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We all know who to blame for the Jewish intolerance of Yom Kippur 5784

This Editor’s Note was sent out earlier Wednesday in ToI’s weekly update email to members of the Times of Israel Community. To receive these Editor’s Notes as they’re released, join the ToI Community here.

We all know who was to blame for the devastating scenes of Jew confronting Jew in the heart of the modern Jewish nation’s great city of Tel Aviv, on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

We all find it abhorrent and inexplicable that the other side acted in the way it did, desecrating Yom Kippur, making a mockery of the imperative for self-examination and penitence.

We all despair at the arrogance the other side showed, its conviction that its way is the right away, that its motivations, and only its motivations, were legitimate, appropriate and necessary.

We all fume that Jews would never behave in this way toward each other in the Diaspora, and know that if non-Jews acted in this way toward Jews we would be rightly outraged.

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Except, actually, of course, we don’t all feel the same. The Yom Kippur confrontations in Dizengoff Square showed how almost hopelessly divided we are, how incapable we have become of bridging our widening national rifts, or even temporarily putting them aside on the very day when the historical Jewish obligation for introspection should be uppermost and inescapable.

And this year wasn’t only Yom Kippur 5784.

It was also the 50th anniversary of a war that nearly saw this country wiped out, a war in which 2,689 Israelis lost their lives in our defense, a war Israel could never have survived, whose tide Israel could never have turned, without indomitable national resolve and the most acute awareness of our shared destiny.

Activists from the Rosh Yehudi organization set up a “mechitzah” divider made of Israeli flags ahead of a public prayer event in Dizengoff Square, Tel Aviv, on Yom Kippur eve. September 24, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90)

So yes, we all know who we personally blame for what happened in Dizengoff Square — who started it, who fueled it, who could have prevented it, who should have behaved differently — and the wider malaise it exemplified.

But furiously allocating responsibility and firing off bitter accusations is not going to fix a thing.

It’s certainly not going to enable us to do what we all know we need to do if we’re going to overcome this escalating, self-destructive national crisis: heal.

Activists opposed to a gender-separated public prayer event confront worshippers in Dizengoff Square, Tel Aviv, on Yom Kippur eve. September 24, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90)

The Judaism that sustained our people in exile for millennia, before the near-miracle of our return to this land, provides a formula with the potential to help us rediscover our cohesion and pull ourselves up out of the abyss — a formula which, in our current, desperate context, might be encapsulated in one word: tolerance. In the summation of the sage Hillel to a would-be convert, “What is hateful to you, do not do unto others. That is the whole Torah. The rest is interpretation.”

The beauty of that advice is that it works when, as now, we all know who we blame for our crisis and we all know precisely how to resolve it… even if, especially if, we are pointing our fingers in opposite directions.