Today we travel to Israel on jets and arrive at a state-of-the-art airport. We rush to collect our luggage but instead of falling to the ground or kissing the soil we hail a taxi and ask one another, “Where should we go to eat? Are there any new good restaurants in Jerusalem?” The Psalms blowing in the wind are all but forgotten. We are busy. We are running. We have no patience for sentimentality. We get to our hotel and examine our accommodations. Often they do not meet our expectations.
I recall my first trip to Eretz Yisrael and then I think of today. And once again the Hungarian allegory comes to mind: “This is not the horse I wanted.”
Life goes on. The miracles of G-d continue, but we do not see or hear them. Israel is called upon to battle, and those battles never cease. And yet we survive. It is G-d who is leading us in our battles. Goliath is still determined to blot us off the map. With G-d’s help we are David, we are triumphant. “Ki lo yitosh Hashem es Amo – G-d will not forsake His people.”
Israel is one more proof that He has not forsaken us. But we in our deep slumber congratulate ourselves on our strength and proclaim, “Kochi v’otzem Yadi – my power and my strength did all this.” And so it’s business as usual as we continue to build the walls of hostility, animosity and jealousy that divide us and we fail to see the larger picture – the miracle before us.
Where did we go wrong? Where did the confusion start? We Jews have an uncanny way of doing things in reverse. We celebrate Israel’s Independence Day but fail to ask, “Independent from whom, from what?” The answer to that is the answer to our survival – to our very lives. Yes we are independent of the nations of the world and we do not bow down to their will. But this can only work if we recognize our total dependence on our G-d. Until we understand this basic truth and absorb it in our hearts, I’m afraid the struggle will continue and, G-d forbid, the wars will go on.
In one of my first speeches in Eretz Yisrael – this goes back many years – I spoke of the tragedy of our times: that so many of us speak the holy tongue yet know not how to pray, that so many of us live in the Holy Land yet have no faith. It would be so different if only we opened our hearts and turned to our G-d.
It is so simple and yet so hard. When will we wake up?