebrew an expectation for all Jews. That would mean ensuring that Jews share a broad sense of their own historical literature and the route the Jewish nation has traveled over the centuries. That would mean strengthening much further the identification of all Jews with a state of Israel, a country in which they can feel unbridled pride.

Finally, it would mean respecting and treating with dignity Palestinians who are not citizens even as one tried to ensure one’s own nation’s security.

A stronger democracy, not a weaker one. A stronger Jewish nationalism, not a weaker one. And a stronger respect and recognition for the collective and individual rights of others who are not citizens of your own state. Be a better citizen of the world and allow time to find a path out of the political dead end of the present.

The One State Delusion and the Confederated State Dream

There are significant “progressive” voices both in the Jewish camp and in the Palestinian camp now pushing for a one-state solution. Much of the push admittedly comes from the failure of all efforts to bring about a two-state solution. This is also true of Jews in the diaspora and a majority of Jewish Israelis who will not cross over and opt for one state. A small part of the reason is that the dominant faction supporting a single state among Israelis consists of right-wing greater Israel advocates who want a Jewish controlled polity over all of post-1922 Mandate Palestine.

The irony, of course, is that left-wing progressives in the Palestinian camp have the same vision, but in an inverted dress. It will be a Palestinian state amongst which individual Jews will live with full protection for their individual human rights. They will have no collective rights. Jewish nationalism or Zionism will be attacked as a colonial enterprise from the beginning, deliberately developed to assault Palestinian self-determination or indigenous nationalism.

Yet there is and always has been a Jewish voice upholding the vision of a unitary state in all of Palestine, but neither a Jewish nor an Arab Palestinian one. Rather, it will be a bi-national state or a confederation of two peoples. The Foundation for Middle East Peace convened a webinar of those it called, “Jewish Israeli Thought Leaders,” two of whom were open advocates of a confederation, a third focused simply on the repatriation of Palestinian refugees and a fourth, an active member of the Arab List who argued for Mizrachim identification with their Middle Eastern, mostly Arabic, roots.

The very positions they take indicate that they are indeed Jewish and Israeli thinkers but not leaders given the paucity of their followers in the Jewish-Israeli community. For example, Orly Noy, the last of the four listed above, is a member of B’Tselem’s executive board, translates Farsi poetry and prose and, most significantly, is an activist on the Balad Party, the Palestinian Israeli party that promotes Israel as a state for all its citizen. However, she advanced a very marginal position. She put forth a thesis about restructuring Mizrachi identity in Israel in favour of restoring their Arab identity. Yet she admitted that only 1% of Mizrachim support her position. She is a public intellectual but a lone voice as editor of Local Call.

Balad promotes a two-state solution, though she supports a one-state solution, but definitely not the one-state solution preferred by the Israeli right. That version, she claims, is intended to protect the colonial privileges of the Ashkenazim. “Since 1967, billions of dollars have been spent to impose this ‘two-state solution’ on the Palestinian people – which, it is important to point out, is only a solution to the Zionist failure to successfully colonise the whole country.”

Her basic narrative is that the Ashkenazim imported Mizrachi (the 850,000 were evidently not forced to flee Arab countries and even Iran), but looked down upon them. Likud, in contrast to the Labour Party, embraced the narrative of Mizrachi as “savages.” This offered the Mizrachi the opportunity to rise to the middle class in the settlements, which correlated with a condescension and distancing from the Palestinians below them. Thus, they were provided with ideological, economic and psychological supports for joining the colonial enterprise.

Don’t Mizrachi have equal rights with Israelis of Ashkenazi background? What about the Mizrachi who are prominent in government, the media, academia, culture, business, sports, religion and the military? Three Israeli presidents – Yitzhak Navon, Moshe Katsav and current president Reuven Rivlin are Mizrachi Jews. Many Mizrachi have served as Chiefs of Staff of the ID, supposedly confounding her claim that the Ashkenazim send the Mizrachi officers to do the dirty work in the West Bank. Orly admits all of this, but really offers a narrative of cooption in what is, for her, fundamentally a colonial enterprise.

