My friend Yossi Klein Halevi, a political analyst and author who lives in Jerusalem, elaborated on this view.
“One reason for our difficulty to manage civil discourse, especially in Israel, is because our issues really are life and death,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The territorial issue is self-evident. But our other issues are also perceived as existential. Secular Israelis fear that a theocratic Israel would deepen our estrangement from the West and the Diaspora and leave us totally isolated, while Orthodox Israelis fear that an Israel totally divorced from Torah risks Divine retribution, another exile.”
“So how can you maintain a live-and-let-live attitude when your ideological opponent threatens your existence?”
Halevi, who a few years ago wrote a spiritual book titled “At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden” (Harper Perennial, 2002), then went back a few thousand years to shed some more light on the subject.
“Maybe it’s so hard for Jews to argue rationally because we were imprinted in our formation as a people with the experience of revelation, and ever since we’re looking for that Sinai moment to clarify the world for us. We treat our partial insights — political and religious — as though they were revelations.”
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