By Yochanan Gordon
Think about it, if the Arab, Israeli conflict did not exist we would be living in a rather boring world. I am sure we can all survive without the excitement, however, since it is our brothers and sisters who are constantly on the defensive end of the barrage, but just imagine for a moment how the daily newscast would sound if there was actually peace in the Middle East?
But the truth is, we were put on this world for a purpose and the absence of peace and harmony in our most cherished land in the world can in some ways set us back from fulfilling our purpose. While Jews today and especially throughout history have never hesitated sacrificing their lives for the sake of G-d, still we long for the day that we could serve G-d without putting our lives in harms way.
Even America, the free country, is today much different than it always was. Americas boldface stance and constant pressure on Israel is a result of the Arab extremists labeling them as evil enemies by classification with Israel. There is no doubt in my mind that if America would completely back down from support of Israel, their image in the eyes of the Arab nations would improve significantly. But America, from the moment Israel had achieved autonomy has been for the most part at their side through thick and thin. Today, as a result of the ever so tenuous nature of the global political landscape America has begun approaching Israel with a dual personality trying to show the Arab world that they are supportive of their existence and overall cause towards achieving quasi independence in the region. But with every passing day the reality to most of us at least seems that the Palestinians are not in a rush to resolve this conflict. They are playing their cards across the spectrum as if they have the upper hand. And as long as we continue to approach them with human dignity and resort to diplomacy this ping pong match will continue for quite sometime.
The world throughout time has been challenged on many different fronts. Challenges in the arena of medical research, social standards, politically and the list goes on. Martin Luther King Jr. has attained saintly status towards effectuating change of the social norms in society. Jackie Robinson, Malcom X and Madame C J Walker have lived lives perpetuating the call of Dr King before them and achieved renowned status as a result of their efforts and successes in tearing down the proverbial wall of racial segregation and achieving equal opportunity for all.
The continuous research in the medical field to find cures for cancer as well as Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease and other such debilitating illnesses continues to be the billion-dollar research effort that it is for one reason only – the one who finds that universal cure will live and die a legend for finding a cure to an illness that brought such pain and anguish to a world spanning centuries.
Beneath the surface and despite all that is said, the continuous search for peace in the Middle East has the same goal in mind. It’s all about notoriety. For the same reason you could get someone to enter a bullring or attempt daredevil stunts. What’s too bad is, that when it comes to a serious matter such as global peace the Nobel Peace Prize could be awarded to someone who has arrogantly introduced a novel approach towards achieving peace and as of this point has failed miserably. Is this prize a joke!!! Perhaps they should have renamed it the NCP standing for the Nobel Consolation Prize. From the way it looks at least right now Mr. Obama is not prepared to back down from what he sees as the sensible approach towards taming the beasts in the Middle East.
The question is what lies beyond this dream of peace and serenity in the Middle East and throughout the world? In other words, this conflict has until today occupied a major part of our consciousness. We don’t continuously change channels on the Television screen and the dial of the Radio to get six different perspectives on the week’s weather or the latest murder in the Bronx! As Jews we are obsessed with Eretz Yisrael. Moshe Rabbeinu as well as many of our earlier and later sages yearned longingly to enter this coveted land, despite never making it. So much blood, tears and emotion has been spent in this effort – The question is, for what? In the answer to this question lies the key to the land.
Lets take a look back to the 9/11 attacks on US soil. From s security perspective, Americans have never felt so insecure at home and traveling abroad since the attacks on the World Trade Center. The recent failed attempts to blow American airliners out of the air have just put people more on-edge but I believe that 9/11 was the root of this vulnerability. In an attempt to undermine the purpose behind these attacks our Government officials just a day or two later came out with a proclamation to get back into malls and on airplanes to show these terrorists that we will not be deterred from living a normal life.
The truth is, it is important to exercise freedom not allowing exterior pressures to determine what kind of life we will live. At the same time, what happened to the saying, “There are no atheists in a foxhole”? Al Qaeda has just waged war on the heart of the US the West is no longer as free as it has professed to be and all were expected to do is resume our lives the way they were prior to the attacks?
