Over the summer, starting with the kidnapping and murder of the three yeshivah boys (may God avenge their blood) and continuing on with the campaign in 'Aza a tremendous thing happened in Israel. Something writers on various sides of the cultural/religious divide have been writing about for some time happened - a form of achdus. Despite the religious lifestyles of the kidnapped boys the secular population responded with concern and sympathy. They weren't three frum kids but "our boys". When their fate was discovered the whole country mourned together, religious and non-religious.
Once the operation against 'Aza started the sense of community continued. The secular population rallied around the soldiers with incredible energy. The stories of people who worked to assist the soldiers with food and supplies, the billboards around the country on public and private buildings exclaiming support and gratitude for these klei kodesh were met with gestures from the Chareidi community where vacation was cancelled. We may not accept the line "Our learning is the real protection" but their leaders believe it and kept their masmidim in their studies to help protect the soldiers.
Various writers have therefore starting asking: How do we keep this fledgling form of achdus alive?
Here's my simple suggestion: seek out the positive
Look, I think the whole achdus idea is overblown the way its usually defined. We are a people constituted of various communities. We can varying standards, customs and behaviours. Worse, we invest each of those things with religious fervour. You cannot expect a Litvack to abandon his black hat in the name of achdus any more than you can expect a Dati Leumi to stop saying the prayer for the State of Israel. That kind of achdus isn`t going to happen.
Looking at the positive sounds simple but it`s not, despite it being what I think is the obvious solution. It requires a sea change in the thinking of various Jewish groups. The current "What I do is right which makes what you do wrong" paradigm has to change into "What I do is right but it's not the only right way to do it".
It's difficult because the former paradigm is easy to adopt. It doesn't require a lot of thinking which is a common thing these days. It's easy to see the world in black and white and reduces the amount of questioning one does of one's own self. The latter opens up a can of complexities, not something people often want to do.
It's also difficult because we all love standards and chas v'shalom should anyone think I'm approving of abolishing those. There are always limits to saying that what other people do is right. I'm not saying, for instance, that I should be thinking that I keep Shabbos and that's okay while Fishel down the street doesn't keep Shabbos and that's okay too. It's not okay not to keep Shabbos.
On the other hand I'm a jerk when it comes to interacting with other folks and Fishel happens to be the nicest guy who makes everyone he meets feel at ease and respected. What he does is right and what I do is wrong in this case.
Here's another practical example. It's easy to note that during the recent operation in 'Aza there were lots of reasons to criticize the Chareidi community. They refused to say any prayers for the soldiers (a press release from the Agudah in America went as far as expressing gratitude for the US Army and its contributions to Iron Dome but not a word about Tzahal), they refused to send their boys to fight, etc.
Now look at the other side. Yes, for those of us out here it seems like a little thing to cancel vacation and sit and learn instead but if you understand the Chareidi mentality this was a big move. The same community that only a few months ago couldn't find enough curses for the Israeli government and the army was suddenly acknowledging a feeling of community with it, a need to contribute to the ongoing crisis.
One could note that those Chareidim that helped out with volunteer efforts to supply needed items to soldiers on the front lines were most Americans and baalei teshuvah but that doesn't diminish their Chareidi status. They still helped out as best they could despite being part of that community and in many cases it was because they thought their community should be helping.
Look at the secular soldiers who, despite their lack of ritual observance, selflessly put their lives on the line over and over again because of their desire to protect their fellow Jews. Is this such a small thing? Do we only see the chilul Shabbos or do we also see this too?
Achdus isn't about a forced conformity but about looking for the positive, for shared values and a feeling of family. We have to look beyond the flaws that we all display to others, beyond the negative we automatically seek out, and see those positive things. This doesn't mean accepting those values we find inimical to our own but moving past them and building on those we have in common.
We are a large family surrounded by so many enemies. We owe it to ourselves to at least try.