In the middle of the night on June 24, 2021, Champlain Tower came crashing down in Surfside, Florida. While chaos ruled for days, eventually 98 people would be found dead and four people would be rescued from the rubble. Two days later, the Israeli Defense Forces sent a search and rescue team to aid the Florida team on the ground. This wasn’t the first time the IDF had been sent at its own expense to aid non-Israelis around the world. In countless situations, the IDF has been sent to aid counties suffering from disasters. No other country Israel’s size helps others as Israel does. Israel’s value of helping others reflects the Israeli people’s character and their role as a moral light unto the nations.
The Israeli people are a good people, deserving of accolades and praise for their “hadar,” their refined dignity. It is the Israeli values of helping others, acting with humility and including the needy in the larger society. These values are thousands of years old and began with the Jewish people’s forefather Abraham in the land of Israel. Abraham had four openings to his tent, opening in all four directions. Through his multiple entrances, Abraham was able to see if travelers were passing by so that he could reach out and invite them into his tent to refresh themselves and have something to eat. Helping others was the moral value system Abraham passed to Isaac, who passed it to Jacob and it has carried on until today.
Israel’s system of helping the needy isn’t limited to Jews; it extends to its non-Jewish citizens as well. Israeli Arabs are given rights equal to that of Israeli Jews. Arabs in Israel have reached to the highest offices in Israeli society. Israeli Arabs are ministers in the government, Supreme Court justices, mayors, doctors and lawyers. The latest coalition features Israeli Arabs sitting in the government for the first time in Israel’s history. Arab placement in the government after 70 years speaks to Israeli determination to repair societal ills and become increasingly more inclusive.
Israel doesn’t only aim to include and help Israeli Arab citizens but has helped Palestinian Arabs more than all other Arab countries combined. After 19 years of neglect by Jordan, Palestinian Arabs came under Israeli rule in 1967. At the time, few Palestinians had electricity in their homes and only four cities had running water. Palestinians were using cisterns from Roman times. Palestinian quality of life was horrific but were in line with the rest of the Arab world. No world body attempted to help them.
Israel doesn’t measure its policies by the neighboring countries around them. While Israel’s neighboring Arab countries have treated its Palestinian residents as less than human, restricting their access to jobs, rights and at times even executing them in mass numbers – as King Hussein of Jordan did during the “Black September” conflict, Israel treats Palestinians with full human rights and has remarkably improved their lives.
Since 1967 with Israeli control of Judea and Samaria, Palestinian Arabs have seen their lives drastically improve in three areas. Palestinian quality of life has improved, life expectancy has improved, and Palestinian population numbers have risen. Palestinian cities and villages have seen development beyond their wildest dreams, and they enjoy every modern convenience. While it might seem obvious that every town should have electricity and running water, Palestinians living in other Arab countries do not enjoy the same quality of life.
Israel is constantly holding itself to higher standards. Israel’s justice system is independent and holds criminals responsible for their actions. Unlike its stronger and older ally, the U.S., Israel has convicted and imprisoned a prime minister, a president and a chief rabbi. It has a penal system that holds criminals, irrespective of their place in society, guilty for their crimes. Israel’s commitment to justice ensures that its society is run by the rule of law, not by the elite in society getting away with crimes while the poorer of society languish in jails.
Israel’s military has long been known as the most moral army in the world. The Israel Defense Forces sticks to a code of ethics that far surpasses its responsibilities under the international laws of war. Israel will take all steps to ensure it does not harm civilians in a battlefield situation, often calling off missions immediately before they are conducted because a civilian has entered the battlefield arena and could be harmed in the operation. Israel also drops dud bombs on building tops before blowing them up, drops leaflets in neighborhoods about to be targeted and calls the cell phones of residents of the area – all to warn innocent civilians of impending harm.
Israel is a good country filled with good people. This doesn’t mean Israel is a perfect society. While the overwhelming number of Israelis are kind, law abiding citizens who look to help those around them, Israel also has jails full of inmates who have not led their lives by traditional Jewish values. Israel is also plagued by extremists who paint Israel as dark and sully Israel’s name around the world. These people feature front and center in the world’s headlines making it seem at times as if Israel is a basketful of bad apples.
Israel’s bad apples are a small, even tiny, percentage of its overall population. Any honest look at the Israeli people will show them to be the best of the best of the world. Every Zionist should be proud to call the Israeli people their people and should spread the message of Israel’s kindness, inclusiveness and desire to help the needy in Israel and around the world.