For religious Jews, Rosh Hashana is traditionally a time to apply ourselves
towards tshuva – a form of self-critical introspection combined with a spiritual
commitment to improve our ethical conduct in the forthcoming year. We also pray
to the Almighty to watch over us and our loved ones and grant us a shana tova –
a good year.
Alas, in recent years, our masochistic tendencies have
encouraged many of us to overlook the big picture and fail to appreciate the
fundamentally positive reality of our current status. Some of us became so
obsessed with the negative challenges confronting us, that instead of rejoicing,
we exuded gloom and doom.
Of course our situation is far from being
entirely rosy and today the Jewish nation state has become the surrogate for
traditional anti-Semitism which is reflected in the intensifying global
resentment and burning hatred directed against us.
We face the peril of a
nuclear Iran led by religious extremists who openly proclaim their genocidal
The proliferation of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the
region is now even threatening the peace treaty with Egypt, potentially our most
The combined power of the Islamic and rogue states
has aggravated our isolation in the international arena.
Yet instead of
radiating despair, after praying to return to Israel throughout the course of
2,000 years of exile, during which time our forefathers endured uninterrupted
cycles of discrimination, expulsion, persecution and murder, we should surely be
exuberant for being privileged to live in our own homeland at the height of the
We should rejoice that in the wake of the great
tragedy and horror of the Holocaust, we rose like a phoenix from the ashes,
resurrected our nationhood and witnessed an ingathering of exiles from all
corners of the world.
We can take pride that a combination of
impoverished Holocaust survivors, Jewish refugees from Islamic countries, former
Soviet Jews and a diverse mélange of religious, racial, social and ethnic Jews
from all corners of the globe found haven in Israel and were molded and
integrated into a robust nation. We should celebrate that the highly symbolic
number of 6 million Jews now reside in Israel.
We should be celebrating
the fact that today we have overcome powerlessness and that the IDF provides us
with the capacity to defeat a combined onslaught against us from all our
We generated a vibrant culture and transformed Hebrew into a
dynamic living language, which until only a few hundred years ago was restricted
to Jewish prayer, ancient texts and Jewish scholarship. We created universities
and Nobel Prize laureates far in excess proportion to our numbers. We are today
indisputably the center for Jewish scholarship and there is more Torah learning
here than existed in pre-war Europe.
Despite being surrounded by
neighbors seeking our destruction, we forged a Jewish state which retained its
democratic ethos. Since its inception, all citizens enjoy “complete equality of
social and political rights” and “freedom of religion and conscience, language,
education and culture.” We promote gender equality with particular emphasis to
the rights of women. We boast a society based on law in which presidents and
prime ministers are held to higher standard of the law than the man in the
street – no mean achievement.
There remain, of course, a host of
challenges yet to overcome. The ultra-Orthodox segment still needs to be
integrated within the framework of the civic and economic infrastructure of the
state. However, recent public and political pressure provide grounds for hope
that in the near future most haredim will become productive elements in society
as well as implementing their civic obligations by serving in the IDF or
undergoing a form of national service.
The great ethnic divide between
Ashkenazim and Sephardim has largely been overcome. Ethiopian olim currently
still face considerable problems but in the course of another generation
hopefully they, too, will be integrated.
Israeli Arabs, who comprise 20
percent of the population, pose the greatest challenge. While undoubtedly
enjoying a higher standard of living and far greater freedom than their kinsmen
in neighboring Islamic states, they remain the weakest socioeconomic group in
the country and suffer a high level of unemployment.
The majority are
law-abiding citizens and have no desire to emigrate to a future Palestinian
state. Many are profoundly embarrassed and distressed with the extremists and
radicals within their midst who they realize are the principal cause of
increasing prejudice being leveled against them.
Ironically, this was
indirectly aided and abetted by Israel’s policy of excessive tolerance of
treasonable public outbursts by Israeli-Arab MKs sanctifying murder and suicide
bombers and openly supporting those committed to the destruction of the state.
No other democracy, especially a country under siege, would tolerate such
Israel’s economy is an extraordinary success story. With
limited natural resources and an ingathering of exiles comprised primarily of
penniless refugees, Israel, which was basically arid land, has bloomed and
emerged as one of the most resilient economies in the world. Our scientific and
technological achievements are exceptional and we represent the second most
advanced hi-tech startup nation in the world, exceeded only by the United
Binyamin Netanyahu’s initiative in 2005 to persuade Stanley
Fischer, one of the most talented economists in the world, to accept the role of
governor of the Bank of Israel was a master stroke.
contributed toward Israel being one of the very few countries which, until now,
has averted a recession despite the global economic meltdown and hopefully will
also enable us to minimize the painful effects we must endure in the coming year
as a consequence of the ongoing downturn in Europe. Of course, there is also
room for improvement and the constructive element within the social protest
movement reflects the desire for greater equality.
We still face great
challenges externally having lost the “sympathy” of many nations of the world,
which in 1967 were preparing to weep for us in the belief that we were
confronting annihilation. In contrast, today much of the global hatred against
us emanates from the fact that we are no longer an underdog as well as
resentment of the IDF’s ability to defend us from the barbarians at our
If forced to choose between enjoying the world’s sympathy by being
powerless victims or finding ourselves globally isolated because of our capacity
to defend ourselves, most of us would unhesitatingly choose the
We must not become blasé or take our blessings for granted.
However, as we move towards 5773, if we take into account our incredible
achievements, we surely have every reason to celebrate that our nation has
emerged as the most extraordinary and miraculous success story of the past
century. Above all, we should thank the Almighty and rejoice that we are the
generation blessed to be living in a Jewish state.
Am Yisrael Hai and
The writer’s website can be viewed at
www.wordfromjerusalem.com. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.