It's time for the Jews to honor yet again their traditions to be a light unto the nations, and to show concern for the highest ideals of justice.
Our first item of business ought to recognize that any ranking of national misery would not find Israel anywhere close to the top.
Looking beyond Israel, Jews of various countries rank on the conventional social and economic indicators close to the top, if not at the very top, of ethnic and/or religious populations.
Where to focus our concerns?
Greece is somewhere near the head of the line for those who are sensitive to issues of history and culture.
How far have fallen the people who did as much as any to shape our culture. There isn't much more than tourism to keep the modern country going, and now tourists are warned to bring enough cash for all of their needs. ATMs are likely to be closed, and who knows if international credit cards will work in a setting where foreign banks have closed their lines of credit to Greek colleagues.
If the concern is absolute misery, it's a close call between the masses of Africans with no greater hope than risking their lives to sneak into Europe, and the cluster of Middle Eastern countries being torn apart and destroyed by warfare. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia head the list, but recent events in Tunis, Kuwait and down into Nigeria might also qualify.
Compared to them, the nastiness directed at Israel and Jews elsewhere must be relegated to tolerable disturbances.
A cluster of anti-Israel moralists on board small boats have been headed for Gaza, with more aspirations to get into the headlines than to bring anything substantial for the people they say are suffering. One boat was taken by the Israeli navy to an Israeli port. Two others got the message and turned back to somewhere in Europe.
Our most prominent political problem comes from the gas field that will keep us in energy for several decades and provide substantial exports to Jordan, Egypt and perhaps elsewhere. Politicians and street demonstrators are squabbling about details of price and profit. Next up will be quarrels about what to do with the money. It's not an occasion for oy gevalt.
It would not be in keeping with Judaic traditions to claim that all is well.
Jews of Europe, and those studying or teaching on American campuses endure insults or worse. Religious men worry about whether to wear kipot in public, and women think twice about jewelry with religious symbols.
Iran is a looming problem. Not, ironically, for what may be 20,000 Iranian Jews, but for the millions living in Israel.
It remains an open question as to whether Israel's weight in international politics is enough to keep greater powers concerned to monitor Iran's nuclear activities, or whether Israel's own arsenal will be enough to keep whatever Iran develops within its bunkers.
Meanwhile, Iran may have its hands full with Muslim antagonists, with Israelis on the sidelines counting other peoples' casualties.
What about Palestine and international assertions of Israeli injustice?
It's not hard for Israelis to conclude that the Palestinians are their own worst enemies. Turning back the clock and ridding what the Palestinians call their land of Jews won't work. Gazan efforts to rebuild fortifications rather than housing, occasional rockets, and their threats of renewing what they call their victorious onslaught do not carry much weight. French plans to solve our problems in the UN Security Council may be coming in for reconsideration in light of last week's Islamic beheading near Lyon.
People who think like Presbyterians may be certain that Israelis are responsible for Palestinian miseries. Those who know them best, i.e., other Muslims, have put the Palestinian cause aside, perhaps out of frustration with Palestinians. One sign of that is the tiny proportion of financial pledges from Muslim countries actually delivered to Gaza and the West Bank.
BDS is ugly, misplaced, and pathetic in attracting Jews who see Israel as extremist and a leading source of the world's problems. Yet it also spurs Jews and others to counter BDS myths with detailed argument. They may not reach those committed to see Jews as evil or as an easy target for moralizing, but they have kept them from being a significant economic threat. We can argue if we should do more to explain ourselves, but we can't do enough to convince Know Nothings.
It's not yet time to downsize Israel's Foreign Ministry, the IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet or other security organizations. On the other hand, re-organizations are always appropriate to deal with whatever is most threatening.
Israel's police have work to do with domestic criminals, Jews as well as Arabs, who do the usual stuff with drugs, girls, and the liquidation of competitors that takes its toll from innocent bystanders. Cops, military officers, academics, and others have yet to learn to avoid the temptations of speaking or acting improperly with females.
Israelis of Ethiopian backgrounds score low on all the social indicators except their incidence among those incarcerated.
On this issue, as everything else, comparison is essential to fair judgment. Israel is a long way from what has happened in Charleston, South Carolina or Ferguson, Missouri, whether the concern is with racism among the population or the behavior of the police.
Individual acts of Palestinian violence are threatening, but again comparison is helpful. No doubt there are Palestinians intent enough to kill Jews as to risk their own lives or their freedom. But the incidence remains less than anything like an intifada. For some years now, Israel has not suffered the crazed killing of children in schools or individuals in other crowded sites as we have seen in the US and western Europe.
Illegal immigrants were a problem, but now much less so since the construction of a fence along the Egyptian border. We argue about what to do with those already here. Officials manage to send some elsewhere. Some support themselves doing jobs Israelis don't want. A number of their children recently went to China as part of an Israeli delegation for sports competition.
Jewish worriers see Barack Obama as one of Israel's greatest antagonists. Yet the American President cited Israel as one of the countries much safer than the United States with respect to gun violence.
“Here are the stats. Per population, we kill each other with guns at a rate 297x more than Japan, 49x more than France, 33x more than Israel.”
Other data is more modest. It shows Israel's overall murder rate is closer to a third of the US.
Quarrels about statistical nuances should be our greatest problems with the White House.
Others may be more severe, but we should be careful to avoid exaggeration. Let's not overlook US financial aid for the manufacture of Israel's anti-missiles useful against the madness of Gaza, and ongoing conversations about the supply of advanced aircraft and other military supplies.
It ain't perfect here, but it's a lot worse elsewhere.