Bonds – E Pluribus Unum

Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the Law. - Proverbs 29:18

Illustration by Elhanan ben-Avraham

What factors bind a nation together into a common harmony? Is it a Communist philosophy? The former Yugoslavia was held together by that forcefully applied glue which, when it finally dried and cracked apart under the dictator Tito, left Yugoslavia permanently broken up into its former warring factions based on religion and ethnicity. We also watched the USSR dissolve into confusion after seventy years of oppression, and Communist materialist atheism led to the murder of millions wherever it flourished.

Is it perhaps religion that can bond?  We have historically seen religion come to power and oppress its population for centuries, and create animosity and wars, inquisitions and burnings between Catholics and Protestants and especially against Jews, between Shiite and Sunni Muslims and the minority religions such as Christian and Jewish and Bahia in their midst, and between Hindus and Muslims as well.  Today we witness the ongoing wars and terrorism committed by the Islamic world against its own populations, and against its perceived enemies that are not Muslim, including the perpetual hatred and threats of annihilation of the Jewish State of Israel.

What bond unites individuals to a common purpose to create a healthy and free society? Is it merely our common humanity?  History has proven the nature of humanity is not by nature only good, as can be seen by the bloody French Revolution in the name of “Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood,” the bloody Communist Revolution, the horrendous acts of Al Qaeda and ISIS, and the Nazi Holocaust, among others. It is evident that racial or tribal bonds are not sufficient either, judging by the bloody history of tribal warfare in black Africa, and the racial tensions in America today. It seems clear enough that human nature is in need of laws and restraints, and a moral code by which to live, and to survive. Is it the American Constitution? That great Constitution, without the undergirding of a firm moral code, can be interpreted to affirm and introduce the most destructive ideas into new norms detrimental to the health and unity of society.  Can identifying with a political party or movement create sufficient bonds to preserve a nation?  It would seem today’s America shows quite the opposite as political divisions are splitting the country on virtually every issue, a divisiveness of rancor and enmity that has not been seen perhaps since the  Civil War, which claimed nearly 600,000 American lives.  There is no longer required any national or military service, which once drew people from every level of society and race and religion and obliged them to participate together in something bigger than themselves.

The American motto E Pluribus Unum, meaning out of many, one, is being reversed to mean out of one, many in a distorted attempt to create a “multiculturalism” that does not unify the nation, but divides it into cultural cantons and loss of a bonding single language. Even the final bonding motto “One Nation Under God” is now considered by many an offence, and there are regular attempts to remove it from the American heritage, prayer is now forbidden in most schools, and the Bible considered an anachronism. On campuses and in the media there is open hostility to religion, especially to the Christianity upon whose influence the USA was founded. Now the western world sees nothing larger than the individual Self and its entitlement to rights to feed its personal pleasure, whatever it may be, somehow including that macabre right to destroy one’s children in the womb in the name of sexual freedom and convenience. Even sexual gender identity and its natural drawing together of male and female for the purpose of love and family has been blurred to create an unhealthy fear and hostility between the sexes. Almost daily we hear of Americans murdering Americans, there being no real threats from an external enemy on its borders.

Here in Israel we have some one hundred languages spoken by Jews that have come from virtually every nation under the sun. There is every race, creed, and political and religious opinion imaginable, under that true adage that “if there are three Jews gathered there are five opinions.” We do have a bonding national language, the revived and ancient Hebrew tongue, although signs appear also in Arabic, English, and often Russian. Though this is the Jewish national homeland, a large segment of Israel’s citizenry are Arab, most Muslim, but many Christian, and on any day in any place all the citizens live and work together peacefully without making news at all.  Violent crime is very low in the State of Israel.

But there are bonding factors in the very fabric of the nation. Though there be intense differences of opinion on any given subject, we all here together face imminent existential danger from a hostile and outnumbering sea of neighbors on all sides and borders, some who perennially declare their intention to destroy us on religious and political grounds, and have indeed attempted that more than once. We all understand that it is our very existence that depends on our unity. Therefore most Jewish citizens serve dedicatedly in our necessarily powerful military out of that reality, and that fact blends otherwise differing cultural backgrounds into a common unity of purpose. Even many Arabs choose to serve in the military or other national service, and the large Druze community serves with complete loyalty to the nation.

Another binding factor is that the very rhythm of Israeli life in the Jewish state is regulated by the Biblical festivals, forever reminding us of our long history and heritage, and of our relationship with the G-d of Israel. Whether one believes or not, we are reminded weekly by the Biblical seventh day Sabbath when most businesses close, and the year is marked by the other  Biblical and historic festivals, including the holy Day of Atonement, when all is closed and not a car appears on any street or highway. And the Bible is taught to our children in public schools from kindergarten upwards.  The regular ancient archaeological discoveries here remind us of the reality of a national unity and purpose that goes back many thousands of years. The very symbol of the State of Israel is the Menorah, a symbol of the holy Light of the world, and the coming of the Messiah.  Though there is freedom for all of Israel’s citizens to choose political sides and religion, there yet remain bonding factors causing our necessary unity in this tiny land, though at times appearing fragile, for the sake of our survival in a very hostile environment. And many here in Israel believe with a perfect faith the motto, In God We Trust.

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Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published five illustrated books of poetry, painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, and most recently produced THE JERUSALEM ILLUSTRATED BIBLE, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.