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May 16, 2003 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-05-16

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Israelis Should Be Proud


s is the case for a mature adult,
the first challenge for Israel as
it turns 55 is to "know thy-
self" — to have a clear sense
of who we are by knowing what we
stand for, the values and ideals by which
and for which we live and, if necessary,
for which we are prepared to die.
We must define the unique mission
that establishes our place in the com-
munity of nations.
Since we Jews are the "People of the
Book" who entered the stage of history
neither by massive pyramids nor the
threatening sword but rather by the
force of moral principles such as
"Thou shalt not murder" and "Thou
shalt not steal," we must see to it that
the ethical teachings of our national
literature remain the basis of education
for both our children and our adults.
Knowing who you are means being
aware of the past, the matrix that
formed you, as well as having a vision
for your future, the goal to which you
are heading.
After all, we are a people whose
annual cycle of national celebrations
begins with Passover, the festival of
freedom, which forces us to re-experi-
ence our suffering as slaves in Egypt
and therefore to love the stranger and
aid the downtrodden.
Our New Year is a serious time of per-
Shlomo Riskin is chief rabbi of Efrat,
Judea (West Bank).

sonal introspection and re-evaluation;
our solemn Day of Awe teaches us the
need for individual responsibility, for-
giveness and acceptance of each other.
Jewish history and festivals must
inform the texture of our society.
Hundreds of years before the Romans
were exalting arma virumque cano —
"of armaments and strength do I sing"
— our ancient prophets were envision-
ing an age when "nation will not lift
up sword against nation and humanity
will not learn war anymore."
And when there is a proud society
that has a clear understanding of its fun-
damental values and overarching goals,
each individual need not feel threatened
by expressions of different political view-
points or variations of religious obser-
vance. People can talk to each other
without shouting at each other, sensitive
voices can prevail over ringing cell
phones, the culture of debate can sup-
plant the turbulence of argument.
If our time-honored and multi-
faceted Jewish culture can truly become
the music of our Israeli civilization, we
shall have created a shared medium of
communication that can allow for wide
differences of expression — religious as
well as secular, Sephardic as well as
Ashkenazic, land-intoxicated as well as
technology-crazed, socialist as well as
capitalist. We can begin to learn from
each other, instead of always jostling
against each other.
At age 55, we also can afford to stop

Peace Won't Come Overnight

Tel Aviv

s it celebrates its 55th
Independence Day, Israel
can look backward and for-
ward with a mixture of satis-
faction and anxiety.
Satisfaction that it is surviving con-
stant and murderous Palestinian ter-
rorism and Arab enmity and that it is
broadcasting to the whole world a
determination to hold on and not to
give up its Zionist dream of a Jewish
and democratic state. Anxiety as to
the prospects of peace and security.
There is a glimmer of hope: The
"road map" and the election of
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister
Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) may,
one prays, offer a way out of the


Amnon Rubinstein, a former member
of the Israeli Knesset from the leftist
Meretz Party is law school dean at the
Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.




vicious circle of terrorism and repres-
sive counter-measures — but the ter-
rorist attacks in Kfar Saba and Tel Aviv
snuffed out any optimistic thoughts.
There is no sign that the Hamas and
its cohorts are ready or willing to abide
by the notviolence clause in the road
map and without this there is no plan
and all hope is dashed. But Israel faces
greater dangers: Weapons of mass
destruction are menacing Israel from
Iran and Syria and these weapons are
coupled with a growing anti-Israeli
and anti-Jewish hysteria which renders
their use all the more probable.

Altered Beliefs

It is no wonder, therefore, that many
Israelis have given up on their cherished
dream of instant peace and a new
Middle East. Indeed, most Israelis have
given up their former much-cherished
credos: The left, crushed and diminished

apologizing for our right to be,
our basic abhorrence of "occu-
for the legitimacy of our exis-
pation," our unalterable belief
that every people has the right
There are presently 21 Arab
to be free. But, at the same
states in the Middle East. One
time, if an enemy attacks us
Jewish state, with clearly
— forcing us to choose
defined and secure borders on
between being "occupiers" or
land where Jews have lived in
occupied" — we have no
an unbroken chain for more
choice but to act as occupiers
than 4,000 years, certainly is
in self-defense.
what we deserve from the
Even then, however, we must
community of nations.
be as humane as possible toward
Commentary the unfortunates on the other
The corollary of this recog-
nition is our right to defend
side who are captives of their
ourselves against those who
malevolent and corrupt leaders.
would destroy us.
Finally, at age 55, we have the right to
When the Arab nations promote the
take pride in our accomplishments, to
establishment of a Palestinian state along- remember that despite the 21,500 mem-
side the Jewish state, that is legitimate —
bers of the Israel Defense Forces killed in
as long as it is a non-terrorist democracy
six wars, we have risen from the ashes of
committed to living next to us in peace.
Auschwitz to forge a strong and proud
But when the Arab nations add their
request for a "right of return" — which
We have revived and revitalized our
means the right of 3-4 million descen-
ancient Hebrew language and created a
dants of Palestinian refugees from Israel's
united people out of a rainbow of Jews
1948 War of Independence to resettle in
from diverse ethnic communities and vir-
their ancestral homes inside Israel — that tually every spectrum of the color line.
is tantamount to the destruction of the
We have established first-rate uni-
Jewish state and dare not be counte-
versities and centers of Torah learning.
We have built state-of-the-art hospi-
We have every right to demand of
tals, developed the economy and
our neighbors, as well as of the world
grown from 600,000 Jews in 1948 to
community, zero tolerance for terror-
5.5 million today.
ism, zero tolerance for suicide
The greatest optimist in 1948 never,
bombers and zero tolerance for anti-
ever could" have imagined what Israel
Semitic incitement.
and God have accomplished in these
We must shout from the rooftops
55 years.


by Arafat treachery is painfully
Israel's main challenge
giving up its belief that Israeli
therefore is to ensure a con-
concessions will ensure an ever-
tinuing American commit-
lasting peace and the right is
ment to its security as well as
gradually retreating from its
a supportive public opinion.
belief in a Greater Israel and in
This factor, and not vain
the idea that Israel can rule over
hopes in a quick peace fix,
the Palestinian people, who hate
should direct its government
and violently reject its dominion.
to accept and be ready to
The main policy of Israel,
RUBINSTEIN implement the American road
around which all its diplomatic
map and to give up finally the
efforts should be concentrated,
Commentary elusive and harmful dream of
is to ensure its survival without
ever growing Jewish settle-
pinning all hopes on instant
ments in what will inevitably
peace. This can be achieved,
be non-Israel territories.
especially in view of the war in Iraq,
Israel can look backward with
tremendous pride. Minute in size, not
only by relying on the assurances of the
much bigger than a sliver of
United States and its public opinion.
Without an American security umbrel-
Mediterranean coastline, it has with-
la, the Arab states and the Palestinian
stood continuing Arab onslaughts,
leadership will be tempted to continue
wars, boycott and terrorism; it has
their policies of not making up with the
turned itself from a poor, rural coun-
Jewish state.
try to an industrial and post-industrial
Indeed, without a Pax Americana,
powerhouse; despite the long road
the whole of the Middle East may
ahead, and the need for further inte-
revert to one of its serial mad explo-
gration, it has reduced social, educa-
sions with all its attendant risks.
RUBINSTEIN on page 34

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