When I came to Israel in 1974, I was sent to a hotel that accommodated new olim (Jews who had just immigrated to Israel). Each family was given a room and we slept, dined, and learned Hebrew there. One day, I found out that one of the waiters serving us in the dining hall was actually the owner of the hotel. He had donated his hotel for several years to help new olim in their first steps. I was amazed to discover that there were people with such spirit. That man was a true pioneer, and it was the pioneer spirit that drove him to do what he did. That spirit did not let him sit by, but galvanized him to do something meaningful in his life. Today, this spirit is a rarity, and we desperately need to find a way to bring it back to life.
The pioneer spirit exists in the heart of every Jew. After all, every Jew is a descendant of pioneers who paved the way for a new social model of mutual responsibility and solidarity, which was unheard of at the time. Until Abraham began to spread his ideas about mercy and love of others, and until Moses had turned the descendants of Abraham’s group into a nation, the idea of a nation fashioned by transcending one’s ego was unthinkable. The prevailing conduct was that the strong rules and subjugates or annihilates the weak, both among nations and among individuals. Here, however, was a new concept, embodied in the words of King Solomon (Prov. 10:12): “Hate stirs up strife, and love will cover all crimes.”
The Golden Rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” represents the core of being Jewish. It is not a commandment to do something or say something. Nor is it a commandment to praise a deity or worship it. It is simply a commandment to love others as much as you love yourself.
The pioneers who established the State of Israel did a great job at founding a sovereign country in a land that was largely swamp and desert when they came here, and against six charging armies that sought to annihilate the Jewish presence in the Middle East. However, they did not finish the job. They established a state, but now it is up to us to nurture the soul and spirit of that state so as to merit the name the “State of Israel,” a country that hallows one and only law, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
If we take the next step and fill the heart of the Israeli people with the Israeli spirit of solidarity, mutual responsibility, and above all, love of others, it will be our final triumph. No one will challenge our presence here because everyone will realize that we are not here for ourselves, but for the world, to carry out our calling and be a light to the nations, spreading the light of unity and friendship above all differences and conflicts. If we rise above our internal divisions toward unity and love, we will complete our ancestors’ task, and their pioneering spirit of caring for others will spread around the world.
Therefore, the only war we need to wage is against our egos. The only victory we need is the victory of unity over division.
Photo caption: Pioneers in Migdal, 1912. (Wikipedia)