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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Where Did We Go Wrong?


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

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If you love Eretz Yisrael, you must also feel overwhelmed by a sense of frustration. Why is Israel demonized all over the world? Why has she become the new source for the age-old canard of anti-Semitism? And why is it that Israel cannot present itself in its true light? The question is all the more puzzling, since we, the Jewish people, are renowned for our fidelity to justice, righteousness and truth. And more so, how is it that Israel has such dismal, horrible PR? How is it that we, who are masters of language, are so inept at imparting the glorious history and priestly calling of our nation? After all, we are the “People of the Book.” Who, if not we, should be able to address the nations of the world and communicate our true essence?

Why is Israel so horribly misunderstood and the target of so much hatred? No matter how noble Israel’s intent, no matter how caring its soldiers may be, the most outrageous accusations are leveled against the country. Just consider the recent blood libels that charged Israeli soldiers with trafficking in Arab body parts. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable. There is nothing that Israel can do that is right. No matter how she tries to accommodate her Moslem citizens and neighbors, no matter that Israeli Moslems enjoy greater freedom, comforts, and benefits, than any of their brethren in neighboring Moslem countries, Israel is portrayed as a war-mongering apartheid nation.

It matters little that Israel is always among the first responders whenever and wherever there is a world crisis – be it a tsunami, earthquake, or any other disaster, but Israel’s outreach goes unrecognized and most often is rejected.

I recall when, many moons ago, Israel attained statehood and was in its infancy. I recall the first Israeli ships that docked in New York Harbor and the elation and celebration with which Israeli sailors were greeted. I recall when the various branches of the IDF visited New York – everyone vied to host them, honor them and pay them tribute. They were heroes who reminded the world that little David was still capable of defeating Goliath – that the ancient dream had been realized – that the Bible had come alive! After almost 2,000 years of persecution and oppression, the Jewish people had attained their own homeland.

And then, as if overnight, everything changed. A new wave of anti-Semitism reared its ugly head. In every generation, anti-Semitism is packaged to appeal to the masses. The new anti-Semites of the 21st century have made their venom palatable by exchanging anti-Jewish sentiment for anti-Israel feeling. In a world where racism is anathema, Jew-baiting is politically incorrect. So the new anti-Semites loudly proclaim that they have nothing against Jews. As a matter of fact, “some of their best friends are Jews.” It is Israel, the Zionist entity that is the problem.

And incredibly, many Jews happily buy into this lie and comfort themselves with the thought that the world has matured and anti-Semitism is no longer a factor. Israel is the villain, and that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. So it is that we find many self-hating Jews joining those who would denounce Israel in an attempt to curry favor with the nations.

A case in point is the infamous Goldstone Report, which libels Israel and accuses it of war crimes, making it possible for IDF soldiers to be arrested when traveling abroad, and Israeli diplomats to be derided and scorned. It is not just groups outside of Israel that are guilty of this perfidy – Israelis themselves have fallen into the trap.

Take, for example. Professor Shlomo Sand of Tel-Aviv University. In a new book entitled, The Invention of the Jewish People (reviewed in the “Wall Street Journal”), Sand posits that contemporary Jews are not really authentic Jews, but converts, the descendants of Khazars – a Turkic tribe of Eurasia that converted to Judaism in the mid-eighth-century.

According to this sick, flawed theory, today’s Jews have no ancestral links to Israel since they are not true Semites. Therefore it follows that there is no justification for a Jewish state in the Middle East. Sand believes that Israel should shed its Jewish identity and be a democracy. His book was published in Israel, and incredibly, became a bestseller. In France, it received the prestigious “Aujourd’hui Award,” which honors the year’s best non-fiction book.

Needless to say anti-Semites throughout the world are receiving the book with great glee. The Wall Street Journal reporter, Evan Goldstein, in an interview with Professor Sand in Paris, where he is enjoying a Sabbatical, asked Sand if he was concerned that his book, The Invention of the Jewish People would be exploited for pernicious ends. “I don’t care if crazy anti-Semites in the U.S. use my book,” Sand answered. . “Anti-Semitism in the West for the moment is not a problem.”

Still, he is worried about how the forthcoming Arabic translation may be received in the Moslem word where, he admits, anti-Semitism is growing. When Goldstein was asked if the confident tenor of his book might exacerbate the problem, he reluctantly conceded, “Maybe my tone was too affirmative on the question of the Khazars. If I were to write the book today, I would be much more careful.”

Such admission however, writes Goldstein, the Journal reporter, is unlikely to sway the sinister conspirators who find this Khazar theory a useful weapon. Sand and Goldstone are just two examples of these perfidious self-hating Jews. Their numbers are growing, and I haven’t even mentioned the anti-Israel lobby, J-Street, and the many others who have turned on Israel.

The question that must occur to all of us is, “How could this have happened?” It’s one thing when anti-Israelism comes from without, but something else again when it comes from within. How do we explain it all? How can we understand this insane wave of hatred against Israel… and Israel’s inability to present itself on the world scene in its true prophetic light?

The question is all the more puzzling when you consider that radical Moslems are terrorizing the world. Just think of the massacre at Ft. Hood, happening right in our own backyard. And yet, instead of identifying the scourge for what it is, it is all whitewashed. The words “Islamic terror” are “off-limits” and politically incorrect. Not Washington, the mainstream media, nor the world at large, are willing to identify this new Islamic threat to civilization.

So again I ask, how are we to understand it all? The irrationality of that which is unfolding before our eyes boggles the imagination, but it also imbues us with strength, for it reminds us that we are living in pre-Messianic times and our only solution can come from Hashem. Only if we turn to Him, only by assuming our G-d given roles – to live by the Torah will we be able to bring an end to the terror that envelops us.

If our leadership has failed to present Israel in its true light, it is because, sadly, they are not familiar with that light. Alas, they can no longer recall that light of Torah that Hashem kindled in our neshamos at Sinai.

The founder of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, believed that once the Jewish people were settled in their own land and had become a nation like all other nations, anti-Semitism would cease to exist. But today, that homeland has become the cause of anti-Semitism. Who would have believed it? How do you explain it?

The answer to all our challenges, to all our dilemmas is in the Torah.

Rashi, the great commentator, wrote that the reason why G-d commences the Torah with the Creation of the world rather than the giving of the commandments is because the day will come when, we the Jewish people, will return to Eretz Yisrael and the nations will accuse Israel of taking the land by force. And then we must tell them that G-d created the world. It belongs to Him, and in His infinite wisdom, He deeded the land to us, the Jewish people for all eternity. Until such time as our Israeli representative makes that proclamation to the world, I am afraid, anti-Semitism camouflaged, as anti-Zionism will prevail.

So simple and yet so difficult – if you do not know Hashem and His Torah.

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