The war won’t harden our hearts - opinion

We will continue to fulfill our essential mission in the world to be a “Light unto the nations.”

 Michael Mirilashvili (photo credit: EAJC)
Michael Mirilashvili
(photo credit: EAJC)

When, a little more than a year ago, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, together with The Jerusalem Post, held a conference discussing the future of post-Soviet Jewry in light of the war, we obviously didn’t have the slightest idea about what was coming next for us here in Israel. Then, we were used to the brief outbreaks of violence in the Middle East and were pretty positive that the era of major wars in this region had long gone. We were seduced by promising alliances and new, emerging perspectives of progress and cooperation as a leading driver of peace. Is this just a distant dream now, when a major war has once again come to our home, or is it still a viable strategy?

While the Jewish communities in the Diaspora and their future remain our key subject of preoccupation, Diaspora Jews themselves are now more preoccupied with the Jewish state and our future. Indeed, we will have to restore a great deal of trust in us in the eyes of the Diaspora by bringing back clarity on where we’re heading and whether we are in control of it.

That’s why any initiative promoting dialogue on our future in light of the war and its implications is crucial right now. Therefore, I’m pleased to welcome the organizers and participants of the ‘Joint Perspectives’ German-Israeli conference held by The Jerusalem Post and Die Welt.

It is symbolic that the conference takes place in Germany. This land has produced some of the world’s greatest philosophers, writers, scientists, musicians, and scholars of Jewish origin. Jewish life on German soil has known different periods of highs and lows, from medieval isolation and persecution, through flourishing times of emancipation, to the terrible years of Nazism, which became a catastrophe for our people.

But German society has learned essential lessons from those terrible years. Eventually, a renewed and democratic Germany became a true friend of Israel. It has always assisted the Jewish State in times of need and continues to do so today, for which we are sincerely grateful.

Jews in the German city of Freiburg dance down a street that was once Adolf Hiter Street with a new Torah. (credit: CHABAD OF FREIBURG)
Jews in the German city of Freiburg dance down a street that was once Adolf Hiter Street with a new Torah. (credit: CHABAD OF FREIBURG)

Today, the German authorities take Jewish security very seriously and fight uncompromisingly against any manifestations of antisemitism. No wonder Jewish life in Germany only keeps evolving these days. The Euro-Asian Jewish Congress maintains working relationships with revived Jewish communities and organizations in Germany, consisting to a large extent of people from the former Soviet Union. More recently, we have launched a series of publications in cooperation with one of Germany’s most prestigious academic publishers, De Gruyter.

A monument to hatred and dehumanization

IN HUMAN history, the Holocaust stands as a grim and monumental memorial of what political regimes and even entire nations, driven by an ideology of hatred and dehumanization, are able to do. Still, not everyone has learned one of the major lessons of the Second World War. Many haven’t realized yet what fundamentalist theories and hate-filled ideologies can lead to. Only a few can fully recognize that such ideologies erode the very foundations of the society in which they thrive. Tragically, on October 7, we once again witnessed what inhumane brutality people obsessed with their poisoned worldview are capable of.

More than that, the events of the horrifying terrorist attack on the Israeli population have also raised a wave of blatant antisemitism around the world. The scale of this age-old chronic disease – hatred of Jews, which is taking on ever-new forms – has once again managed to surprise us.

Apparently, all the hard work we are doing, including with our partners at the World Jewish Congress under the leadership of my colleague and friend Ambassador Ronald Lauder, is not enough. But we must not put our hands down. The keystones of our work – education, proactive diplomacy, and peaceful dialogue keep us dreaming that maybe, one day, we will speak of antisemitism in the past tense.

Interfaith dialogue is a prime example of such optimism. It may once have seemed that different religions would always be at odds with each other. But through centuries of religious wars and persecution, we have established mutual recognition and religious tolerance in a relatively short time.

In this regard, I would like to emphasize that we do not see the war with Hamas as a confrontation with Islam as a whole. Hamas terrorists, like other radical Islamists, may claim to be true representatives of Muslims. Still, we know that Islam, like other Abrahamic religions, is, in fact, based on the ideals of peace, cooperation, and respect for others.

ONE DOESN’T need to look far for examples. A true peace is real in the Middle East for those who really seek it.

Many Muslim Arab citizens of Israel participate in all spheres of public life and hold many senior positions. Our brothers and fellow citizens – Druze and Bedouin – fight terror alongside Jews, serving in the Israeli army and police.

The Abrahamic Accords have opened the door to unprecedented cooperation between Israel and the Gulf countries. The companies I manage are taking part in this process. Together with our partners in the United Arab Emirates, we are addressing the water scarcity and food security challenges in our region.

From the early years of the Zionist movement to this day, we have always believed that technology and care for human life, growth, and well-being would bring a new reality to the Middle East.

One of the companies I run, Watergen, produces devices that make clean drinking water from moisture in the air. Before the war, several such devices were installed in the Gaza Strip, where people were suffering from a shortage of clean drinking water. Watergen was the only company to install dozens of its devices in Gaza in cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces and local partners. They were connected to solar panels and operated in hospitals. Of course, the reality has changed since then. 

But the brutal war unleashed by Hamas terrorists won’t mislead us or harden our hearts. I am convinced that if society eliminates its radical ideology, opposes lies and propaganda, admits mistakes, and chooses to cherish every human life, everything can change in less than a generation. And if anyone doubts this, just look around. Germany has already moved in this direction, and today, it serves as a great example that, even on the rubble of raging hatred, it’s always possible to grow a truly blossoming garden.

We will continue to fulfill our essential mission in the world – to be a “Light unto the nations,” and, together with those who believe in peaceful coexistence and seek peace, we will build a more confident, sustainable, and peaceful future for us and the entire region. And it is crucial to talk about this kind of future now.

The writer is the president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.