The iconic 1967 photo of Rabbi Shlomo Goren holding a Torah scroll as he leads the first Jewish prayer session at the Western Wall since 1948..
(photo credit: REPRODUCTION PHOTO: BENNY RON)
Some 3,000 Jews and non-Jewish supporters of Israel gathered in Frankfurt, Germany, two weeks ago for a spectacular German-Israel Congress. The organizers created a mega pro-Israel event that was nothing short of inspiring, and I was honored to have been invited to participate.
But as the day went on, I noticed there was one thing missing from the day-long conference and expo: no one had mentioned God. So I decided to begin my 4:30 session by thanking the Almighty for the state of Israel, for the miraculous historic transformation in Germany, and for the relationship between Germany and the Jewish people that had taken place over the past 70 years.
I flew back to Israel that night, landed at 3:10 a.m., and arrived home in time to watch the second half of Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Minutes after the tense game ended – with the Cleveland Cavaliers beating the Golden State Warriors in a game that came down to the last seconds – the star of the Cavaliers, Lebron James, was interviewed on TV.
“The Man above doesn’t put you in situations that you can’t handle” he said, adding that this recognition enabled him to have a positive attitude even when his team was losing. It struck me pretty hard: We had just spent an entire day talking about the State of Israel, and no one, including myself, had planned on mentioning God. And here was a basketball star giving thanks to God mere seconds after winning a basketball championship.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame the organizers of the conference, nor do I blame the attendees. It has, unfortunately, become the norm that we talk about the State of Israel, Jews returning home from all around the world, and the rebirth of our ancient homeland, without mentioning God. Even in the religious sector, we hear non-stop references to the Torah and to the rabbis, but very little about God.
The next day I flew to Turkey, and at every meeting and encounter I had there – whether with those more religious, or more modern and secular, whether with political leaders or ordinary citizens – I heard one Arabic word repeated over and over: inshallah, which means “if God wills.” People say it after everything – they say it after “we will be in touch,” they say it when working on a proposal to do something together, and they say it when you wish them well.
They also say mashallah, meaning “thanks to God,” which is uttered after every compliment or gesture of goodwill. In short, the word “God” is part of all conversation in Turkey.
Of course, I recognize that tens of thousands of people around the world are being killed by evil people who murder in the name of God. I also know that many people don’t even believe in God. But despite those who abuse God and His name and regardless of the differences of opinion on what God is and how to understand that God’s involvement in the world, the very recognition of such a deity – in a civilized and moral society like ours – indicates a purpose, and a living beyond ourselves toward some greater good.
That continuous reminder is one that would serve Israel and Israelis well. It’s true that we hear about God a lot during times of tragedy – the latest example being the Ariel family from Kiryat Arba and the Mark family from Otniel, who spoke so openly about the connection they feel with God and about the importance of their beliefs, in the midst of their grief.
But introducing more “God-speak” into our daily conversation and culture – especially when talking about the miraculous establishment and success of Israel – can help remind us on what we must focus.
While it is not a given that this would make a difference, if our leaders concluded their speeches by proudly saying “May God bless the State of Israel,” and if both elected officials and civilians said “thank God” and “with God’s help” on a regular basis, it cannot but help to remind us to respect all of His creations, and that we must strive to live beyond ourselves for a greater, divine-oriented good.The writer served in the 19th Knesset with the Yesh Atid party.