Israel’s long-term strength lies with its people.
My mother often tells me that she doesn’t like to read my articles because they depress her. And she’s right. They deal with existential security issues, boycotts, nuclear weapons, and neighbors who want to eliminate the state altogether.
Israel’s closest neighbor has brainwashed generations of children in vicious anti-Semitism, encouraged terrorism and has actively campaigned to erase the historical narrative of the Jewish people.
So any sane person might say to an Israeli, “Pack up, get yourself out of harm’s way,” because this is an existential not territorial conflict, supported by most of the Muslim world with the help and encouragement of the once great but now infamous United Nations and so-called “human rights” groups. The patient determination of Israel’s Middle East neighbors to destroy Israel is measured in decades and centuries.
Yet young Jews from around the world are arriving, and the vast majority of Israeli young people plan to stay, and believe in their country.
I just spent over a week in Israel meeting with everyone from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Ambassador Michael Oren, Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri, deputy Knesset speaker Hilak Bar of the Zionist Union to Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Amidror and General Yossi Kuperwasser, two of Israel’s leading intelligence and security experts, among many others. Israel is blessed with extraordinary people.
For their country’s national security interests, I hope they come to the realization that they need to work together and speak to the outside world with one voice when it regards Israel’s existential issues. Failure to speak with one voice was one reason why Israel failed to influence wavering American Democratic senators on the Iran Nuclear deal, or JCPOA.
As part of my fact-finding mission in Israel, I visited with Palestinian workers in Judea and Samaria who were worried about losing their jobs due to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. I met with Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch and Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, who have tracked and documented the campaign of demonization of Israel by its enemies.
I toured Gush Etzion with the Etzion brigade to assess the security situation, and viewed area E-1 and Kfar Adumin to see how the EU is supporting illegal Beduin encampments to create facts on the ground for a future Palestinian state.
I even met with alternative Palestinian leaders, a Palestinian journalist working for The New York Times, and progressive human rights NGOs led by Jews fighting for Palestinian rights but who have no interest in Israeli human rights. And to top it off, I had the Muslim Wakf harass me on the Temple Mount.
Yet returning home to America I felt surprisingly optimistic about Israel’s future, mainly because of the Israeli people. I believe that because of them, Israel will not only survive, but also thrive.
Israel’s long-term survival is not based on its remarkable Iron Dome or David’s Sling anti-missile systems, or its F-35 advanced jet fighters.
Israel’s survival and future success remains, as it always has, with its people.
Let me tell you about some of them.
Andrea is the assistant food and beverage manager for the Dan Tel Aviv hotel. She was born and raised Catholic in Venezuela, but had the opportunity to go to a Jewish school in Caracas because her mother was a coordinator there. She converted during high school at age 16, came alone to Israel at age 18, joined the army, went to the Hebrew University and now wants to build a life and family in Israel. Her Zionism is not only from the heart or seen through rose-colored glassed, but is part of her right by choice and history to live a fully Jewish life in the Hebrew city of Tel Aviv. Yes, Tel Aviv, with all of its cosmopolitan nature, support for gay rights and beach culture is a very Jewish city. Andrea wants a live a life that incorporates Jewish values in the secular world.
“If I must give a reason I converted to Judaism...
I discovered Judaism survives because it understands knowledge is the one thing that can make you a better person to yourself and others, and is the only thing that cannot be taken away from a person. So at some point I realized I’m part of its core and wanted to make it official... my soul has always been part of this people and this land, this is the place where I want to see my children growing and be part of making the next generation...
keeping Israel as our nation.”
While touring Judea with the Etzion brigade I met with a young secular woman from Tel Aviv, who chose to become a combat soldier. When asked what her friends in Tel Aviv think of her decision to join a combat unit, she said at her old secular high school she is looked up to as a model for other young women. This is the feminist ideal; a woman treated equal to any man, except the “feminist progressive Left” is too busy demonizing the country to notice.
David is a young man from Rome who made aliya after studying in an Ivy League international graduate program in New York. I first met him as a guest lecturer for his international program at Columbia. He wants to serve his new country by being an advocate for Israel’s right to exist and thrive. Whether it will be in journalism, diplomacy or in just living his new country, he is part of the growing fabric of strength that is building a just and moral society.
Tahli and Jasmine are two remarkable young women I knew from StandWithUs in New York, educating high school students with facts in context about the Middle East. They have a remarkable ability to connect with young people, and their enthusiasm for Israel is contagious. Both just made aliya. Jasmine is a first-year law student at Bar-Ilan University, and Tali is still a professional for StandWithUs, helping visiting Jewish Diaspora students see Israel as it really is, for instance through its status as a world leader in outdoor graffiti art. Both will make their mark on Israel.
Ron was a lone soldier from New York. During Operation Protective Edge he lost three “brothers” from his unit in a booby-trapped house. He served in an elite paratrooper unit and although he had finished his service, he choose to stay another three months in solidarity with his unit.
He was my guide in that war, one of the many people I met who through their actions taught me how ethical the Israel Defense Forces is. He loves his new country, but was saddened to see other olim return home because they couldn’t find high enough paying jobs to cover the costs of living in Israel.
Hila and Ron are sabras. They grew up in loving families with more challenging economic circumstances. Because of their love of their country, they choose to join combat units, and now are getting their university degrees with the help the FIDF. Both secular, but very Jewish, lovers of their country, they represent the majority Mizrahi/Sephardi population of Israel. Pale-faced Ashkenazi Jews are a minority and are disappearing as the miracle of the ingathering of the exiles leads to many “mixed marriages.”
I met Guy during Operation Pillar of Defense, as my guide through that war. We struck up a close friendship that has endured to this day.
Guy is a reserve soldier in his 20s trying to sustain a new business in the bureaucratic hell of the Israeli regulatory system. Returning to his native South Africa would give him immediate economic relief, as he struggles with what to do and what the future will bring. But without hesitation he says Israel is his country, and he would always return in a heartbeat to his reserve unit if and when Israel is in another war.
Yonatan was born in France and was supposed to go to MIT on a scholarship, but 2009 was the year of the great recession. When his scholarship evaporated, he looked toward Israel’s Technion, which actually had a better program for his interests. Yonatan was on the path to a “Goldman- Sachs” life in the States, he was religious but not Zionistic. Living in Israel for a few years, working with students and faculty from around the world, created a Zionist who loves his new country.
Today’s column is one my mother can read that won’t depress her, but will make her proud of her Jewish homeland, its people, and give her hope for the future.
After spending a good deal of time with olim from America, France, Holland, Italy and South Africa, as well as young native-born Israelis, I am indeed optimistic about the future of the Jewish state.
Despite the high costs of housing, the income inequality and the continual security situation, Israelis are happier than most people in the Western world, including Americans. They live lives of meaning and purpose.
I realized the security of the future of Israel is not just the Iron Dome, but the real security strength of Israel is its people, their love of their country, and their determination to overcome all obstacles. Am Israel Chai.
The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political Information Network™) and is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. MEPIN™ (mepinanalysis.org) is read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset and journalists. He regularly briefs Congress on issues related to the Middle East.