A view from Israel: The importance of Israel

If only the world would appreciate the Jewish people, recognize its importance in the world and join it in its quest for tikkun olam (repairing the world). If only.

Binyamin Netanyahu at UN 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Binyamin Netanyahu at UN 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If only the world would appreciate the Jewish people, recognize its importance in the world and join it in its quest for tikkun olam (repairing the world). If only.
Just over a week ago, the world was perhaps only murmuring about Israel’s demand for red lines on Iran. Today, everyone is all abuzz about it.
While the world mocks the Looney Tunes-type bomb graphic Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu used during his speech before the UN General Assembly, it appears to have gotten the message across. The message was delivered when Netanyahu pulled out his marker and drew a thick red line demonstrating the point at which Iran needs to be stopped.
Unfortunately, worldwide attention doesn’t necessarily translate into action. Many people believe that Israel is acting solely for the sake of its own interests. This is, in fact, not true. The nations of the world fail to recognize that the Jewish people have always longed for the welfare of others as well as our own.
According to the Talmud, as long as the Temple stood, 70 bulls were offered as a sacrifice each year on Succot in recognition of the 70 cultures comprising the gentile world. Gentiles would even come to the Temple to pray. Since then, and up to and including the present, the Jewish people have valued and continue to value the uniqueness of other nations.
Unlike other religions, Judaism does not seek to proselytize others but rather aims to maintain its diversity and encourage its well-being. The Jewish people not only long to eliminate the anti-Semitism that so often blinds other nations, but also actively demonstrate a desire for peace as a basic tenet of our culture.
In synagogues across America, congregations pray for the welfare of the American government. One of the many blessings that exist in Jewish tradition is one that is said upon seeing a just ruler.
Today we celebrate the holiday of Succot, in which we sit in shelters outside. One of the many reasons we do so, according to Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Alter of Gur, is to demonstrate our desire for peace both among Jews and among the world’s nations. The succa epitomizes peace. In addition, we take four species of vegetation that are not normally found together and bring them together in a symbolic act of unity. The prophet Zechariah predicts that in the future all nations will come to Jerusalem to celebrate Succot in recognition of the holiday’s important message. Thus the Jewish holiday of Succot has worldwide significance and international implications. Clearly, the Jewish nation, at its very core, desires peace, unity and reconciliation – and we take it seriously.
AND SO, when Israel’s representatives stand before other nations, especially at the UN, their message is meant to rally others to join us in our quest for tikkun olam and assist in creating working relationships among nations to create a better world.
Israel is at the forefront of technological development and has brought significant, positive change to many third-world countries. Israel is expanding frontiers in the worlds of science and medicine. Nations that develop ties with Israel find many advantages to maintaining a close relationship.
While the response is clearly never enthusiastic enough – especially at the UN, where there is an automatic majority against Israel – the underlying message should not be ignored.
Israel seeks peaceful relations with all nations of the world, based on a Jewish, biblical-era practice of recognizing the importance of each nation.
Every nation is distinct and Israel is no exception. Those who believe that Israel must “fit in” among the nations of the world forget that the Jewish people’s strength specifically comes from remaining distinct from other nations.
Were the world to recognize the benefits it receives from the blessings of the Jewish people, it would embrace us rather than mock us.