Lately, many people have been forwarding me angry emails that they sent to newspapers, magazines and blogs regarding Secretary of State John Kerry. All of these emails and letters criticize Kerry – in very strong terms – over his treatment of Israel vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Unfortunately, while these letter writers mean well, they all miss the point.
Let me give you a perfect example of what I mean. This “Open Letter to John Kerry” was recently published in the Jerusalem Post. I will quote the relevant portions of the letter; “Dear Mr Kerry. On the anniversary of Kristallnacht you had the audacity to shake your finger and threaten dire consequences unless the State of Israel agrees to comply with outrageous, illegitimate and dangerous concessions in finalizing a peace accord with the Palestinians. We are in the post-Holocaust era. The days when we cowered, packed our bags and dutifully boarded trains for Auschwitz and such places have long passed. We have learned from history. We have a proud, legitimate, successful, sovereign state. We are not dependent on handouts from the EU or the US. We made the desert bloom. We developed hi-tech industries. We lead in medical and scientific discoveries. Most of all, we have the military might, intelligence and determination to defend ourselves…”
Sounds great, right? A wonderful letter telling Mr Kerry that the days of the beaten, abused and bullied Jew are over. What message is better than that? Simply fantastic! If so, why do I hate a letter like this and feel that THIS LETTER is actually the source of the problem?
The answer is very simple. I am not bothered by what is written in the letter, rather, by what is NOT written! Yes, we have “a proud, legitimate, successful state”. That is correct. We have also “made the desert bloom”, have “developed hi-tech industries” and truly lead the world in “medical and scientific discoveries”. It is also 100% accurate that today, we have the “military might, intelligence and determination to defend ourselves” but that is not what makes Israel special, significant and worth dying for. The missing word in this letter is “JEWISH” and that is what Israel is all about – period!
The hi-tech industries are wonderful and I am very proud of our medical research but the reason I made Aliyah was to become a complete Jew by living in the one and only land given by the one and only G-d to His one and only people. I left New York and built my life in Israel because I am in a love-affair with Hashem and His land. I did not run away from persecution nor have a desire to set up an R&D lab near Weizman Institute. I came because I am a Jew and I felt crippled living outside of Israel.
I am fully aware that one can be a good Jew in NY, Chicago or Melbourne, Australia. All of these places have wonderful shiurim, minyanim, chessed programs, mikvehs, Yeshivas and glatt kosher food. The problem is – and sadly, you won’t hear any of your Rabbonim say this – that a Jew cannot be complete outside the Land of Israel. He/she can be frum, acquire vast amounts of Torah knowledge, do mitzvot morning to night, raise a beautiful Jewish family, perform amazing acts of chessed but that same person – as a Jew – will be incomplete. Simply put: something is missing and that “something” is living a Jewish life in the Jewish land.
This is the message we need to send to ourselves FIRST and then to John Kerry. For us, Israel is not just a nice “proud, legitimate, successful state”… it is the source of our existence! It is the reason we exist as a nation as opposed to just a bunch of individual Jews or communities. We are AM YISRAEL – the Jewish NATION and that nation must understand that Hashem could have left us in Goshen, Egypt. We would have set up an amazing society over there with everything Jewish imaginable. However, Hashem wanted more from us. Yes, He freed us from slavery but then He gave us the command to leave Egypt (and America, Canada, England, South Africa, Australia etc…) and inherit the Land He swore to our fathers.
We need to understand this point very clearly and then – and only then – can we communicate it to the Kerrys of the world. While we are proud of Israel and her hi-tech companies, medical research, fancy hotels, beautiful airport and kosher McDonalds what we are REALLY proud of is that we are fulfilling the dream and the promise of thousands of years. We are living the life mentioned by the prophets! We are settling in the land given to us by Hashem Himself and we are defending that land with self-sacrifice!
No “Kerry” will ever take that away from us – that is not what bothers me. Today we fight Kerry and yesterday we fought his predecessors; Hillary Clinton, James Baker, Henry Kissinger and Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger (what a list!!). These guys (and sometimes gals) come and go and they don’t bother me at all. I do not lose sleep over them, their policies or their speeches. They are all here today and gone tomorrow.
The problem is with us. We are not looking at Israel in the right way. Israel is not just a nice place or a Jewish Singapore. It is the fulfillment of our destiny and the realization of our dreams. In Israel, we are led into battle by Hashem Himself (“Hashem Tzva-kot”) and our holy soldiers are His messengers. We don’t just build homes or irrigate fields, we follow in the footsteps of the Tribes of Israel and we rebuild THEIR homes and re-irrigate THEIR fields! We restore Jewish life and live as complete and total Jews. Every breath we take is a Jewish one and every footstep creates another angel and brings us closer to the final redemption.
When this is your reality and when you see Israel in this light, people like John Kerry can say whatever makes them happy and it won’t bother you at all.