Stand Up and Cheer (Ideas #12)

When I studied International Affairs at Lewis and Clark College, there would generally be a resident ex-diplomat on the staff. Former US Ambassador Bill Handley was not from my most inspiring professors. He did, however leave me with one good piece of advice that works in life as well as in diplomacy -- "It's good to be skeptical, but never cynical."

Perhaps that is why I publicly summarized an American Zionist Youth Foundation conference I attended during those years as propagandistic. Granted, I have a yen for being an eternal outsider and trying to ruffle feathers of people overly confident in their beliefs, but I never fully could accept that the Israel-Arab conflict was entirely black and white. After all, if the Torah can admit the failings of Moshe Rabbenu, must the Israeli government be presented as having always pursued the most virtuous course?


Bombarded by post-Zionist historians on the one hand and shell-shocked nostalgists on the other, I am more excited about the State of Israel than ever. As a religious Jew, I am excited when G-d reveals His hand for the benefit of the Jews. As a student of Jewish History, I appreciate the need for Divine intervention to preserve the Jewish peoplehood in an increasingly cosmopolitan world.


In spite of terrorist attacks and traffic accidents, Jews have perhaps never known as much security and prosperity as they do in contemporary Israel. While this may be overshadowed by Jewish comfort outside of Israel, I believe this will change in the long term. Whether that is true or not, a hisorical perspective makes us realize just how good we have it.


I don't know how many electors have voted for all three of the last prime ministers here - it would have taken Divine wisdom. What has been said about mitzvot is true of statecraft as well - timing is everything. Chametz a few minutes too late is a disaster; prior to that, perfectly acceptable. A policy that might have been problematic a few years ago may be just what we need right now.


There was a need for a Yitzchak Rabin to push an unready nation into a process fraught with pitfalls - it was the only way to break the impasse with the Arabs. There was a need for a Benyamin Netanyahu to slow down this process and make our interlocutors realize that peace required serious choices on both sides - it was the only way to guarantee security. Once the Arabs were engaged by Rabin and pressed by Netanyahu, the stage was set for Ehud Barak to use the courage of the former and the wisdom of the latter. None of these three men would have steered our nation through this dialectically successful process on their own.


A few months after Rabin's killing, Peres was assured of winning the next elections. And then later, had Netanyahu not alienated so many of his colleagues, it is unlikely that a novice such as Barak could have unseated him. And yet the interplay of human events would have it otherwise, clearly pushing us involuntarily toward a different set of relationships with our neighbors.


I believe that our nation has been blessed with tremendous providence since its inception and before. This, in a historical period where the Divine Hand is hidden by the laws of nature and geopolitics. Thirty years ago, the survival of Israel could only be assured by costly wars - G-d allowed us to win these wars in almost miraculous fashion. Political realities have changed, most notably the fall of the Soviet Union. In the wake of those changes, regional attitudes and expectations slowly change as well. In peace, as in war, we can see ourselves uncontorollably guided towards a plan beyond the shortsightedness of mortal politicians.


The stage is being set for a new phase in Jewish history. With the body of the state assured, we will have to now decide on the condition of its soul. We must welcome this phase and then prepare to muster our strength and talents to reforge our national soul. Therein lies the key to our long-term security on this Divine piece of property.