No, I’m not talking Jews and Arabs or Israelis and ‘Palestinians‘, or the nations of the world. I’m talking about Israelis Get_252520Alongamong themselves. I’m also not evoking lofty concepts like ahavat Yisrael (fraternal love among all Jews), or national unity. I’m talking about on the personal, everyday, friendship level.

I make no secret of where I stand. I believe that G-d gave the land of Israel to the people of Israel and that preservation of the Jewish character of the State should be our top priority. I have met people who think the complete opposite and I have come to like some of them.

While walking in Jerusalem a few weeks ago, I bumped into an old friend. I had the feeling that for the last year or so, he’d been screening my calls and Facebook messages. When we first met, we were both new to Israel with mostly undeveloped views on politics and Israeli society. Having spent the last six years in Israel, however, (and while we both wear knitted kippot and observe Shabbat) we found ourselves on nearly opposite ends of the political spectrum. When I asked him candidly about the cooling of our friendship, my suspicions were justified.

In another case, there was a co-worker I got along with quite well until the topic of the Sudanese/Eritrean “refugees” (or infiltrators, depending on how you view them) came up. What were once cordial relations are now barely a nod.

So the question is, does it have to be that way? Why is it that a person you found quite winsome before a touchy topic came up, is suddenly quite unsavory?

I think it’s a shame to end friendships over politics, religion, or ideas. But that’s just one right-wing, religious, settler’s opinion. While this happens all too often in our relentlessly fast-paced, unforgiving society, it’s a shame to break connections with people whom you may otherwise have been good friends with over politics. There’s a lot to be said for individuals who remain on good terms despite political differences.

And yes, politics are important. The things you believe in and the values you adhere to speak volumes for the type of person you are. I’d argue that interpersonal relations mean more from both a halachic and global perspective, however.

Next time you’re in synagogue saying slichot (perhaps on Yom Kippur itself), ask yourself: are there people whom you used to be friends with and want to reconnect to again? Is there someone you hurt “just because?” This is the perfect time to come together as a people in a show of unity–like I said, not only on a national but personal level as well. Because we need to stand united not only in times of grief and suffering but good times as well. Because politics is important but friends come first!