Every day brings new strategic challenges for Israel.
Those of us who live outside Israel have a choice. We can help, or we can stand on the sidelines.
The battle didn’t begin yesterday. And alas, it’s hardly likely to end tomorrow.
There have been unimaginable successes along the way, but for each problem solved, another seems to appear.
Strikingly, there are many disengaged from the battle, at least for now. I see them every day.
They’re the ones I seek to reach.
I’m not talking about the “ABJ” crowd – the “Anyone But Jews” Jews, who are inclined to help just about everyone in the world except fellow Jews.
Nor am I talking about the “IOI” crowd – those convinced that “If Only Israel” did this or that, all would be solved, as if the problems and the solutions were solely in Jerusalem’s hands.
No, I’m talking about those who understand that Israel has no easy answers in dealing with its regional challenges, recognize the immense burden Israelis shoulder to build and secure their democratic and Jewish state, believe that Israel eagerly seeks peace but needs trustworthy partners, and know that Israel isn’t being treated fairly in the international community.
Until now, for whatever reasons, they haven’t been active.
But, as Rabbi Hillel famously said, “If not now, when?”
Look at what Israel faces today.
Iran is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear-weapons capability.
That’s the assessment of the world’s leading powers. Couple that with its drive to develop long-range missiles. Add its calls for a world without Israel.
Turkey has undergone a political earthquake.
Once a close friend of Israel, over the past nine years, it has reversed course. It has now vowed, while seeking regional ascendancy, to isolate Israel. What better platform for leadership than pillorying Israel?
Hezbollah has become Lebanon’s power broker.
The terror group has amassed more than 40,000 missiles and rockets, courtesy of Iran and Syria. It proclaims its arsenal can reach anywhere in Israel.
Then there’s Syria.
It should be pretty clear by now that, whatever the eventual outcome of the present turmoil, those in charge aren’t going to be batting their eyelashes at Israel anytime soon.
To the contrary, in societies that have been fed a steady anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and anti-Semitic diet, the best way to whip up political support is to fan the flames of those hatreds.
How about Gaza?
If I could, I’d make the Hamas Charter required reading. It’s all spelled out there, just a click away on the Internet. The determination to obliterate Israel. The vision of a Shari’a-based state. Bone-chilling, classic anti-Semitism.
Then there’s the Palestinian Authority.
For an actor deemed to represent Israel’s best chance for a peace deal, the PA has a strange way of behaving.
Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, it’s spurned every offer – from left-of-center, right-of-center, and centrist Israeli governments – for a two-state deal, the only logical political outcome of this conflict. And now it’s walked away from the negotiating table in favor of a reconciliation agreement with Hamas and an end-run at the UN.
Then there are developments in Egypt.
Again, it shows that when Israel is demonized over decades in schools, the media, the mosques, and the street, given half a chance, the power of those accumulated feelings explodes, making a vital Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty extremely tenuous.
Precisely such a critical time in Israel’s life is the moment to stand up and be counted.
Israelis, whatever their own political affiliations might be, are shouldering more than outsiders can possibly imagine.
They do so day in and day out, without fanfare or self-congratulations. They’ve defied all the odds and achieved miracles.
They must never feel alone. It is not their exclusive battle. It is also ours.
Our faith speaks of Zion and Jerusalem. That is where they are.
Our tradition teaches us collective responsibility. Nearly half the world’s Jews live in Israel.
Our value system is rooted in the defense of democracy. Israel is such a democracy.
And, on a practical level, the battle against Israel is going on in our universities, our political process, even our retail stores. If that’s not a frontline battle, what is?
There are those who say they’d get involved if only there were a different government in Jerusalem. They forget one basic fact: the battle is bigger than the government du jour; it’s really about Israel, no matter who is in power.
In 2000, an unprecedented wave of terror against Israel broke out with a left-of-center coalition in power and a sweeping two-state proposal on the table.
In 1996, when the dovish Shimon Peres was prime minister, he was defeated in an election because of a series of Palestinian terrorist attacks.
What to do?
Look at yourself in the mirror and ask whether this battle really is about someone else, or whether it’s also about you.
Now is precisely the time to visit Israel... to buy Israeli products... to express support for the vital U.S.-Israel relationship to elected officials... to vacation in friendly countries and avoid unfriendly ones... to get involved with pro-Israel organizations... to help those around you understand what’s going on and why it’s so important to friends of Israel and, more generally, to democratic nations.
The battle is here. The need is urgent. The time is now.
At this time of reflection and renewal in the Jewish calendar, won’t you please say “Hineni!” Here I am!”?