Ciudad de la Tora (City of Torah) is the name of a new small town being built outside the town Ixtapan de la Salle, some 70 miles south of Mexico City. The founders aim to address two problems: housing prices and antisemitism. The affordable housing compound will include all the required facilities for maintaining a Jewish Orthodox way of life, and the community will consist solely of observant Jews. Another reason for establishing the new town is the situation in the capital, where Orthodox Jews say their children are afraid to leave their homes for fear of becoming targets of antisemitic attacks.
In many ways, this idea reminds me of a Shtetl. Shtetls were small Jewish towns that existed all over Central and Eastern Europe until the Holocaust wiped them out. If we are to learn from history, Jewish towns are not a permanent solution to antisemitism.
In fact, even the Jewish state did not solve the problem of antisemitism. Since its establishment, Israel has attracted increasing backlash from the world. Theodor Herzl, the Zionist visionary, had the right idea when he envisioned a Jewish national and political entity that would be a safe haven for Jews. However, establishing a separate city, or even a country for Jews, is not enough to eliminate antisemitism. For this to happen, Jews must commit to carrying out their duty to the world, and they do have a duty.
As I’ve shown in countless essays and two books (see links below), the Jewish nation was not established for its own sake, but for the sake of humanity. This is why as soon as we established our nationhood, at the foot of Mt. Sinai, we were tasked with being “a light unto nations.” We were declared a nation only after we pledged to unite “as one man with one heart,” and the unity we achieved is the light we intended to shine to the nations. Following our initial commitment, it took us another forty years to solidify our unity, but once we achieved a critical level of it, we were given our own land, the promised “Land of Israel.”
For nearly two thousand years afterwards, our annals reflected our level of unity. Every time we divided, we were exiled from the Land of Israel, and every time we reestablished our unity, we were given back the land and thrived. But at some point, during the first century CE, we fell into such mutual hatred that we were exiled for two millennia.
Reestablishing the Jewish statehood took more than two millennia, centuries of murder and abuse that our people suffered during the exile, and finally the extermination of a third of our nation, nearly the entire European Jewry. Yet, our renewed sovereignty did not renew our unity. This is something we must achieve on our own. This is, in fact, the reason that the nations gave it to us following the Holocaust, besides the obvious reason of sympathy after the atrocities we suffered at the hands of the Nazis and their accomplices.
Notwithstanding, since the nations gave us the land, they also expect us to do our duty, to be a role model of unity and exemplify the Jewish motto, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we do not carry out our mission, we will lose our sovereignty once again. It may happen through another exile, through an influx of Muslims who will change the demographics of the country, or through some yet unknown way. Either way, if we don’t do what we must, and become an example of unity above all our differences and hatred, humanity will hate us and torment us as it has been doing for the past two millennia.
We, Jews, the descendants of outcasts from all over the ancient Fertile Crescent who gathered around Abraham Our Father to hear about love of others, must do now what our forefathers did then: unite above our hatred and thus become “a light unto nations.” As then, so now, if we do this, we will thrive. If we don’t, we will break apart.
For more on this topic, refer to the books Like a Bundle of Reeds: Why unity and mutual guarantee are today’s call of the hour, and The Jewish Choice: Unity or Anti-Semitism, Historical facts on anti-Semitism as a reflection of Jewish social discord
Members of the Jewish community attend a memorial ceremony a day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Mexico