Israelis today face growing threats from all sides, with a remilitarized Sinai, Islamists on the rise and the Iranians inching closer to nuclear capability. Rabbi Daniel Weiner (“Lit by the nations?” Rabbi’s Turn, Oct. 26) points to some extremists who have responded to the rising tensions with inappropriate and inexcusable actions, condemned by the majority of Israelis. He uses the phrase, “beleaguered people,” describing not Israeli Jews but Palestinian Arabs, whose main problem seems to be that their war of extermination against Israel, as promised in the charters of both Hamas and Fatah, has not been going as smoothly as they would like.
He bemoans the departure from “the regard for the other by this young nation only a few generations removed from its roots as a refuge for the stateless.” He seems uncomfortable with the fact that this nation was set up as a refuge for stateless Jews. Not a newly invented people called Palestinians, not for the deserving masses of Africa, fleeing from their Muslim brothers; Jews.
If he sees that as “nativism,” perhaps it is because Jews are in fact the natives of that land, from the sea to the Jordan River, as brought down not only in the Torah, but by the unanimous declaration of the League of Nations in 1922, in recognition of the 3,000 years of Jewish attachment to the land. Expressions of xenophobia become more understandable when the outsiders pose an existential threat to Israel’s survival as a Jewish nation.
To remedy this situation Weiner sets out to save Israel’s “soul.” As any Native American can tell you, the soul of a people resides not only in its members, but in the land that has been its sacred ancestral home. Jewish history was not written in Tel Aviv or Eilat, but in the land known for millennia as Judea and Samaria, cleverly renamed the West Bank by King Hussein in 1948 to erase the name of the Jew from the map of the Middle East. Weiner would save Israel’s soul by “excising” the Jewish heartland like a cancerous tumor, relegating the Zionist dream to an indefensible strip along the Philistine Coast.
When the world finally lives up to its promises to the Jews, and when we Jews proudly stand up for what is rightfully ours, only then will we be the “light unto the nations” spoken of by Isaiah, who never heard of Green Lines, two-state solutions or Arab East Jerusalem. When Jews can finally live in peace and security in our promised land, the shameful incidents Rabbi Weiner decries will become a thing of the past.