“The theater of the absurd at UNESCO goes on,” said Benjamin Netanyahu about the organization’s decision to deny the historic connection between Judaism and the Temple Mount. Absurd though it is, the decision reflects the world’s true sentiment that Jews do not belong in Palestine. Israel, as the decision states 15 times in the merely five-page document, is “the occupying power.”
To the Palestinians, this decision was merely an experiment, testing the water. But the success of the experiment should be a warning sign for all of us. If we wish to avoid a UN General Assembly resolution to sanction, and ultimately revoke the state of Israel, it’s imperative we wake up now.
Israel was not established to be a haven for Jews at the expense of other people. We were given sovereignty in order to foster a society whose values present a desirable and sustainable alternative to a world torn apart by war and hatred.
Israel—a Solution to the “Racial Problem”
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted overwhelmingly in favor of establishing two independent states in Palestine—a Jewish state and an Arab state. Had the resolution been based solely on the world’s feelings of guilt following the Holocaust, it would never have passed.
In July 1938, realizing the grave danger that the Jews in Germany faced under Hitler, thirty-two nations convened in Évian, France, to discuss helping the Jews get out. But when asked how many Jews they would be willing to take in, not a single country extended any real help. All that the US, Canada, Great Britain, and the other twenty-nine countries offered was lip-service, but no admission. The Australian delegate, T. W. White, best described the prevailing mindset at the conference: “As we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one.”
To the world, not just to Hitler, the Jews were a problem. By giving us a state, they did not do us a favor, but expected to rid themselves of one. Now, it seems they regret that decision.
From Tolstoy to Rav Kook, the World Sets Us Apart
The “Jewish problem” is an ancient enigma. Author Leo Tolstoy wondered, “What kind of unique creature is [the Jew], whom all the rulers of all the nations of the world have disgraced and crushed and expelled and destroyed, persecuted, burned and drowned, and who, despite their anger and their fury, continues to live and to flourish? …The Jew is the symbol of eternity. …He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind” (Leo Tolstoy, “What Is the Jew?”).
Tolstoy is not alone. There is hardly any person in the world who regards Jews as ordinary people. Not everyone hates us, but no one judges us by the same standard they judge other nations. This double standard is inherent within every person in the world. What people expect of us, they do not expect of anyone else.
That same expectation was true when the state of Israel was established. Perhaps we dreamed of being like all the other nations, having our own land where we could live our lives in peace and security, but the world had other plans for us. If it wanted to give us peace and security, it would not plant us in the most volatile region on the planet, surrounded by millions of Arabs who would like nothing more than to see us gone.
After World War II, the world needed healing from the hatred that had caused its outbreak. Deep down, people expected that healing to come from us. They still do and always will. The world cannot expect anything else of us because this is the reason why the Jewish people was created in the first place—to be “a light unto nations.”
Whenever troubles ensue, people blame the Jews. We attribute this to searching for a scapegoat, but people genuinely feel that we are the cause of their troubles. Whether we know it or not, our role in the world is to bring peace and unity. Therefore, when hatred prevails, people instinctively turn their anger on us. In their view, we did not do our job. Rav Kook echoed the world’s view when he wrote, “Any turmoil in the world comes only for Israel. Now we are called upon to carry out a great task willingly and mindfully: to build ourselves and the entire ruined world along with us” (Letters of the Raiah, Vol. 2).
Neither Startup Nation nor Producers of Supermodels
We became a nation at the foot of Mt. Sinai after pledging to be “as one man with one heart.” Immediately thereafter, we were given the task to be “a light unto nations,” to spread throughout the world the way to achieve unity. Ramchal wrote that “Moses wished to complete the correction of the world at that time [when Israel came out of Egypt]. This is why he took the mixed multitude, as he thought that thus would be the correction of the world” (The Commentary of Ramchal on the Torah). The “great task” that Rav Kook wrote we must assume “willingly and mindfully” is to build ourselves through unity, and with us, unite the world. Until we begin to carry out our task, anti-Semitism will not stop.
If we think that our goal in Israel is to be a startup nation, or export supermodels and superwoman movie stars, we are in for a rude awakening. Just a few years ago, senior member of the White House press corps Helen Thomas shocked the world and was forced to resign for saying that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home to Poland and Germany.” Today this view is mainstream, though no one will admit this right before the election. But when the world sees that establishing a Jewish state in Palestine brought nothing but war, worldwide terrorism, and conflicts, how can it not regret the decision to give us a state?
The Essence of Our Peoplehood
If we want to stay here we will need the world’s support. And to earn the world’s support we must return to our roots. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not a bumper sticker slogan. It is our general law, the essence of our peoplehood. If we don’t live it, we are not Israel and the world will not justify our claim on the land.
Only when we are united can we be “a light unto nations” because unity is what the world needs yet cannot achieve unless we show the way. When our forefathers experienced struggles and ego-driven wars, they did not suppress their hatred of one another. Instead, they enhanced the importance of their unity above the hatred. “Hate stirs strife,” observed King Solomon, “but love covers all crimes,” he concluded.
Some twenty centuries ago we were driven out of the land of Israel because we succumbed to unfounded hatred and did not cover it with love. That hatred is still wide open. If we do not cover it with love we will be driven out once more.
Instead of quarreling, we need to relate to our disputes as opportunities to cover our egos with love. This method of working above the egoism is an example that only we can give to the world, since only we had done it before. All we need is to reinstate this attitude toward conflicts and share it with the world.
The world will justify our sovereignty in Israel as long as we set an example of love above hatred. If we succumb to petty bickering, the nations will have no reason to let us stay in a land of our own; they already have enough troubles.
We have stretched the world’s patience to the limit. Now, either we unite and become the role model we were meant to be, or we will be exiled and exterminated, not just in Israel but all over the world.