Photo Credit: Rabbi YY Rubinstein
Rabbi YY Rubinstein

What’s your zip code? Is it desirable?

If you’re the Queen of England, your zip code (it’s actually called a post code) is SW1A 1AA. That’s about as desirable a zip code as you can get.


But the Queen, who is one of the richest people in the world, owns other properties with similarly impressive zip/post codes. How about SW0A, 1AA? That piece of real estate is better known as the Palace of Westminster, meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords – in other words, the Parliament of the United Kingdom and seat of Great Britain’s government.

New Yorkers (many of whom are only vaguely aware that any place other than New York exists) often wonder what the “United Kingdom” refers to. Well, let me explain. The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.

The first Royal Palace was built on the current Westminster site in the 11th century. That makes it the longest existing parliament in the world. It is steeped in hallowed tradition, and if Her Majesty the Queen doesn’t travel to open it every year in a horse-drawn carriage surrounded by real soldiers who look like extras in a Disney Movie, it stays shut!

Recently, however, the oldest democratic parliament in the world erupted in some very untraditional behavior. The 35 Scottish MPs of the Scottish National Party, which seeks total independence for Scotland (not so much Brexit as a “Scot-out”), stormed out of the House of Commons debating chamber extremely miffed. They want more powers for Scotland, and as a debate on that topic was denied them, they marched out en masse!

The Scots, or many of them, want to stay part of Europe but not part of the UK. Nor are they the only ones currently joined with other nationalities in one country who want to “end the marriage.” They adopt the slogan of “Include me out!” – to quote the immortal oxymoronic words of Samuel Goldwyn.

Take Catalonia, for example (if you are from New York, I give you permission to stop reading at this point). Catalonia is currently part of Spain, but many Catalans last year tried not to be. Their leaders ended up in Spanish jails as a result.

The Catholics of Northern Ireland mostly want to be part of the Republic of Ireland to the south, not part of the United Kingdom to the east, although the Protestants of Northern Ireland like being part of the UK very much.

The thread that joins the two peoples of Belgium, the Dutch-speaking northern “Flemish” and the French-speaking southern “Walloons” meanwhile is always threatening to unravel.

But let’s not forget our own country. It has some unraveling of its own going on. The Los Angeles Times (June 12, 2018) explains:

California’s 168-year run as a single entity, hugging the continent’s edge for hundreds of miles, could come to an end next year – as a controversial plan to split the Golden State into three new jurisdictions qualified Tuesday for the Nov. 6 ballot.

If a majority of voters agree, a long and contentious process would begin for three separate states to take the place of California, with one primarily centered around Los Angeles and the other two divvying up the counties to the north and south. Completion of the radical plan – far from certain, given its many hurdles at judicial, state and federal levels – would make history.

It would be the first division of an existing U.S. state since the creation of West Virginia in 1863.

I expect the American Association of Flag Makers to sue.

Regarding another type of U.S. split, no less a sage than Barack Obama recently told David Letterman in an interview, “People who watch Fox News are ‘living on a different planet’ than individuals who listen to National Public Radio.” He warned that there was a division opening in America reminiscent of the era before the Civil war.

To quote the great American philosopher, Ariel Durant, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

Standing on the threshold of another depressing Tisha B’Av, the commemoration of the destruction of our Temple, capital, and much of our nation, we would do well to examine the reason behind that destruction.

Durant’s quote is perfectly apropos. The fury of Jew-hatred we experienced through the 2,000 years after the destruction was without human parallel. From Expulsion to Inquisition and Pogrom to Holocaust, we learned exactly what Jew-hatred meant.

And hatred towards each other is what led to the destruction of the Temple and, according to Josephus, three million Jewish fatalities.

The “BDS movement” of those days clashed with the “Jewish nationalists” of that time. Israel (then called Judea) had no right or rasion d’etre outside the Roman Empire, proclaimed many. Judea had no right or rasion d’etre inside the Roman Empire, argued their opponents. The debate descended into armed conflict, and Jew slaughtered Jew.

It would be naïve in the extreme, and frankly stupid, to conclude that this generation’s Jews should all “just be pals” and forget our differences. Our differences are often so enormous that no bridging is possible. J Street is too far from AIPAC, for example, for there to be any common ground. And Bernie Sanders’ recent statement that believing in the “right of return” for Palestinians is a legitimate view sets him galaxies away from any Jew who describes him or herself as a Zionist.

Nonetheless, we can look back at our history and try to bridge some gaps. We can heal some rifts – the ones in our own camp.

For those of us who don’t want to see Durant’s paradigm applied to today’s Jewish people, we can work to bridge the divisions that exist within our chelek of Klal Yisrael.

As we watch other nations splitting into factions and fractions, we can play our part in bringing some of our nation’s pieces back together again. We can show we want the zip code of Klal Yisrael to be very desirable: 1.


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Rabbi YY Rubinstein is a popular lecturer, a regular broadcaster on BBC National TV and Radio, and the author of 10 books (including, most recently, “Jewish Life and Jewish Laughter”).