Just when you think that the reductio ad absurdum has reached its lowest point, it slides a little lower. The recent declaration by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that Israel has no claim on the Temple Mount — shunning its thousands of years of Jewish history — is another step in Israel’s deteriorating relationship with the world. The release refers to Israel only as “the Occupying Power,” and the overwhelming majority of 33-6, completely ignored the Jews’ right to worship in or around the Temple Mount.
There is a very short distance from this action to a decision calling for an all-out elimination of the State of Israel due to “infringement of Palestinian rights.” I think we should face the facts: The vast majority of UN member states would rather the state of Israel did not exist.
We can view the UN’s intensifying anti-Israel sentiment as a crisis, but we can view it as an opportunity. It is our chance to examine how we came to Israel and what it really means to be Jewish.
When Abraham established his group of followers, he had hoped to transform the society of his homeland. He watched it become increasingly fragmented and sought to help people find a way to reunite. But when he realized his people did not want unity, he left his home and started a new nation. Pirkey de-Rabbi Eliezer (Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer) describes how the builders of the Tower of Babylon bemoaned the fall of every stone in the tower, crying, “When will another come up in its stead?” But, “if a man fell and died, they would pay him no mind.” In consequence, “When Abraham, son of Terah, walked by and saw them building the city and the tower, he had cursed them” and left them in search of people who supported his ideas.
In the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides describes how Abraham “began to call out to the whole world… wandering from town to town and from kingdom to kingdom until he arrived in the land of Canaan.” He bequeathed the principles of unity and brotherhood to his descendants, who eventually became a nation when they embraced the law of absolute altruism known as “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The ancient Hebrews’ method was simple: When hatred strikes, cover it with love. Or in the words of King Solomon (Proverbs, 10:12): “Hatred stirs up strife, and love covers all crimes.”
The people of Israel experienced many conflicts, but united above them. When unfounded hatred prevailed over unity, they dispersed and were exiled.
When Israel united “as one man with one heart” and became a nation, they were given the task to be “a light unto nations.” That light was the light of unity they had achieved. But when they fell into unfounded hatred, their light had dimmed.
Since then, the world has felt that the people of Israel do not deserve their own land. The UNESCO vote was merely a reminder that this is what the world thinks.
However, it is also a wakeup call. We must revive our vocation. We cannot stay fragmented and expect the world to appreciate us for our scientific and cultural achievements. People’s anger and hatred are unreasonable, stemming from a feeling that we are harming them. And the harm we are causing is our own disunity.
The more the world declines into the chaos of conflicts and struggles, the more it will blame us for it. We must return to the core of our nation — unity and brotherhood above differences.
Differences among us are unavoidable and often unsolvable. However, they are not meant to be solved; they are meant to be covered with love. When we do this, they turn from hatred to a bond that strengthens our unity rather than weakens it. This is the example we need to set to the world. Where people and nations are alienated and hostile, learning to cover hostility with love is the cure that everyone needs.
We can provide it and we are expected to. We must not wait.
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