Once upon a time there was a King and Queen. They struggled and struggled to have children, but when the blessed day finally arrived, the kingdom was cursed. The queen had twins. In order to determine who was first born, a string was tied around one of their wrists. But the string came loose and was lost. And so the twins fought one another for supremacy. One believed he represented the people, the other that he represented structure and morality. Their father died, but the bickering did not stop them.
The two of them could simply not get along.
When a foreign army came, they came together, briefly. But before long, they were fighting one another again and the Kingdom was destroyed.
What should the brothers have done? Just get along? Obviously, that wasn’t possible. Even setting aside the desire for pride and power, they each had their own ideas about how things should be done. For the good of the Kingdom, they couldn’t walk away from they each believed was their inheritance.
That is Israel today. And it is a lesson in the danger of Kingdoms.
What are the passionate issues of today in Israeli politics? There are religious issues: marriage, kashrut, Shabbat. There are material issues: taxation, welfare distribution, school funding. And there are social issues: integration, education and army service (I put this here because it is so often connected to ‘integrating Haredim into Israeli society).
In every one of these issues the two major sides, the two sons of the King, want to rule. When they write Constitutions or draft bills or conceive of courts, they want to rule. They want to do it for the good of the Kingdom. After all, how can we be so backward? Or how can we embrace the immorality that is failing the West?
All the while, the serfs wonder: do we really have to have a King who decides everything?
Why not step back, just a bit.
I didn’t mention it before, but there was a third child. A triplet. A little Princess. Nobody paid her much mind (being a girl and all), but when the time came, she saved the Kingdom. She said to the people “those of you who believe the populist brother is right, follow him on marriage, Kashrut, Shabbat and welfare, school funding, education and aspects of taxation. And those who believe the other brother is right… follow him on all those issues. And you know what? If you want to find another ‘brother’ and follow him, go ahead. We’ll be like intermingled provinces.”
And if you think about it, the Princess wasn’t really being all that innovative. After all, this has long been the way of Jews in other lands – we live under the Kingdoms we dwell in, but we have our own laws as well. Our own welfare, education, marriages and so on. Now that we have our own Kingdom, we can come together, as one, to fight for our Kingdom and to decide only those issues that can’t be devolved. Things we actually care less about – because we haven’t really had the opportunity to fight about them for thousands of years. You know, things like roads, police, criminal law, trade agreements, product safety laws and more.
We could make those issues less contentious – even using them a basis for communities coming together – by only appointing administrators that a cross section of ‘serfs’ agree on. To win a seat, you’d have to appeal to more than the followers of just one brother.
Can you see it working? A nation of Jews living as Jews always have – with their own ideas and our own panoply of opinions. But also a nation able to work together on all those things Jews never really had to work on: roads, police, trade agreements and more.
Right now we can’t work together on almost anything – but with this shift, we could work together on almost everything. More importantly, we would be united when it comes to the things that truly make a State succeed. Not Kashrut, but criminal law, roads and national defense. (I’ve put all this down, in a very non-parable form, at IsraelConstitution.org.il.)
Imagine what would happen if we backed away – just a bit – from the concept of Kingdom. We’ll be able to spend our time far more fruitfully than hanging on the cusp of civil war – all while our enemies charging at our gates in anticipation of our self-destruction.
When it comes to Judicial Reform vs. the Courts, neither Prince has to win.
No, when it comes to Judicial Reform vs. the Courts, I’m with the Princess.