“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  Benjamin Franklin

I have been contemplating, and quite often in recent times, the relevance of this quote by Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers. I have been contemplating it  not only as an American but also as an Israeli Jew because this is who I am and that is what I am first and foremost.

As someone who lived for many years of her life out of Eretz Yisrael, I learned to look at issues that concern us, Jews, from both sides of the divide. Being a Diaspora Jew is very different from being an Israeli one, different and more difficult.

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“Be a Jew at home and a human being in the world,” is the motto that the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, one that many European Jews adopted and lived by. It separated and to a certain degree juxtaposed the Jewish aspects of a Jew’s Jewish life and values with his humanity thus forming the impression that the two are unrelated.

Unfortunately, many Jews, both in the Diaspora and many here, in Eretz Yisrael, still believe that and live by that conviction. This is wherein our problems and tragedy lie.

Instead of taking great pride in declaring to the world that Yiddishkeyit (Jewishness) and Mentschlichkeyit (humanness) are two inseparable pillars of our heritage, instead of emphasizing their affinity, some of us are still indulging in the false Diaspora acceptance that they are mutually exclusive.

It is of utmost importance to note and emphasize that these two were decreed to us in the Torah, the ethical Code of Am Yisrael’s and Jewish ethics along with the Universal Code of ethics. It was Am Yisrael and the Jewish people who bequeathed upon the world the universal values of Humanness, not the other way around. It is these values that laid out the foundation for Yisrael, the Jewish state, as prescribed in its Declaration of Independence, “The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants: it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel.”

We have allowed the Diaspora Jewish misguided outlook to shape the Israeli attitude towards various issues. It seeped into some of the vital underpinnings of our Israeli society. It took control over it because we have not yet sought permanent liberty rather than a temporary, unstable relief. We have not yet freed ourselves from the need to please those whose love and approval we seek, those among whom most of us lived for over two millennia, those who built walls around us, forcing us to surrender our physical, economical and spiritual backbone in return for our desire to survive. We have become too busy practicing the Humanness and neglecting our Jewishness because we were indoctrinated into believing that they are indeed dichotomous.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, we have given up who we are, the liberty to live our Jewish essence. We have sacrificed it on the altar of our need to be loved and approved, hoping for some temporary safety. Did the Haskalah and its so called enlightened approach to Jewish survival help European Jewry? Did its motto grant European Jews who declared themselves German or French first greater security or safety?

I believe we all know the answer. The safety that such an attitude, such a motto conferred upon European Jewry was indeed temporary. It was short lived.

We seem, yet again, to have failed to learn that lesson. As before, we have refused to shed the mentally erected Ghetto walls. We continue to seek approval, we beg for love and acceptance at the expense of our essential Jewish identity and Liberty as a nation, as a people.

Am Yisrael and my fellow Jews, the fulfillment of our desire to be a free and safe Nation in the Land of Tzion and Yerushalayim, as encapsulated in the words of Hatikvah, our National Anthem “ Liheyot Am Chofshi Be’Artzeinu, Eretz Tzion V’irushalayim” depends upon us only. Firstly, it is imperative that we regain our Jewishness.  Secondly, we need to proudly realign Jewishness and Humanness and bring them back next to each other where they belong and where they were meant to be from the moment of our National inception at the foot of Mount Sinai.

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