Israeli Jews entered Sukkot this year more unified than in decades. Not, unfortunately, unified by their common resolve nor even by mutual love or respect, but in despair and by a lack of any idea of where we go from here.
Nothing captured the national mood like a Ma'ariv cartoon depicting a grave with a tombstone marked Joseph's Tomb. Next to it were a series of open graves, Rachel's Tomb, the Temple Mount. And finally, the State of Israel.
Nearly 70 percent of Israelis last week expressed doubts about the future existence of the state in a Yediot Aharonot poll. And that was before Joseph's Tomb became a mosque and our prime minister reminded us of our worst days as parents: "If you don't come here by the time I count five...I'm counting, 1, 2, 3, 4, 4 1/4, 4 1/2, 4 5/8...4.89..."
Oslo ended the right's dream of a greater Israel; our latest war has ended the left's dream of a small Israel living in peace and harmony with her neighbors.
So what remains?
Oslo stands revealed for what it always was: a unilateral withdrawal disguised as a peace process. Unilateral withdrawal, Douglas Feith pointed out in the Sept. 11 New Republic, was not without its merits, not the least of them being relieving us of the responsibility for the day-to-day lives of more than a million hostile Arabs. But a nation does not arm its former adversaries. Nor does it secure generous international support so that adversary can continue inciting in its schoolbooks and official media for the next war.
By selling Oslo as a peace process, our leaders created lethal illusions among their own people and among our sworn enemies. Yet at the end of the day, the game had to end. As Na'abil Shaath told an audience in Nablus four years ago, when Israel finally says it has given all that it can, we return to violence.
Since Erev Rosh Hashanah, we discovered not only the absence of a Palestinian peace partner, but that Israeli Arabs have cast their lot with Palestinian national aspirations and against the state.
None of it woke us up; last week's riots did. Suddenly we ask ourselves: Can Israeli democracy survive when 20 percent of its citizens — who produce nearly one out of every three new babies — identify with our enemies?
Other illusions have been punctured beyond repair. One is the belief that the Israel Defense Forces can protect us from every threat. Today Hezbollah conducts the daring, well-planned actions once the IDF's stock-in-trade as questions are raised about our own military performance.
For three months, Ehud Barak boasted of how our brave gamble at Camp David swung world opinion from Mr. Arafat to us, only to discover that one five-second clip of a Palestinian boy being shot by Israeli troops could cause all that vaunted goodwill to vanish as if it never existed.
Never mind that Mr. Arafat had the motive to ignite a conflagration and renewed luster on the Palestinian street, which smells victory, and regained world support. The will to send Palestinian children to their deaths is old hat for Mr. Arafat. Last week the Palestinian Authority was offering $2,000 per martyr. Still the world has consigned Israel to her familiar place in modern demonology.
The scales may have dropped from our eyes, but that does not mean solutions are at hand. After two weeks of fear of moving through much of the country, on the Tel Aviv-Haifa coastal road a motorist was killed by a boulder dropped on his car; sniper fire was heard in Jaffa and Jerusalem — we are bunkering down for another intifada, this time against a well-armed enemy.
On the right, we hear grumbling about "mowing them all down"; look the grumblers straight in the eyes and they quickly admit that it's bluster. On the left, we hear of the necessity of pouring tens of millions of dollars into the Arab sector. Indeed, no democratic state can discriminate against one sector. But we are hopeless dreamers if we believe that once the genie of Palestinian nationalism is out of the bag it will be recorked for any sum.
Jews once knew the power of an idea, and if we have forgotten it, there are plenty who identify themselves as Palestinians within and without Israel who will teach us.
Our only hope is that we have been here before, with nowhere to turn, the sea in front of us, the Egyptians behind us. We have absolutely no one in whom to place our hopes other than God. May we only be worthy of His salvation.