When a person gets into a car accident, whether it was their fault or not the next time they get behind the wheel they are careful regarding the way they drive. I don’t believe that people are willing to place their lives – their most valuable commodity in the hands of security officials. While we do hope that these officials are astute in their jobs and attentive to any leads that threaten our security on a daily basis there has to be belief in a higher force that we could place our trust in. If most Americans do not ascribe to monotheism then call out to whomever you believe in? But to just resume life the way it was prior not talking any proactive steps towards avoiding further tragedies is completely negligible.
Going by what they have said, it seems that America is looking to afford its citizens 70 or 80 years of peaceful living, working, shopping, eating out as well as sightseeing and vacationing until the time comes to expire. The truth is, it is no secret, and it is printed for all to see. In the constitution our founding fathers wrote that America is built on the pillars of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So if religion and belief in G-d makes you happy you are free to spend your life pursuing it. And if a terrorist has the audacity to break the peacefulness in the Western World, fear not for our country is prepared to fight for our continued freedom.
As Jews, however, our approach towards life and the ideals that we hold close to our hearts have to be much more profound and meaningful. We could do without the Schwarma, laffa and salads in Israel if we had to, but it’s everything else about the land, its history, its sights and the holiness which pervades its every city and stone that for us serves as a lifeline. For this same land many of our sages risked their lives to settle on its shores. For them, many of the commandments which were out of reach in the Diaspora in a sense inhibited their relationship with G-d. Their longing and love for the land of Israel was completely ideological, centered on love of G-d and the performance of His mitzvos and that should be our outlook as well.
Many have a practice of reciting Psalms according to the day of each month. Following this cycle, the book is completed every month. It’s amazing to take notice that in many ways the chapters that we read on a daily basis coincide with the theme of the Parsha or the specific time of year that we are living through. So there I was, in shul after davening, reciting the psalms for the day, chapters one hundred and four and one hundred and five. That week we were going to read about the exodus from Egypt and the various plagues which preceded it. And then the irony hit home.
While the Jews spent the ensuing forty years wandering through the desert, the purpose of the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai were for the Jews to enter the land of Israel and serve G-d as a nation with the Beis Hamikdash. So in a sense at the climax of the chapter the final three verses state, “And amidst joy He took out His nation, with song his chosen ones. And he gave them the land of nations and they inherited the toil of the people. In order that they safeguard His laws and protect His Torah, praised be He.
As Jews we have to realize that Eretz Yisrael is much different than any other land in the world. America, without all of its tourist attractions and the business that comes as a result of its constant influx of visitors is nothing, just a piece of land, with potential. Conversely, Eretz Yisrael is inherently holy. And while the government over the years has spent billions, perhaps even trillions of dollars making it the beautiful place it is, attracting as many tourists as it does, that dies not contribute to the exclusivity of Israel. Israel looks its prettiest and attracts its most tourists when its inhabitants are following the laws of G-d.
All we have to do is look back to our Patriarch Abraham and all of our Patriarchs for that matter who refused to go with the tide. The Torah refers to Abraham as the Ivri only because he held his own despite the path that the rest of the world, including his closest peers were blindly following. On that note you could only know for certain that a fish is alive if it is swimming against the tide. A dead fish, by contrast will only go in the direction of the tide. It’s about time that Israel reclaims its Jewish Identity from the top and then we will start to see a gradual change in the security of the land. The land, which the Torah writes, “The eyes of G-d are on it from the beginning of the year until the end”.
If at times it seems that despite G-ds constant watchful eye over the land there exists violence and danger in its streets it would be helpful to reexamine what about Israel is so dear to us and why peace and security amongst its borders is so important to us. Israel is more than a political peace in the world game of ‘stratego’ its land of our forefathers and the land that we were promised to inherit as long as we follow closely to the laws of G-d that are part and parcel of its safety and serenity that we so longingly await.
Yochanan Gordon is a contributing writer at The Five Towns Jewish Times. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.