Rachel Beitarie, Executive Director of Zochrot (“remembering” in Hebrew), has been a feminist and human rights advocate but her recent work has been focused on Palestinian refugees, their right of return and right to restitution. Zochrot has run a series of international conferences on the return of Palestinian refugees in 2008, 2013 and 2016. The conferences were not about whether Palestinians had a right to return. That was accepted as a given. The meetings were about promoting return and envisioning rehabilitation as part of a movement to promote Palestinians and Jews living side-by-side in a democratic an egalitarian society. As a first step, Jewish Israelis have to acknowledge the Nakba, recognize their responsibility and willingness to be held accountable for what happened.

Rachel claimed success in that Nakba is now part of Israeli political discourse but admits that broad acknowledgement of responsibility is still lacking. Why? Because Israel is a colonial state which still adheres to colonial concepts and practices. Peace requires decolonization as a prerequisite. She envisions an equal and joint Palestinian-Jewish society.

However, successive Israeli governments have denied any responsibility for the Palestinian refugees while Palestinians interpret the UN resolutions as conferring on those refugees a “right of return.” Israeli rejection of responsibility is based on its own interpretation of those UN resolutions, demographic, security philosophical and ideological concerns, the latter including the belief that Israel is a nation state for Jews and that the return of the refugees will distort that Jewish identity.

A workshop on “Israeli Perspectives on the Refugee Issue” held in Cyprus on 5-6 March 2014 confirmed an overwhelming consensus in Israel rejecting any right of return to Israel, a view that hardened further after the second intifada between 2000 and 2005, though, since the publication of Benny Morris’ studies, Israelis have increasingly acknowledged some degree of responsibility for the refugees while continuing the claim that the major parties responsible are the Arab countries that invaded the nascent state. In any case, the 720,000 refugees who fled were offset by the 850,000 Mizrachi Jews forced out of their homes in the Middle East.  A minority argued for very limited family reunification on humanitarian grounds.

While Orly was admittedly a lone voice in the wilderness for her views and Rachel expressed the views of only a tiny minority of Israeli Jews, support for a confederation was wider and deeper but still only included a smally minority of Israeli Jews. Meron Papoport of “A Land for All” and Dr. Dahila Scheindlin, who argued for a confederal solution, did not seem to base their opinions on a narrative of past colonizing but more on the practicality of confederation for the future given the inadequacies of either a one-state or a traditional two-state solution.

Meron Rapoport, an Israeli journalist, initiated a dialogue with Palestinian activist, and journalist Awni Al-Mashni. Together they initiated a movement to promote a confederation of two states, a Palestinian and an Israeli one which would be based on democratic principles applicable to all as well as freedom of movement in all of what was mandatory Palestine. What is proposed is not a binational state, but two nation states coming together in a confederation. In that way, both nations would have a homeland and could share a capital in Jerusalem while together ensuring security for both groups.

In a confederation, the member states remain sovereign while cooperating on security and economic development, both very difficult issues given past history and the huge discrepancy in GDP between Israel and Palestine. Though there are various degrees of cross relationships  and the distribution of powers, the polity is neither an international alliance, on the one hand, nor a federal system on the other hand with the main citizenship granted by the federal state. In a confederation, the equivalent of the federal authority remains weak. Its decisions generally require confirmation by each of the sovereign states that belong to the confederacy.

Nevertheless, as attractive as its proffered solution is in the abstract and in the face of the dead end that the two-state solution has encountered, (the number of Jews supporting a two-state solution dropped to a low of 43% in July of 2018), a confederal proposal has attracted supporters only in the thousands and not even the tens of thousands.  In contrast to Rachel’s position, Palestinian refugees would only have a right of return to a Palestinian state. Settlers would have residency rights but not citizenship in the Palestinian state, while Palestinian Israelis would continue to keep their Israeli citizenship. The plan is more in keeping with facts on the ground and has a joint vision in contrast to the one-state solution which has three radically different interpretations.

As Dr. Dahlia Scheindin argued, two peoples would both preserve their national identity and have a state of their own. Neither Meron nor Dahlia dealt with the historic difficulties investigations, such as the Peel Commission in 1937, encountered that turned the investigators against a confederation model. That idea was in central contention in the proceedings of the United Nations Special Committee of Palestine (UNSCOP) in 1947 but UNSCOP ended up with a clear majority recommending partition. Though Meron mentioned Belgium as a positive precedent, he ignored the reality that Belgium was without a government for almost two years because of disputes between the two ethnic groups. Further, they never had a history of warring against each other for almost a hundred years. Finally, Belgium had the advantage of being a bi-national state rather than a confederation.

