As Israel turns 64, we have much to be proud of. But we do not always appreciate
our many achievements.
We agonize over the Iranian nuclear threat,
endlessly debating the pros and cons of a preemptive military strike against an
Islamic Republic run by apocalyptic mullahs who have expressed their desire to
wipe Israel “off the map.”
But we, a people who just last week
commemorated the Holocaust – the ultimate price paid for Jewish powerlessness –
forget to appreciate having the option of launching such a strike
single-handedly if we need to. And while we are the strongest military might in
the region, we are also the most restrained and most moral.
We take to
the streets to protest the high cost of living, skyrocketing housing prices, and
the general difficulties of making ends meet every month – and the government
does its best to listen, a testament to democracy in action.
forget to appreciate our low unemployment rate, brisk GDP growth and general
economic stability at a time when much of the western world – in particular the
US and Europe – is in the throes of one of the worst economic downturns in
We lament the sorry state of our education system but take in
stride the fact that Israel is over-represented in the number of patents it
produces per capita, in the number of PhDs, published scientific papers,
companies listed on NASDAQ, or startups per capita. We fail to acknowledge that
illiteracy among Israeli Arabs has plummeted or that on average Arab Christians
surpass Jews academically and financially.
Not surprisingly, emigration
of American Jews to Israel has been growing incrementally and now stands at more
than 3,000 a year. And in recent years the number of Israelis coming home after
an extended stay in America has doubled and now stands at about 9,000 a year.
With all the criticism leveled against it, Jews are voting with their feet.
Israel has become the best place to raise a Jewish family in the world, not just
if you are interested in Jewish continuity, but even if you are looking for a
high quality of life.
Unfortunately, too much emphasis has been placed on
Israel’s faults while ignoring the Zionist movement’s tremendous achievements
over the past 64 years. The most recent – and most prominent – example has been
Peter Beinart’s new book The Crisis of Zionism.
The book focuses almost
exclusively on Israel’s purported failures – particularly with regard to the
unresolved conflict on the West Bank – while failing to acknowledge the Jewish
state’s miraculous accomplishments.
On one level this propensity for
complaining and finding fault is a very Jewish trait. After all, we are a people
who believe in tikun olam
, repairing the world. The world cannot be fixed
without first acknowledging its flaws. We have, therefore, developed an acute
sensitivity to injustices, particularly those said to have been perpetrated by
Perhaps this partially explains Beinart’s and other Jews’
zeal in castigating Israel. They have a sincere desire to see the Jewish state
strive for moral perfection, though they fail to make similar demands of
But there is another central idea in Judaism called ahavat
– love of Israel. A hypercritical approach to Jewish sovereignty must be
buffered by equally strong expressions of love, commitment and appreciation for
the Jews living in Israel.
By belittling Israelis’ repeated attempts –
while sustaining painful losses in the form of terrorist attacks and wars – to
reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Beinart and other like-minded
critics convey a message of callousness and disrespect. By calling for a boycott
of Israel, even one targeting Jewish communities living in Judea and Samaria,
Beinart and the others are adopting a condescending attitude.
hold Israelis in such low esteem that they believe we are insensitive to
Palestinian suffering and must be bullied into peace? Do they believe that we,
who suffer the direct consequences of the ongoing conflict, do not wish to live
in peace with our neighbors? As Israel turns 64 the Jewish people has much to be
proud of. Let’s all learn to appreciate the achievements while recognizing the