The visit of the president of the United States to Israel should be viewed
outside the context of diplomatic and strategic goals.
While the meetings
will certainly focus on critical issues such as Iran and the Palestinian
conflict, I hope that President Barack Obama’s visit will have an even deeper
impact – strengthening the bond that stems from the values our countries
share.Click here for full JPost coverage of Obama's visit to Israel
The power of these shared values can have monumental influence on
the world if harnessed and implemented properly.
Way back in 1808, John
Adams, the second president of the United States, wrote the following words to
F.A. Van der Kamp of the Pennsylvania Historical Society: “I will insist the
Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was
an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate
had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the
nations... They have given religion to three-quarters of the globe and have
influenced the affairs of mankind more and more happily than any other nation,
ancient or modern.”
Having read those words and looking back at the 237
years since the signing of the US Declaration of Independence, I believe the
same can be said about the United States of America. The original vision of the
founding fathers has evolved, through difficult growing pains, into a vibrant
democracy with separation of church and state, equal rights and a tolerant,
pluralistic society built upon a foundation of commitment to basic tenets of
spirituality and faith.
Israel, too, has gone through its growing pains
with 65 years of external and internal conflict.
Yet, it has emerged as a
remarkable Jewish country that is continuing to impact the world in the manner
that president Adams saw the Jewish people doing throughout its
The recent Israeli elections, the coalition agreement and the
government that emerged as a result truly reflect these shared values. The new
government will combat religious coercion, stand for women’s rights, pass strong
legislation against racism and discrimination and will instill a new spirit of
tolerance and unity in Israel.
New MKs are not reluctant to cite classic
Jewish sources and references to God in their Knesset speeches and in the
overall political dialogue.
All of these ideals and perspectives can also
be found in the value system of the United States.
Aside from the results
of the elections, the actual process of the elections demonstrates the value of
freedom that we share with the United States. Without a single shot being fired,
former ministers are currently clearing out their offices to make way for our
newly appointed ministers. I myself entered the Knesset for my first day of work
after receiving training from former MKs who were voted out of
Democracy and freedom were indeed on clear display. The fact that
this happened in Israel, in a regional neighborhood where dictators and
extremists rule, demonstrates Israel’s firm commitment to these democratic
My background is in education and I know that students can
often gain more from their peers than from their teachers. I dream of exchange
programs between Israel and the United States in which our youth get to know
each other and share experiences and activities built around these programs. I
envision dialogue regarding how to deal with the Palestinian conflict, Israeli
Arabs, illegal immigrants from Mexico and gun violence.
I believe that
forging these new relationships will strengthen the bond between our countries
and then enable these students to travel the world and inspire youngsters from
diverse backgrounds to embrace the values of liberty that we share.
course, diplomatic and military cooperation is essential.
However, let us
use the strengthening of the friendship between the United States and Israel
that President Obama’s visit should inspire to think big.
create frameworks in which the next generation of Israelis and Americans can
join together to influence the world for the better. In today’s world of social
networking, no borders or oceans can stop the spread of the Judeo-Christian
ethic that serves as the foundation for our shared values.
Now is the
time for us to look beyond our military and diplomatic alliance and unleash the
joint potential of Israel and the United States to influence the world for the
better. The author is a member of the 19th Knesset with the Yesh Atid party
and an ordained rabbi.