If we overcome our mutual hatred, we will dissolve anti-Semitism. If we stall, it will soon be too late to regret it
To anyone who has been watching what is happening at the United Nations, the picture is crystal clear: the UN is on its way to declaring the end of the State of Israel. UNESCO may not be able to enact sanctions against Israel, but its denial of the connection between Judaism and the Temple Mount, including the Western Wall, indicates that the world thinks we don’t belong here. The practical implementation of this view is not far ahead.
We have tried just about everything. We proved we have a historic claim on this land, we have built here a democracy that provides every citizen in Israel, regardless of faith, with freedom of speech, freedom of occupation, and even the freedom to be elected in order to promote an anti-Israel agenda. We provide the world with more technological and medical innovations per capita than any other country, but no one’s cheering.
Instead, there is not a single country in the world—not even among the few that are still regarded as our friends—that does not criticize us. America will not save us from the world’s wrath. If Clinton is elected, she will accelerate the disengagement process between the US and Israel that Obama has started. If Trump is elected, the same will happen, though probably at a slower pace. Our only option out of this mess is to pull together and unite.
A Growing Credit Crunch
We often tend to overlook it, but the world was not always so hostile toward the Jewish state. In November 1917, soon after Great Britain conquered Palestine and ended the Ottoman rule, the British government gave the Zionist Federation its official support. The Balfour Declaration affirmed “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The government also pledged to “use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.”
Thirty years later, in November 1947, when the UN voted on the establishment of a “Jewish State,” the support of the international community was still overwhelming. But if that same vote were held today, the state of Israel would not be established. Why has the Jewish State run out of credit? How come the nations that once supported our independence now see no reason for our continued presence in Israel?
Without a Purpose, Israel’s Existence Makes No Sense
In 1947, it seemed as though guilt was driving the nations to grant us independence in the wake of the Holocaust. But this does not explain the Balfour Declaration thirty years prior, or why many countries that had nothing to do with the Holocaust voted nonetheless in favor of establishing a Jewish state specifically in this hostile, semi-arid piece of land called “Israel.”
The underlying cause that prompted the majority of the world to grant us independence is what Rav Kook describes as our task to build a better world. In his words (Letters of the Raiah, vol. 2), “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.” Similar to Rav Kook, Baal Hasulam wrote that “Judaism must present something new to the nations. This is what they expect from the return of Israel to the land” (The Writings of the Last Generation).
Yet, what exactly is our task? What is this “something new” we are expected to introduce?
An Antidote to Egoism
The world we live in consists of four levels. The first three—inanimate, vegetative, and animate—are managed entirely by nature’s laws, which keep them in constant balance.
Humans are unique: Though our bodies function like that of any other mammal, our psyche is very different. Animals have no perception of history or a desire for respect and power beyond the need to spread their genes. Our lives, however, are permanently out of balance because of our insatiable desire for individuality. We are in constant competition for the best and latest gadget, car, or house, and we are venomously envious of anyone whose achievements seem to surpass our own.
This growing self-absorption is the root cause of every problem in our world—from skyrocketing divorce rates, to war, to global warming. Our constant effort to “keep up with the Joneses” makes us jealous and frustrated, and the fear of being hurt can make us do, think, and even believe in almost anything. Is it a wonder that so many people are depressed? Even international diplomacy has fallen captive to the national egomania we rebrand as “patriotism.” Everyone realizes that one violent eruption between the US and Russia, for example, could turn the world into a torrid radioactive desert, but when weighed against the risk of losing national face, it doesn’t seem to matter.
With the world in desperate need of a way to balance its self-centeredness with mutuality, we Jewish people must show the way. We, the assembly that was declared a nation only after its members committed to be “as one man with one heart,” were given the land of Israel not for ourselves, but in order to become “a light unto nations.” The profound unity for which the ancient Jews aspired is that “something new” that the world desperately needs, the antidote to egoism.
In his essay, “The Arvut (Mutual Responsibility),” Baal Hasulam writes that by loving others, “one affects a certain measure of advancement on the ladder of love of others in all the people of the world in general.” By inference, when we are not advancing love of others, we are causing egoism to further distance people. Since we are the ones who are meant to exercise and spread love of others, when we are not, we are turning the world’s anger against us and people fault us for every problem in the world. Professor of Quranic studies, Imad Hamato, expressed this perception very poignantly when he said, “Even when fish fight at sea, the Jews are behind it.”
Owning the Land of Israel
In his essay, “A Speech for the completion of The Zohar,” Baal Hasulam writes that we have been given the land of Israel, “but we have not received the land into our own authority.” The only way that we will merit an independent State of Israel is by embracing unity above all differences. King Solomon said, “Love covers all crimes.” Likewise, we must put our togetherness above all else, not because it is good for us, but because it is what the world needs from us. Until we move in this direction, the world will be stuck in the quagmire of selfishness and will loathe us for it.
If we do not carry out our task, Baal Hasulam warns, “Zionism will be cancelled altogether, only a handful [of Jews] will remain, and they will ultimately be swallowed among the Arabs.” A few years ago, such predictions seemed far-fetched. Today, we must do everything in our power to prevent this already-materializing reality. If we overcome our mutual hatred, we will revive the bond among us and dissolve anti-Semitism. If we stall, it will spell the end of the State of Israel, the end of the Jewish people as we know it, and the relics will be swallowed up by the nations.
Featured in Haaretz