Neither Meron nor Dahlia speculated on whether the confederal model would be expected to evolve into a federal system within a single state as happened with Switzerland, the United States and Germany. Though the proposal took greater account of facts on the ground, it seemed not to be well thought out in terms of historical precedents and discussions, current models in operation and a realistic appraisal of future challenges and prospects.

Clearly, there are a number of voices promoting recognition for the other, equality and security for all in various iterations of a polity, but they seem to be based in most instances on abstract ethical principles rather than in the concrete experiences in history and contemporary politics. In any case, only Orly’s vision of a unitary state, at odds with her own Palestinian Israeli party, overlapped with the promoters of a Palestinian unitary state by Palestinian intellectuals on the webinar of the Middle East Policy Forum the previous week.

I would suggest a grounding in reality. The concrete experience of civil war resulting from conflicting identities and interests that results in refugees followed by repatriation and reconciliation might help. An examination of the case of Rwanda might have some lessons for the Israel-Palestine conflict much more than examples such as Northern Ireland.

The Rule of Law as a Necessary Condition of Jewish Existence

Deuteronomy Va-et’chanan; Chapter 4

The rule of law is rooted in ethics, whether it is the commandment to love another as oneself and show mercy to those in need, or Rabbi Hillel’s terse summation: “What is hateful to you, do not do unto others. The rest is commentary, go and learn.” But that is not how the parashat begins. You are commanded to obey the law in order to enter and occupy the Promised Land. Not for moral reasons but for political advantage and self-interest. Further, your survival depends not on ethical behaviour but on fealty to God and disdain of idolatry. (4:2-4) There is a third self-interested reason. Israelites should obey the law so that they may offer witness of their wisdom and discernment to the people of other nations.

Obey the law for political success as occupiers – occupation is not a dirty word – to survive as a nation and to serve as a witness to other nations of your ability to rule wisely and fairly. There are major conditions to be able to do this. First, observe carefully. “Take the utmost care and watch yourself scrupulously so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes and so they do not fade from your mind as long as you live.” (Deuteronomy 4:9) Observe; do not manage your affairs based on wishful thinking or fantasy. Second, remember. Learn from what you see. There are lessons from experience that must be translated into memory. Memory is not myth. Memory is a living reality. Memory is the miracle that fosters renewal and rededication. Third, these lessons must be passed on to your children. Education is critical.

These are the three ethical and the three instrumental lessons of the enlightenment passed on at Mount Horeb.

The foundation for transferring those substantive and methodological foundation conditions is listening. Listening is a prologomena to even observing. Attend to the divine voice of the spirit as it unfolds and reveals itself in history. (4:10-14) That is the opposite of idolatry. That is the opposite of any effort to reify the divine spirit of revelation.

But are the ten commandments not cast in stone. Yes, but these are words of understanding articulated as norms. The are not the reification of a being. They are exemplifications of the rule of law and not the rule of an entity, whether man or beast. Submit yourself to the rule of law and the divine word and never to ephemeral apparitions frozen in concrete. Do not get sucked in by politicians who would sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. They are hustlers and charlatans. For if you surrender to such a reified image you will either face extermination or be cast out of the Promised Land. That will be the day of Tish B’Av.  

