Photo Credit:
Pete Hegseth

What are some of the highlights about your trip to Israel that you hope to convey to Americans?

I came to Israel with an open heart and open mind to truly understand what it is to be Jewish, to live there with the threats the country faces, and to bring those truths back to America. Most people have almost no idea what it’s like to live in Israel and face the threats Israel faces. In fact, they’re infected by the left-wing narrative that always points the finger at Israel. Just like it always points the finger at America and finds every reason to place blame in the wrong spot.

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I’ve been asked what Israel can learn from America. Each time I hear that I stop and say that you need to reverse that question and ask what America can learn from Israel. What always strikes me about Israel is its pervasive sense of purpose, an understanding that it’s something greater than oneself. This sense is intoxicating and infectious to me because there’s just a small percentage of Americans, most of whom have served in the military, who understand that. Predominantly, American culture today is largely asleep to the realities of the world we face, to the depth of the threats on the horizon. Israel is not asleep. It is forced each and every day to wake up under the umbrella of existential threats. And yet Israelis stand up each and every day and decide to fight back.

When I’m in Israel I’m reminded that history is not over. If there is one nation, one people who can stand and say, “Look how we’ve been treated,” it is the Jewish people. Instead they live in history, cognizant of history, chartering a course forward proactively. America has decided in many quarters that it doesn’t want to live in history anymore. It often looks at Western Europe, where they’ve decided to gut their militaries to pay for their welfare states. They open up their borders and they dump them in, and then they wonder what’s happened in their midst.

God’s people in the state of Israel understand their role. That understanding fortifies their ability to defend free people, democracy, and self-governance – all the bedrock principles of the West. When I look at Israel, these are the principles I absorb and say we need to remind America of.

Can you pinpoint a particularly memorable impression from the trip?

We went to a home in the Muslim Quarter that was purchased and refurbished for Jewish families by Ateret Cohanim and there were about fifteen young boys, aged around 10-16, singing and dancing. They were hopeful and optimistic and not afraid, though they know that they’re doing something difficult in a difficult place. They’re steeped in history. To me this was a powerful thing to see.

Would you attribute that to their religious beliefs?

Of course. That colors it, no doubt. But I also think that when a country is under siege and people want to wipe it off the map, it has an infectious sense of purpose that drives it to first principles that other countries completely ignore. It is not just patriotism for patriotism’s sake. It’s a turning to the Torah, to the Bible, to faith, to family and community. It’s a deep belief in having gotten back your country and defending the state God has given you.

In the twenty-first century the trend is very much the opposite, and I think that’s part of the reason why there is such condemnation of Israel. Israel is asserting its right to exist when the rest of the world is saying, “We’re over flags and nations and allegiances and faith.” It’s a multicultural, secular, humanist world coming in contact with and pushing back against a patriotic state of faith that is prosperous, pluralistic, and treats people fairly. These are all the things the world says it wants yet ironically rejects it in the one place where it’s happening.

It goes back to faith. If I hadn’t grown up with a steady stream of the Bible, with the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Moses, and David, then I wouldn’t understand this or appreciate it the way that I do. A lot of Americans aren’t growing up on that the way they used to.

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