The Word out of Zion

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Jerusalem- I am sitting on a terrace overlooking the Judean Hills, framing the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament building. The early morning sun has bathed the new day in a majestic splendor. My grandfather, a sweet, learned rabbi from Europe, who saw much evil in the world but chose to fill his days with the words of Talmud and of prayer, would have given his right arm to have had the privilege to see the view that I am now experiencing- of the seat of an independent, democratic Jewish state.

I have always felt an enormous privilege to have been born of a generation that came after the horrors of Europe, in the wonderful country of the United States that had been born in the struggle for religious freedom to a generation where it was absolutely taboo to express antisemitic views.
My childhood was also filled with a special awe for a building in New York, the United Nations.  It was there that exactly 62 years ago today, on November 29th that the famous vote had been conducted that gave birth to the state of Israel, a scratchy film that is etched in the collective memories of so many Jews of my generation.

And in an ironic twist, it is this very building of reverence of my childhood that has become the crucial battleground for the new antisemitism , which is a constant and continuous attempt to strip the modern state of Israel of its legitimacy.

My grandfather’s generation and all of those that preceeded his, dedicated their lives to trying to establish a more ideal society through the word of the Torah and the Talmud, a paradigm for an ethical, utopian society,  It was ideas that were of paramount value to them. They lived and they died for the word.

But after Auschwitz, it had become clear to our people that ideas, alone, were not enough. We returned to the ancient land of our ancestors, rolled up our sleeves and physically labored to build an independent nation. We built a mighty army so that no Jew would ever have to feel the horrors of Auschwitz again.

And in another ironic twist of fate, the people of the book, who had brought the word down from Mt. Sinai, built a might physical nation on a tiny sliver of land, while fighting continuous battles for their existence, that is on the cutting edge of high tech and medical advances, but we have neglected to use our words to defend this beautiful nation in the international arena, which as become the 21st century battlefield for its sheer existence.

Our enemies have always been cunning. They have tried to destroy us throughout the centuries, through exile, inquisition, pogroms and finally the showers and gas chambers of Auschwitz, which led our people to the Zionist idea- a home for a people for a people without a home, in the cruelest of worlds imaginable.

And the fiery infernos of the Diaspora is what led us back to the scorched earth where we had been born as a people. And now our enemies have become adept at using ideas- both through the classroom where there is a constant, insidious anti-Israel diet, and they have learned to use the arenas of international jurisdiction to strip away our right for our people to exist, as any other people in their natural homeland.

This is not just anti-Israel behavior.  This is classic antisemitism. The litmus test is if any other nation, given the same conditions, would be required to behave in the same way as Israel.  I would defy any other nation in the world to behave according to the high standards of moral conduct of the Israeli Defense Forces.

I would defy any nation to behave as the Israelis have. I would defy any nation to, in the absence of a peace partner,  give land that had been captured in a defensive war as an attempt for them to prove to the world that they are ready for statehood, as Israel gave to the Palestinians in 2005, replete with greenhouses and mosques, and have that very land then be used as a launching pad for more than 8,000 kassam rockets and not to respond to defend its own people, which is the very reason why we have nation states.

I would defy any nation to be confronted with the sinister use of non-uniformed soldiers hiding in densely populated urban settings, hiding behind women and children, in hospitals, playgrounds and schoolyards and to come out of combat with such a low ratio of collateral damage.

Exactly sixty –two years ago today, we were finally given consent form the international community to return to back to the place of our origin; a place where the word had been given to our people.
But the scars of our history had made us forget who we are, our origins, our values, and to use what we are really good at, we have forgotten to use our words. And to get involved in the battle of ideas.

If we look inward, we will be able to delve into our genetic DNA and summon the words to fight and to win this twenty-first struggle for our survival, just as we have all of the others in our history. But it is five minutes to midnight.

Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of EMET, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a pro-Israel think tank and policy center in Washington, DC.

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Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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