By Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute
"When the Supreme Being gave the nations an inheritance, when He separated man from man, he established the borders of the nations the same as the number of Bnei Yisrael" [Devarim 32:8].
Europe is seething with the invasion of refugees/immigrants/job-seekers from the Third World, who are crowding its borders. Tens of thousands of people are trying to make their way into Germany and other lands which have wealthy economies. Some of these people are indeed refugees from the sword, but most of them have simply discovered the "New World," which sparkles and attracts them with its high standard of living, its welfare state, and broad human rights. Most of those who are knocking at the borders are Moslems, but as far as I can see for the time being (and the emphasis is important: for the time being) this is not part of a religious Moslem conquest. This is a population which indeed grew up in Moslem culture and surroundings, but I venture to suggest that a large number of them are ready to abandon their religious-cultural past. They are certainly not inclined to engage in a fundamentalist approach, and they evidently would like nothing better than to become part of the "European enlightenment."
I can sympathize with the decision-makers in Europe, who are torn between the Schengen Agreement (from about 20 years ago), which cancelled any border controls among the member states (except for England), providing for free movement among the countries in Europe, and their desire to maintain their own national and political independence, and especially to protect the welfare of their own people, without sharing their treasures with the Third World.
When I try, as usual, to look at the issues from the point of view of Judaism and the Torah - and also to ask the question, "What is good for Israel?" - I find that I have various things to say.
Universalism Trumps Nationalism
I was never very much impressed in principle with the idea of European Unity from the Jewish point of view. This is not only because of practical issues, since the European Union is usually quite opposed to Israel on such matters as economic boycotts and in legal issues (through the International Court in the Hague), but mainly in political terms (it is identified with the pro-Palestinian approach) and for its strong support of the Israeli left.
In the Torah of the sages, throughout past generations, much is said about Yisrael as opposed to the "seventy nations of the world." Even if seventy is not an absolute number (there are 193 member states in the United Nations, but not all of them are nations), it is significant as "the number of the children of Yisrael" who descended to Egypt (see the verse quoted above), which is also equal to the number of Noach's descendants after the Deluge. Our sources speak of "seventy oxen sacrificed on Succot, symbolizing the seventy nations of the world," "seventy tongues," and " seventy wolves" which harass Yaacov, represented by sheep. The creation of separate nations is a consequence of the collapse of the idea of the Tower of Babel, and Divine blocking of the notion that the people were "one nation with one language... and from there, G-d distributed them all over the earth" [Bereisheet 11:6,9].
As far as I can see, national unification is an attempt to establish a new tower of Babel, and it is against the nature of the world and the decree of the Holy One, Blessed be He – and "it will not succeed" [Bamidbar 14:41]. Moreover, in my eyes the European Union is an attempt to give preference to universalism over nationalism. This post-modern approach can also be found within our nation – a weakening of our nationalism for the good of "the world" – mostly among "enlightened westerners." This approach of weakness appears with many faces, and there is no room to list them here. I will hesitatingly add one more point: As far as I can see, the "religion of human rights" was born as a result of the deification of the idea of universalism – but we will not expand on this theme here.
I stand on the sidelines and I wonder: will this universalism continue to exist? As I noted above, I have always had my doubts about the ability of the European Union to continue to exist, based on the Jewish conviction that the hearts of men are oriented towards a national bias from the day that the world was created. Will the huge flow of refugees from the east into Europe bring about cracks in the universalism-based unity and show that my gut feelings were correct?
Is this Good for the Jews?
So much for my thoughts about this matter. From here on, I will discuss the political outlook, the consequences for Israel.
On one hand, I – and probably many others – have a feeling of "we told you so!" You supported the Palestinians! You deified the idea of human rights! You lectured us from the leftist side of the picture! Now see the boomerang that is coming straight at you! Our behavior towards the work immigrants to Israel from Africa and our policies towards foreign workers in Israel will turn out to be many times more "enlightened" than what will yet happen in Europe.
On the other hand, since it seems to me that the European Union will not stop the flow and new waves will follow in sequence, we can assume that we today, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, we can expect serious geopolitical transformations to take place in the world. The way things go, we cannot expect this to give us any benefit. Even if this is not (yet?) a matter of a Moslem conquest, and as noted above, not a declared overrun of Islam – in the end, the nations of the European Union will bow down before the Arab world – the Third World. And in the international "clearing house," we will be asked to pay a price for these events.
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, when "a declaration will be made about the nations" [from the prayer U'Netaneh Tokef], my heart is full of trepidation that even nations which are considered relatively "enlightened" will be moved into the "dark." "And they will be added together with our enemies" [Shemot 1:10].
There is indeed good reason to pray hard this year.