Polarization is not new - ask Rabin and Gedaliah

As we approach the Nov 3rd Presidential elections, many of us are concerned with the polarization that seems to have taken over our society, and for good reasons...

Political polarization is not a new phenomenon. It has been around as long as governments. In Jewish history we have some lessons of where polarization can lead... 

Lesson 1: After the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians, Nebuchadnezzar II appointed Gedaliah ben Ahikam as governor of the province of Yahud (Judah). He managed to revitalize the province, attract back many of those who had fled into exile before the advance of the Babylonians and to restore the economy of Judah. Five years into his mandate, he was visited by a delegation of returning Jews headed by Ishmael ben Netaniah. The members of the delegation murdered Gedaliah. Many Jews left Judah after the assassination in fear of Babylonian reprisals.

Lesson 2: During the siege of Jerusalem in the year 70, multiple factions existed inside Jerusalem - many of them rabidly opposed to others. According to Josephus Flavius, Jews were in fact spending more efforts fighting each other than resisting the Romans. These internal divisions facilitated the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple.

Lesson 3: On November 5, 1995 (11 Heshvan 5756), during a rally supporting Rabin's policies for a negotiated peace with the Palestinians, a Yeshivah student (Yigal Amir) killed the Prime Minister of Israel and destabilize the Israeli government. The scar left in Israeli society after a Jew killed the Prime Minister of Israel is still fresh. The assassination followed verbal attacks by those opposed to Rabin, including the New Sanhedrin who designated him "Rodef Shalom" and the characterization of Rabin as a Nazi during rallies of the Likkud opposition party.

So as Jews we know that words and actions have consequences, and polarization leads to violence and weakens society. Whoever you choose on November 3rd, remember the lessons of our History and understand that if your candidate loses, it is part of the Democratic contest. After the election is over the winner will become the President of all Americans, not just those who voted for him.

Democracy is NOT a Zero Sum game; it is a fair and free system to ensure that the State remains a social space for the negotiation of differences...



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