לב  כִּי שְׁאַל-נָא לְיָמִים רִאשֹׁנִים אֲשֶׁר-הָיוּ לְפָנֶיךָ, לְמִן-הַיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אָדָם עַל-הָאָרֶץ, וּלְמִקְצֵה הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְעַד-קְצֵה הַשָּׁמָיִם:  הֲנִהְיָה, כַּדָּבָר הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה, אוֹ, הֲנִשְׁמַע כָּמֹהוּ.32 For ask now of the days past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one end of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?
לג  הֲשָׁמַע עָם קוֹל אֱלֹהִים מְדַבֵּר מִתּוֹךְ-הָאֵשׁ, כַּאֲשֶׁר-שָׁמַעְתָּ אַתָּה–וַיֶּחִי.33 Did ever a people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?
לד  אוֹ הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים, לָבוֹא לָקַחַת לוֹ גוֹי מִקֶּרֶב גּוֹי, בְּמַסֹּת בְּאֹתֹת וּבְמוֹפְתִים וּבְמִלְחָמָה וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה, וּבְמוֹרָאִים גְּדֹלִים:  כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לָכֶם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, בְּמִצְרַיִם–לְעֵינֶיךָ.34 Or hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before thine eyes?
לה  אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ לָדַעַת, כִּי יְהוָה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים:  אֵין עוֹד, מִלְּבַדּוֹ.35 Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightest know that the LORD, He is God; there is none else beside Him.
לו  מִן-הַשָּׁמַיִם הִשְׁמִיעֲךָ אֶת-קֹלוֹ, לְיַסְּרֶךָּ; וְעַל-הָאָרֶץ, הֶרְאֲךָ אֶת-אִשּׁוֹ הַגְּדוֹלָה, וּדְבָרָיו שָׁמַעְתָּ, מִתּוֹךְ הָאֵשׁ.36 Out of heaven He made thee to hear His voice, that He might instruct thee; and upon earth He made thee to see His great fire; and thou didst hear His words out of the midst of the fire.
לז  וְתַחַת, כִּי אָהַב אֶת-אֲבֹתֶיךָ, וַיִּבְחַר בְּזַרְעוֹ, אַחֲרָיו; וַיּוֹצִאֲךָ בְּפָנָיו בְּכֹחוֹ הַגָּדֹל, מִמִּצְרָיִם.37 And because He loved thy fathers, and chose their seed after them, and brought thee out with His presence, with His great power, out of Egypt,
לח  לְהוֹרִישׁ, גּוֹיִם גְּדֹלִים וַעֲצֻמִים מִמְּךָ–מִפָּנֶיךָ; לַהֲבִיאֲךָ, לָתֶת-לְךָ אֶת-אַרְצָם נַחֲלָה–כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה.38 to drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day;
לט  וְיָדַעְתָּ הַיּוֹם, וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ אֶל-לְבָבֶךָ, כִּי יְהוָה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים, בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וְעַל-הָאָרֶץ מִתָּחַת:  אֵין, עוֹד.39 know this day, and lay it to thy heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else.
מ  וְשָׁמַרְתָּ אֶת-חֻקָּיו וְאֶת-מִצְוֺתָיו, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם, אֲשֶׁר יִיטַב לְךָ, וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ–וּלְמַעַן תַּאֲרִיךְ יָמִים עַל-הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ כָּל-הַיָּמִים.  {פ}40 And thou shalt keep His statutes, and His commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever. {P}

Redemption will always remain a possibility. The people merely need – well not merely, but rather with strength and conviction – to return to the spirit of Egypt when the nation first learned to submit to the will of a revealing divine spirit. We must always act as if we were slaves in Egypt escaping from the rule of a despot for a covenant to be governed by the rule of law and bondage to a higher spirit. The covenant that God made then is with us here and now.

Rabbi Irving Greenberg wrote that, “The secret of Jewish survival has been the incredible capacity of Jews to use the memory of tragedy to spur themselves to come back again and again after defeat.” Because the traditional two-state solution is now dead, or, at the very least, dead ended, does not mean that the quest for peace and reconciliation must be surrendered. Quite the opposite. We must renew our dedication, if not to find peace now, at the very least to exercise a collective responsibility not only for ourselves but for the other.

Walk the talk. Walk the path. Do not just grieve. Rebuild. Construct a polity built on the rule of law where rule is exercised with both wisdom and fairness. Show that when you rule over another, that rule will be carried out with love and respect. Do not denigrate the other. Correct and guide them as and only when necessary, but always guided by care for their well-being and their dignity. That is what it means to be holy. Be decent. Treat Palestinians as partners in creation and never as the devil incarnate. And always remember that you are part of one people responsible for such precepts articulated in the rule of law.

For countering COVID-19, isolation and separation may be prerequisites. Masking and distancing may be prerequisites. Testing and tracing may be prerequisites. However, in order to engage in such a combat, we must feel that we are all in it together, that we have a responsibility for one another. Jews must give witness to the challenge of communal responsibility that in turn requires an obligation of one Jew for another. All Jews are Israelis. And Israelis have a special responsibility to treat the Other with respect.