Rosh Hashanah 2019: The Year Racism Divided the Jewish People

When the history of the Jews from the start of the last exile to the 21st century is written, 5779 will be remembered as the year when the split between the two Jewish peoples was imminent. If we’re fortunate, the events of the last two weeks will have proved to be a turning point when the schism was averted. But it’s far too early to say.

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Each of the two greatest Jewish communities ever to exist had a dismal low point this year. Both were caused by racism.

But only Israel’s was self-inflicted. It was the creation of the Union of Right-Wing Parties seven months ago at Benjamin Netanyahu’s behest. That moment when the neo-Kahanists were included in this right-wing bloc, the normalization of Jewish racial supremacy that received the approval of nearly all the Israeli right wing and Orthodox communities, with the exception of a few tzadikim in Sodom, deserves to be remembered in infamy long after the Netanyahu era has faded from memory.

It doesn’t matter that members of neo-Kahanist Otzma Yehudit on the right-wing slate failed to enter the Knesset in the April election and then ran alone in this month’s vote, failing to cross the electoral threshold. In some ways, it would have been better if its leader, the despicable mass-murderer-admiring Itamar Ben-Gvir, had won a seat.

We would have been reminded every day of the shame. The right-wing politicians and pundits who advocated for a kosher certificate for Otzma and cheered when it was issued barely tried to keep up the pretense that this was merely a “technical bloc” formed to “prevent the loss of right-wing votes.” They had no problem bringing Ben-Gvir into their tent as a legitimate, if somewhat obtuse, partner.