Photo Credit: Shimon Yair Cohen / Go Live
Jordan Peterson addresses crowd at ICC Jerusalem. Oct. 6, 2022

(JNS) Conservative superstars Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro lectured a standing-room only audience of approximately 3,000 at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center on Thursday.

In their speeches, the Daily Wire pundits addressed major challenges currently facing the Western world, the dynamics of power and totalitarianism, how the Torah’s well-known stories and a core belief in God serve as pillars of morality for all of mankind and the role Israel can play as an emerging technological and moral superpower on the world stage.

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Following the lectures, Peterson and Shapiro sat in conversation with former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who focused many of the questions on the centrality of Jerusalem to Israel’s historical and biblical narratives, and the role of Israel as a Jewish nation-state. He asked critical questions about whether the U.S. “is on a downslope.”

Friedman is widely credited as a major force behind moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, America’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights and contributing to the signing of the historic Abraham Accords normalization agreements between Israel and four Muslim-majority nations.

The event was organized by Tikvah Fund Israel and emceed by its CEO Amiad Cohen, a rising star in Israel’s growing movement of conservative political thought.

Ben Shapiro, David Friedman and Jordan Peterson in Jerusalem. Oct. 6, 2022.

Much of Shapiro’s remarks delved into the theological realm. His thesis was that G-d brought three ideas into the world on Mt. Sinai with the giving of the Torah: “that God is one,” “that human beings would be held to a standard of morality” and that Israel is the “specific nation” G-d chose “to represent his values.

Shapiro explained that “the Torah demands that [mankind] act morally,” and that “G-d lays out a choice for each individual between good and evil. And he noted that “God connects the Jewish people to a certain parcel of land: Eretz Yisrael,” in order to fulfill its national mission.

He concluded that Jews must act as “great light shining forth from this city,” and implored the Jewish people “never to forget Jerusalem,” quoting the famous verse from the Prophet Isaiah that “From Zion, Torah will come forth Torah, and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.”

During the question-and-answer portion, Shapiro called Jerusalem “the centerstone of Western civilization.”

Peterson addressed the role of stories, unity and responsibility in shaping the narrative of mankind. He noted that “everything is subject to an infinite number of interpretations,” a concept being abused by those who historically have sought power over the greater good.

“The narrative that we impose on the world is nothing but naked power,” he explained.

Peterson then analyzed the biblical stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Moses.

He called Israel the “cardinal model of the nation state,” and asked whether “as Jews in Israel, are you telling the greatest story ever told?”

He expressed his hope that Israel would one day make peace, starting first “in your own houses. To make peace you have to confront the serpent in the garden.”

Coming back to the concept of perception in storytelling, Peterson noted that meaningful existence is attainable. “The ultimate reality is right there,” he said, “at hand right in front of you; made in the image of G-d.”

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Alex Traiman is managing director and Jerusalem Bureau Chief of Jewish News Syndicate.