In an in-depth analysis of the Jewish state’s “precarious situation”—written before the COVID-19 epidemic and the country’s 2020 election, and published before a governing coalition was formed—Elliot Jager examines a wide variety of dangers: a powerful and aggressive Iran, a seeming bipartisan U.S. commitment to withdrawal from the Middle East, growing anti-Israel sentiment on the American left, and an increasingly apathetic Diaspora. But he is most concerned about the “corrosive tribalism and the loss of a binding ethos” among Israelis:
In biblical times, this sort of unraveling appeared after King Solomon’s death (ca. 933 BCE), with the breakup of his kingdom into Judah and Israel [a division that continued] until Israel’s fall in 722 BCE and Judah’s in 586 BCE; and later in the lead-up to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
The devastating effects of tribalism have been a motif throughout Jewish history. Still, the ancient Israelite tribes shared a meta-identity. Over the ages, the Jewish people weathered the storms of disunity, fragmentation, and factionalism that buffeted their civilization because they all embraced—whether as sacred history or foundational myth—the Abrahamic covenant that established the contractual relationship between the God of Israel, the people of Israel, and the Land of Israel.
Bizarrely, Israel is a house divided by design. To enter first grade, Israeli parents register their children in one of four distinct educational systems: secular Zionist, national-religious Zionist, non-Zionist ultra-Orthodox, and Arab. For much of Israel’s history, the overwhelming majority of Jewish children attended either secular or national-religious [public] schools. [Now only 53 percent do so.] These numbers portend the demise of the country’s tolerantly liberal Zionist character.