kassam sderot 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
My wonderful wife - she's always thinking of ways to make my life easier. For this past Hanukka, she bought me a GPS - a global positioning system device.
Now, it's well known that I have the uncanny ability to get lost in a phone booth. That, coupled with the general male reluctance to ask for directions, means that I spend a good portion of my day stumbling and bumbling my way to various points around Israel. But no more.
Now I can find even the most obscure and out-of-the-way address in any city in the country, just by obediently following the GPS's gentle commands. Ain't technology wonderful?
But it occurred to me that what we, as a nation, desperately need is not so much a GPS as a "JPS" - a Jewish positioning system. We need to know where we are, and where we are going, because - at least as of late - we don't seem to have a clue.
We pulled out of Lebanon because our government was sure that this would secure our northern border. But one dismal war and a whole lot of grieving families later, we find, much to our chagrin, that we have significantly energized the Hizbullah threat, called our military might into question and helped to plunge all of Lebanon into chaos.
We pulled out of Gaza, dismantling all the Jewish homes and businesses thriving there, disrupting the lives of thousands of good citizens who lived there for three decades, because we said that this would contribute toward an atmosphere of peace with the Palestinians. But all we received in return was hundreds of Kassam rockets launched our way and the election of murderous Hamas by the Palestinian electorate.
We pinned our hopes on Mahmoud Abbas - the "good" terrorist - and became double-jointed contortionists in order to give him anything he wanted, from oodles of money to truckloads of weapons to Western respectability. But he steadfastly refused to disarm the hoodlums who rule the Palestinian street, preferring instead to shamelessly run after Hamas, begging it to join a unity government with him, and pleading with the warring factions to turn their guns "against Israeli occupation." (That's us, folks).
WE SEEM to be making all the wrong moves, all the time. Our problem may be that we lack long-term vision, a clear sense of what our final destination is supposed to be. Instead of improvising as we go along, plugging holes in various dikes and substituting one crisis for another, we ought to stop and refocus on what this great adventure of ours is all about:
â€¢ Establishing a homeland that embodies strength and security for our own citizens - and Jews everywhere.
â€¢ Building a society based on Jewish and democratic values.
â€¢ Maintaining a government of integrity, where justice and fair play, rather than cynicism and corruption, is the norm.
â€¢ Gathering our fellow Jews from the four corners of the Earth.
B'gadol - in terms of the big picture - the primary objective is to do everything it takes to reverse the course of history and move the center of Jewish life from there to here.
Part of our inability to get a grip on the present, and successfully plot the future, stems from our failure to grasp the lessons of the past. While the Torah bids us to "ask our elders and they will inform you," and to "become wise from studying the generations gone by," not everyone sees it that way.
So Santayana's maxim that "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it" is summarily rejected by Shimon Peres, who audaciously declares that so we won't make the same mistakes as in the past - we'll just make new ones! And so shrill voices, failing to understand that the past is prologue, argue for the cessation of school trips to Poland, visits by foreign dignitaries to Yad Vashem and participation in the March of the Living, because, after all, the Shoah represents a Jew no longer relevant.
If you don't think we suffer from a woeful knowledge of what came before us, just ask the average Israeli teen (and not a few adults) a few basic questions:
Can you name two death camps, other than Auschwitz? Can you name three Israeli prime ministers, or one president besides the current one? Can you identify three kings of Israel, or two prophets? Who built the Wester Wall, and who destroyed the Temple?
What do Nili, Bilu and Etzel stand for?
Walk around any city in Israel and see how many of the names on street signs - memorializing the heroes of our history - you can correctly identify.
In sports, the coach makes it crystal-clear to the players just what the end-game is before they take the field: Put the ball in the goal, while defending your home base.
We sure could use a little coaching.
The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana.