Israeli society seems to be getting more polarized by the day. The current debate over judicial reform is dividing Israelis like they’ve never been divided before. Some are saying that the Jewish state will eventually split in half. In fact, there are even people who are proposing plans for two separate Jewish states.

Anyone with knowledge of Jewish history knows that there were times in the ancient past when two Jewish states existed in the Land of Israel. After the death of King Saul, the Jewish people were divided into two states. Fortunately, the Jewish people reunited under King David. The time in which King David and his son Solomon ruled is regarded as the golden age of ancient Jewish history. Israel’s power was at its peak. The united kingdom of Israel stretched from the border with Egypt in the Sinai as far north as the Euphrates River in present-day northern Syria.


Tragically, this golden age did not last long. After King Solomon died, the kingdom split again – into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. Throughout the rest of biblical history, the Jewish people would not see a period as prosperous as that under the rule of David and Solomon. There would not be another golden age. Eventually, the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians, with its ten tribes exiled. The southern kingdom was destroyed and rebuilt several times until the last Jewish kingdom was conquered by the Romans in 63 BCE.

The Jewish people would not see independence again until the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948. In 1967, the modern Jewish state brought Judea and Samaria under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in two thousand years. Thus began what I believe to be the second golden age of the Jewish people. Today, I believe that the Jewish people are still living in a golden age in Israel. We have the strongest military in the Middle East. We also have the most modern economy in the region. There are more Jews living in Israel now than at any other time in history. But, if we divide the country, I have no doubt that this second golden age will come to an end.

So to those people who are contemplating the possibility of a divided Israel and even making plans for it, I have this to say: Don’t even think about it. Israel is indivisible. It must remain one.

Yes, I understand that Israel now seems more divided than ever, but that’s no reason to start thinking about dividing the country. Israel has always had divisions. Religious vs. secular, Jews vs. Arabs, Ashkenazim vs. Mizrachim, and the list goes on and on. But we’ve worked out our differences to remain a united country until now. There’s no reason that we can’t continue to do so and remain united.

Besides, there are plenty of alternatives to dividing Israel into two states. Right now, Israel is a highly centralized country. Most of the power is in the hands of our national government, for Israel is a state that does not have constitutionally mandated subnational units with separate powers of their own. In other words, there are no states in Israel as there are in the United States. There are no provinces as there are in Canada, my country of residence.

Perhaps we should consider changing the governmental structure of Israel. In federal countries, power is divided between the federal (national) government and subnational units. In the US, for example, the federal government has jurisdiction over some matters, such as defense and monetary policy, while the state governments have certain matters under their exclusive jurisdiction.

There’s no reason that Israel cannot follow a similar model in order to mitigate some of the country’s divisions. One way to do this would be for the Israeli government to devolve some powers to municipalities. For example, the Knesset could give municipalities exclusive jurisdiction over the observance of Jewish religious laws.

We know, for instance, that some Israelis would prefer that there be strict observance of Shabbat, while others don’t care so much. What if municipalities could decide? Thus, liberal Tel Aviv could allow public transit and businesses to keep running on Saturdays, while more conservative Jerusalem could require all public transit and commercial activity to cease completely.

This kind of arrangement would inevitably lead to a situation where some municipalities are overwhelmingly conservative while others are overwhelmingly liberal, though this phenomenon already exists in Israel to an extent. Devolving some powers that are now in the hands of the national government to municipalities would mean that all Israelis would have a place in the country where they could live as they please, while still being part of the same, undivided Israel.

Now of course, changing the governmental structure of the country would not resolve all of the country’s divisions, but it would definitely help. It’s certainly a better way forward than completely dividing the country, which would lead to disastrous consequences for the Jewish people, as it has in the past.

{Written by Jason Shvili and reposted from IsraelHayom}


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