web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Israel’s Pivotal Role in the Renaissance of Jewish Life

The presence of a strong Israel gives credence to the Torah’s message that God is not finished with the people of the Covenant.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill bronze statues, sitting on a bench in Mayfair, London.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill bronze statues, sitting on a bench in Mayfair, London.

Share Button

Rashi, in his first commentary on the Torah, asks why the Bible starts with the Book of Genesis. Judaism, after all, is really about the commandments, so why not skip directly to Exodus where the commandments are listed?

Seventy years ago, two events occurred that every Jew should always remember. In May 1943, when Franklin Roosevelt met with Winston Churchill at the White House, one of the questions FDR brought up was how to settle the Jewish question.

His vice president, Henry Wallace, noted the conversation in his diary. Roosevelt, Wallace wrote, spoke approvingly of a plan developed by the president of Johns Hopkins University, Isaiah Bowman, “to spread the Jews thin all over the world.”

In other words, not too many of them living in one place lest they infect us…. I think we all can fill in the rest of the thought.

The second event took place a month later. In the midst of the Holocaust, as trains packed with Jews from all over Eastern Europe were making their way to the death camps, the Vatican’s apostolic delegate in Washington, Archbishop A.G. Cicognani, wrote to Myron Taylor, the U.S. envoy to the Vatican, to explain why the Roman Catholic church opposed a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

The letter stated,

Catholics the world over are piously devoted to this country, hallowed as it was by the presence of the Redeemer and esteemed as it is as the cradle of Christianity. If the greater part of Palestine is given to the Jewish people, this would be a severe blow to the religious attachment of Catholics to this land.

To have the Jewish people in the majority would be to interfere with the peaceful exercise of these rights in the Holy Land already vested in Catholics.

It is true that at one time Palestine was inhabited by the Hebrew Race, but there is no axiom in history to substantiate the necessity of a people returning to a country they left nineteen centuries before.

If a “Hebrew Home” is desired, it would not be too difficult to find a more fitting territory than Palestine. With an increase in the Jewish population there, grave new, international problems would arise. Catholics the world over would be aroused. The Holy See would be saddened, and justly, so, by such a move, for it would not be in keeping with the charitable assistance non-arians [sic] have received and will continue to receive at the hands of the Vatican.

Notice that the pope’s representative wasn’t seeking to prevent Jews from building day schools or synagogues – he just didn’t want them to do so in Eretz Yisrael.

That’s precisely why Rashi’s answer to his question about why the Torah starts with Genesis rather than Exodus is so relevant: It was in order to establish our national identity as a nation before the entire world.

What the Vatican wanted to do to us in the 1940s is the same thing the United Nations attempted to do thirty years later. On November 10, 1975, the UN General Assembly, by a vote of 72-35 (with 32 abstentions), singled out Zionism as a form of racism.

It was a major turning point in the relationship between the Jewish people and the international community. On that day huge numbers of Jews, ranging from chassidic to Reform, took to the streets in a massive show of unity. They understood that the community of nations was attacking the very foundation of our heritage and seeking to erase our 3,500-year relationship with Eretz Yisrael.

Perhaps our sages insisted that the Torah reading on both days of Rosh Hashanah should be about the covenant Avraham sealed with the Almighty on Mount Moriah in the land of Israel because they knew that, in the eyes of the world, you are a nobody unless you have a national identity.

The fact is, the astonishing renaissance of Jewish life we have experienced – the explosive growth of Orthodox neighborhoods, the packed yeshivas and kollels, the unprecedented number of seforim and other Jewish books being published, the open and proud display of Torah observance – is due not only to the great rabbinical leaders who inspired us but also because those sages had a partner in a strong and dynamic Jewish state with an army and a flag and a determination to defend the rights of Jews anywhere in the world.

The presence of a strong Israel gives credence to the Torah’s message that God is not finished with the people of the Covenant; that despite the millennia of homelessness and wandering and expulsion and persecution and murder, “netzach Yisrael lo yishkar” – the destiny of Israel will never be forsaken.

Far from being an enemy of Torah – as a not insignificant number of Orthodox Jews insist on proclaiming – Israel has made it possible for Torah to flourish, with the state now home to more yeshivas and religious institutions and organizations than ever existed in all of Europe.

And let us not overlook the fact that pride in Israel and its accomplishments was a major spark of the ba’al teshuvah movement that since the late 1960s has brought so many Jews back to Yiddishkeit.

Here in the U.S., it wasn’t so long ago that governors, mayors and senators were reluctant to speak at yeshiva banquets or to otherwise identify themselves too closely with Jewish causes. Today, even officials in cities and states with a negligible Jewish presence regularly attend Jewish and Israel-related functions. They do so because they know firsthand what the Jewish state has contributed to mankind and what a full-fledged partner with America Israel has become in science and technology, in economics, in the war on terrorism.

In praising his son Yehudah, our forefather Yaakov declared: “All your brothers know what you have done.” Likewise, we need to know – and acknowledge – what Israel has done for Jews around the world.

Share Button

About the Author: Rabbi Marvin Hier is the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

Leave a comment (Select your commenting platform)

3 Responses to “Israel’s Pivotal Role in the Renaissance of Jewish Life”

  1. Reb Yid says:

    While it is important for as many Jews to live in Israel as possible, history teaches us that the Land of Israel is in no way critical to Jewish survival. Judaism flourished in Babylonia, North Africa, and Europe. For the last two millennia, it has been Torah which kept us alive. That is where efforts should be concentrated. Go with what works.

  2. Yechiel Baum says:

    Move the catholics from the Jewish State of Israel to Vatican City and the catholic problem is solved.

  3. Yechiel Baum says:

    Move the catholics from the Jewish State of Israel to Vatican City and the catholic problem is solved.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
The interior of the El Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba, Tunisia, in 2009.
Tunisian Jew Stabbed in Djerba
Latest Indepth Stories
Chief IDF Rabbi Rafi Peretz

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

Lebovic-041814

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Benveniste-041814

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

Dann-041814

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

Perhaps worse than all the above is the acute lack of unity among Jews

At our seder we emulate the way it was celebrated in Temple times, as if the Temple still stood.

Not one world leader holds Abbas accountable for his part in the breakdown of negotiations.

The 1948 re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty was a modern day Exodus and Parting of the Sea.

Spies who caused American deaths and worked for enemy states received lighter sentences than Pollard.

Christie’s “good friend” is an Imam who supports murderers of Jews and defames Israel and Christians.

More Articles from Rabbi Marvin Hier
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill bronze statues, sitting on a bench in Mayfair, London.

The presence of a strong Israel gives credence to the Torah’s message that God is not finished with the people of the Covenant.

Pope Benedict

The election or the demise of a pope is always an event of enormous public interest that resonates well beyond the Catholic world. This was certainly the case when the newswires flashed their bulletin that Pope Benedict XVI had taken the unprecedented step of resigning because of age and ill health, becoming the first pontiff in more than six centuries to do so.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/israels-pivotal-role-in-the-renaissance-of-jewish-life/2013/10/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: