Come December, we start thinking about the year that has passed and what we can look for in the coming year. When 2020 was coming to a close, people were optimistic that with Covid and all, 2020 was the worst we could have, and now that we have vaccines, things would be all good again. But by mid-January, memes started circling on social media saying “We’ve seen the sample, thank you, we want 2020 back.” Since then, matters have gone from bad to worse. If I had to sum it all up in one word, it would be “extremes.” 2021 has been a year of extremes. Yet, there is one peril that is destined to be more extreme than all, though it is still slightly undercover: the tension between the US and Israel. The former allies are on track to becoming hostile.
In the current US administration, there are people who not only disagree with Israel, but in my opinion, they disagree with Israel’s existence, though at this point, they will not admit it. I do not like it, but I cannot blame Americans for hating Israel. Through our own actions, we are turning our lives from pleasant and peaceful to painful and bloody. And because it will be so for us, it will be so for the entire world, as well.
Israel is at the center of the world. I do not say this because I live in it or because I am Jewish. It is at the center because of objective reasons, and history proves it. Mark Twain noted in “Concerning the Jews,” “…The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream stuff and passed away. The Greek and the Roman followed and made a vast noise, and they are gone. …All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”
Similarly, John Adams, the second president of the United States, wrote in a letter to Francis Adrian Vanderkemp, “If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. If I were an atheist of the other sect, who believe … that all is ordered by chance, I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization.”
Not only those two, but most people who study history acknowledge the centrality of the people of Israel in world events. There is a good reason for it, and one of the wisest people in contemporary Jewish history, Rav Kook, beautifully articulated it. In his book Orot HaRaaiah, he wrote, “Humanity deserves to be united into a single family. At that time all the quarrels and the ill- will that stem from divisions of nations and their borders shall cease. However, the world requires refinement, whereby humanity is perfected through each nation’s unique characteristics. This deficiency is what the Assembly of Israel will complement.”
Indeed, the role of the Jewish people, and the reason for its survival against all odds, is to bring the nations’ unique characteristics into a comprehensive wholeness and unity. Every nation that suffers from division blames it on the Jews because every person who feels hatred toward others subconsciously feels that the Jews are causing it. People cannot pinpoint the reason for their hatred of others—that it is because the people who were chosen to bring the light of unity to the world are squabbling among themselves—but they feel very clearly that somehow, the fact that they hate their neighbor is the Jews’ fault.
Meanwhile, the Jews are oblivious. Instead of working on our unity, we wallow in division and bond with our enemies in order to oust political rivals. When the world points a blaming finger at us, we point to our collaboration with our enemies as proof of our innocence.
But the world does not need our adulation toward enemies; it needs us to connect among ourselves. Internal unity and solidarity are the “refinement” that Rav Kook referred to in his words. This is the deficiency that we must satisfy. The world is looking for us to set an example. The mere fact that it is blaming us for its woes proves that it pins its hopes on us. If we show the way to unity, the world will follow. If we keep fighting, the world will fight, as well, and it will begin with fighting against us.
Yet, the world will not be better off if it decides to “punish” us for our sins the way the Nazis did. It will resolve to do it if we avoid our calling, but it will not make life easier on humanity. In the end, the relics of our nation, who remain after the near annihilation, will have to do what we can do now, before the storm breaks out.
President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet meet for a bilateral meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Friday, August 27, 2021. (Photo by Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times)