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Why invest your life in a country that faces such dangers?
Lately, I’ve been struggling with the question, Why have Israel? How does it make sense? Why would I raise my children in a country with so many threats, with so many dangers - and raise them to serve in the defense forces, with all the added risks entailed? Some people say that God is on our side, but unless He has issued a new update since October 7th, I am not reassured. The picture above, from my daughter’s IDF ceremony, fills me with pride; but the thought of my oldest son being in this ceremony in two years also fills me with dread.
Obviously, it’s October 7th which brought this into sharp focus. But there were people discussing this question even beforehand. A few years ago, Daniel Gordis wrote a book titled Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End. He spells out the problems with brutal realism: No realistic chance of peace with the Palestinians, Hezbollah and Hamas amassing weapons, a huge Israeli-Arab population which is largely hostile, Iran and others striving for nuclear weapons. Why does it make sense for us to do this?
When the State of Israel was originally conceived, some thought it would cause antisemitism to cease. We can all see that as a joke; it’s just provided antisemitism with a new mask. Many consider that the goal of Israel was to provide safety, and some still say that they believe that Israel is the safest place for a Jew to live. Unfortunately, while Israel might psychologically feel safe, the objective reality is that it is certainly far from the safest place. The odds of being harmed by a terrorist outside of Israel are extraordinarily low; the chances of being hit by a missile or being nuked are virtually non-existent. The same cannot be said for living in Israel.
But we don’t always choose the safest places to live or the safest things to do. Life is about more than maximizing lifespan and minimizing risk. Life has to have meaning.
Daniel Gordis provides other goals and functions of Israel, to which I would like to add some of my own. Here they are, in no particular order.
Israel is an opportunity to show ourselves and others what the Jewish People can do when we have sovereignty. What has thousands of years of Torah and the Jewish experience done to condition us, and how is it expressed when we finally have a nation? In the 75 years of the State’s existence, we have accomplished so many things, in so many areas. Whether it’s incredible “social capital,” amazing accomplishments of an idealistic society, technological innovation, assistance for other countries, rescuing other Jews and absorbing astonishing numbers of immigrants, Israel’s accomplishments are extraordinary - especially against the backdrop of the dismal failures of the rest of the Middle East.
Israel is our ancestral homeland. Mayim Bialik, in a recent video bemoaning the rampant Judeopathy in the US and the dangers she sees for her son entering college, says, “I feel like a stranger in my own country.” No Jew feels like a stranger in Israel, no matter how poor their Modern Hebrew. We are connected here to an astonishing three thousand years of history and ongoing presence in the land.
Israel’s care for Jews is guaranteed. Any Jew, anywhere in the world, has a country that is not only his ancestral homeland, but which will welcome him to live in it. And if Jews are in trouble, anywhere in the world, Israel will try to help, with the resources that only a state can provide.
Israel creates a message of hope, even amidst despair. The creation of the State of Israel - with UN approval! - after two thousand years of exile and persecution is the greatest miracle of recent history. Its timing, a few years after the unimaginable devastation of the Holocaust, was utterly revitalizing. And since its creation, there have been many more examples of hope amidst despair - the military victories of ‘48 and ‘67, the Entebbe rescue, even the rescue of Ori Megidish last week. No, things don’t always work out. But the track record means that we have reason to hope that they will. We can’t be certain that God will perform miracles, but in this country He does so pretty often.
These are just some of the reasons why Israel is so important and valuable. Feel free to add more.
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