It is quite symbolic that UNESCO, the organization in charge of world heritage, is denying our historic right to Israel. Without a present that justifies our claim, our history is meaningless.
In April 2016, when UNESCO adopted a resolution denying Jewish history on Temple Mount, I wrote that this was only the beginning of a campaign to deny the history of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, a campaign whose final purpose is the elimination of the Jewish state. In December last year, the campaign accelerated when the UN Security Council adopted a resolution that opened the door to indiscriminate sanctions and boycotts against Israel over its settlement policy in the West Bank and Jerusalem. A few days ago, UNESCO took yet another step in its campaign to deny Jewish rights to Israel, denying the nearly 4,000-year history of the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Everyone, including those who voted in favor of the resolution, knows that there are no historic or scientific grounds to the Palestinian claim for connection to the site. But facts, we all know, are the least important factor in this story. All that matters is that the campaign to eliminate the State of Israel and revoke UN Resolution 181—which warranted the establishment of a Jewish state in Israel—is gaining momentum.
Some two weeks ago, in his first public address, US ambassador to Israel, Mr. David Friedman, said, “I have a great speech prepared about the breadth and the depth of the relationship between the United States and the State of Israel. But I’m not going to give it tonight.” Instead, Ambassador Friedman dedicated his entire speech to Jewish unity, or more to the point, the lack thereof.
However we look at it, the current level of division among Jews is unsustainable. We are poisoning our relationships with so much hatred that the world never sees anything good emerging from the Jewish people. We are vying over the Western Wall prayer areas and blacklisting certified rabbis’ decisions on determining the Jewishness of people who need their Jewishness confirmed. We are campaigning against our own country through the UN, BDS, the academia, and in myriad other ways. We segregate Jews based on ethnic background and culture, and we associate only with politically and religiously like-minded people.
Israel, which was supposed to be a role model melting pot, has become a cesspool that emits nothing but hatred of our coreligionists. This is the exact opposite of the essence of our faith, and contradicts what we are meant to project to the world.
Why the Ceaseless Persecution of the Jews?
Throughout the generations, the leaders of the Jewish people—from the most orthodox to the most secular—have stressed that our redemption, salvation, and even survival depend only on our unity.
“All of Israel are responsible for one another … only where there are people who are responsible for one another there is Israel,” wrote Zionist thinker A.D. Gordon. “We are called upon to unite the world. But before we unite the material world, we are called upon to reveal the spiritual unity. This is our innermost secret,” stated Rav Kook (Letters of the Raiah), the first Chief Rabbi of Israel. “Everything depends on the children of Israel. As they correct themselves, all of Creation follows them,” asserted the book Sefat Emet. “We have yet to open our eyes and see that only unity can save us. Only if we all unite … to work in favor of the entire nation, our labor will not be in vain,” mused Eliezer Ben Yehuda, reviver of the Hebrew language. “‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus, 19:18) is the superior commandment in Judaism. With these few words, the eternal, human law of Judaism has been formed… The state of Israel will merit its name only if its social, economic, political, and judicial structure are based upon these three eternal words,” concluded David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel.
Shortly after the establishment of the State of Israel, Rav Yehuda Ashlag, author of the complete Sulam (Ladder)commentary on The Book of Zohar, wrote in his composition, The Writings of the Last Generation: “Judaism must present something new to the nations. This is what they expect from the return of Israel to the land!” Indeed, continued Ashlag, “It is the wisdom of bestowal, justice, and peace.”
Despite these oft-repeated statements, we have not listened. Since the ruin of the Temple and the exile we have inflicted on ourselves through our unfounded hatred of each other, we have not learned how to overcome our loathing and unite. As a result, the persecution of our nation has not stopped since. “When Israel are ‘as one man with one heart,’ they are as a fortified wall against the forces of evil,” stated the book Shem MiShmuel. But when was the last time we were “as one man with one heart”?
We Rise and Fall by the Power of Our Unity
According to the Rav Kook, “The purpose of Israel is to unite the entire world into a single family” (Whisper to Me the Secret of Existence). When a man asked Old Hillel to teach him Torah, the sage replied, “That which you hate, do not do unto your neighbor; this is the whole of the Torah” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat, 31a). Just as explicitly, Rabbi Akiva stated, “Love your neighbor as yourself is the great rule of the Torah” (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim, Chapter 9, p 30b).
Similar to those giants, the book Shem MiShmuel writes, “The intention of Creation was for everyone to become one bundle … but because of the sin [evil inclination/egoism], the matter was corrupted to the point where even the best in those generations could not unite. The correction of this matter began in the generation of Babylon, when Abraham and his descendants gathered people together into a joint assembly. …Thus, the matter continued and grew until the congregation of Israel was made. But the end of the correction will come when everyone becomes one bundle.”
Israel became a nation when all its members committed to unite “as one man with one heart.” Immediately thereafter, Israel was commanded to be “a light unto nations,” to pass on that solid unity. For this reason, when we are united, there is merit to our existence as a nation. When we are apart, there is no justification for our existence as a nation because we cannot be “a light unto nations.” In consequence, the nations reclaim the land and disperse the Jews, who are not true to their vocation. This is why the book Maor VaShemesh asserts, “The prime defense against calamity is love and unity. When there are love, unity, and friendship within Israel, no calamity can come over them.”
Our Fate Is in Our Hands
In his book The Art of Loving, renowned psychoanalyst and sociologist Erich Fromm wrote, “Man—of all ages and cultures—is confronted with the solution of one and the same question: the question of how to overcome separateness, how to achieve union.” Moreover, Fromm stresses, the more humanity “separates itself from the natural world, the more intense becomes the need to find new ways of escaping separateness.”
Indeed, today’s society is so narcissistic that people overdose by the tens of thousands each year simply out of loneliness. Neuroscientist Marc Lewis candidly summed up humanity’s bane with the title to his sobering piece, “Why are so many people dying from opiate overdoses? It’s our broken society.”
The Book of Zohar writes very clearly in the famous Tikkun No. 30 that when Israel are not united, they “bring about poverty, ruin, and robbery, looting, killing, and destructions in the world.” In other words, we should not be surprised when humanity blames the Jews for their woes. In his seminal essay “Mutual Guarantee,” Rav Ashlag wrote, “It is upon the Israeli nation to qualify itself and all the people of the world to develop until they take upon themselves that sublime work of love of others, which is the ladder to the purpose of Creation.” Why? Because, continues Ashlag, the Israeli nation was fashioned as “a sort of gateway by which the sparks of love of others would shine upon the whole of the human race the world over.”
Even if people are not consciously aware that Jews have been fashioned as a gateway for humanity’s better future, this gut feeling dictates their thoughts and actions. This latent expectation causes academics such as British journalist and historian Paul Johnson to write, “At a very early stage in their collective existence the Jews believed they had detected a divine scheme for the human race, of which their own society was to be a pilot.” This expectation also causes antisemites to cover Holocaust memorial sites with sheets carrying the inscription, “Heebs [Hebrews] will not divide us.”
Indeed, we rise and fall by our willingness to be a light of unity unto nations. As a result, we are the only nation whose fate is in its own hands. If we decide to “take upon ourselves that sublime work of love of others” and thus become “a light unto nations,” our sovereignty, prosperity, and peace in Israel are secured. But if we hand over the reins to our selfish egos as we have been doing for the past two millennia, it is likely that we will see yet another round of ruin in the Land of Israel. Unless we wake up to our task soon, rise above our egos and unite, it just might be too late.
Featured in The Jerusalem Post