Ever notice how the meaning of words changes over time, especially slang? Remember when a "joint" was a place you went to get a "soda" that had ice cream in it, not something you smoked? When gay meant happy? Cool was hot? You surfed on the waves of the sea? Remember how in the "joint" you'd put a coin into the "juke box" for some music, and that wasn't the chirping of the "juke" you met when you came on aliyah, making you ponder the deeper meaning of the "bug-juice" you drank at summer camp?

Remeber when once upon a time the word "dude" conjured up not a "cool" guy but the opposite: a thoroughly urbanized dandy who went out to the "wild" West to get the feeling of what it's like to be a cowboy? A "dude" on the ranch would be the wannabe Westerner, but was actually the guy that was given an old, broken-down horse to ride, a horse with a seat belt, an extra cushion for the saddle, and maybe a rear view mirror? You know why? Because that "dude" wasn't really from the West, he was from the East. In those days of cowboys and Indians the West was something raw, wild and untamed, whereas the East was civil, refined and urbane. Every once in a while a "dude" wanted to play Westerner, and that's why there were "dude ranches", not for cool guys, but for Easterners making believe they're Westerners.

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Well – as an individual, I'm not a dude, in either sense, I'm neither an Easterner nor a Westerner. I am a Jew, a son of Israel, a person whose ancestry flows from what today people call the Middle East. My rabbi, Harav Tzvi Yehuda Kook of blessed memory, used to quote a famous doctor of a century ago, in Vilna, who said that there are health conditions unique to the Jews, not found in Europeans, because the Jews in essence weren't European, but rather Asiatic.

Much of Israeli public diplomacy stresses the point that Israel is a forward outpost of Western society in the Middle East. There is no doubt that there are many values both the West and the Jewish state share. But with a bit of chutzpah let me suggest that it's more the other way around: one of the foundations of Western culture, alongside Greek influences, is Judaism. That all men and women are created, and that all have an intrinsic worth as they are all created in the image of God, that government must be accepted by the governed, that people are not beasts of burden or machines but rather they have a soul that requires nourishment and therefore a Sabbath – all these and more can be found in the Torah, in Jewish law and thought. These, and other basic values intrinsic to the soul of all humanity, have spread from our geographical and spiritual homeland to the corners of the world.

Ex oriente lux, the light comes from the East – and the light of the Torah indeed comes from the East, and has spread to the West. We're not Westerners; we're… dudes, in both senses of the word.
 
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