The Imperative of Jewish Survival

Born in Brooklyn in 1908, Abraham Maslow was the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia. His hierarchy of needs theory helps us understand that humans generally strive for physical survival before seeking transcendence. This framework for understanding human motivation accents the fact that in the human experience the need for survival usually trumps more abstract endeavors. Intangible exercises of the intellect add richness to life, but without physical continuity of being, that richness eventually perishes unless it is passed to another generation. Without existence, we have no opportunity for enriching our lives with even a modeh ani lefanecha …

This hierarchy of needs, of course, can be applied to the whole house of Jacob at a national level. The imperative for a safe collective future by any other name is a call for robust national security. Jews must feel safe that a democratic Israel is the everlasting refuge of our people. Peace and cooperation with neighboring nations and the wider international community are necessary and worthy goals, but too often strained relations seem to be more the rule than the exception. Fortunately, strong national character is sometimes developed in response to such challenges.
It does not ultimately benefit the international community to make Israelis feel that they are constantly under threat. Denial by the Palestinian Authority, the EU, or any particular American president cannot change the fact that our forefathers and foremothers carved out in this land thousands of years ago a homeland where our ancestors could raise their children according to Jewish values. We will not be denied our legacy of struggle against those who would destroy or weaken us.
Our Jewish democratic values to a large extent are based on our belief in the freedom of every human being to wrestle with his or her individual vision within our national Jewish destiny. As Jacob discovered and as we continue to learn through the ages, struggling in search of one's identity and destiny is not an easy task. Every nation has minorities whose rights must be protected. A democratic Jewish state and protected minorities are not mutually exclusive.
The ability of a people to successfully defend their nation against would be invaders is part of the definition of nationhood. So as we go about enriching our lives with books, music, walks in the forest and by the sea, let’s remember that there are blood-thirsty terrorists surrounding our start-up nation with a fantasy of rape, pillage, and destruction of Israel as our national homeland. We should object. Zionism at its foundation is the espousal of the belief that this land and our attachment to it are worthy of our vigorous defense. Let’s secure the ramparts and then sing hine ma tov.
Just as the American Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution must be interpreted for every generation of Americans, our interpretation of our ancient founding documents and understanding of our national destiny will continue to evolve. Yes, we from time immemorial have been a nation of dreamers, prophets, and poets, but we also have become a nation of start-up entrepreneurs, developers of world-class defense and space systems, and Nobel Prize winning scientists. Where will this Zionist enterprise take us in our struggle for a safe and secure future?
An understanding of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory within our national context should give us pause. We must defend our lives and the lives of our children first and foremost at all costs within the context of democracy and our Zionist dream. Hopefully, our watchmen on the wall will alert us in time so we can temporarily set aside our scrolls and laptops long enough to defend our homes.
Let the whole house of Jacob continue to stand against the wind and against all odds…
Eli Kaufman