Dedicated to Ambassador Yehuda Avner, may his memory be a blessing as his life was for the State of Israel.
Do you ever get weary about Israel?
Then it’s worth listening to Ambassador Yehuda Avner’s words on the subject. It was my absolute privilege to share a stage with Ambassador Avner as he addressed the closing session of the StandWithUs Ambassadors Club at the IDC Herzliya – the premier Israeli public diplomacy program on campus.
Advisor, speechwriter and diplomat, Ambassador Avner, had just turned 85 years young, and had written the compelling account of his time with Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres. The book – The Prime Ministers – has been made into several films.
It is worth taking the time to hear Yehuda Avner’s words on the video below, both his historical accounts and his “10 Commandments” to Israel and the Jewish people:
Ambassador Avner gave us insight into his time with Israeli and world leaders, especially into the relationships between Israeli Prime Ministers and their American Presidential counterparts. He answered questions about the early days of the re-establishment of the State of Israel, about the Six Day War, comparing Prime Minister Begin’s pre-emptive strike on the Iraqi Osirak Nuclear reactor to the current situation between Israel and Iran and many other events in Israeli history.
His accounts were rich with anecdotes of his service as a diplomat and prime ministerial advisor and Ambassador Avner ended his presentation with a powerful call to our students, encouraging them in their activism and support for the State of Israel.
I wanted to share some of his words with you, though to do them justice and to hear his full address, you should watch the video.
I am aware that there are many fellow Jews and committed Zionists who are getting fed up of us; of their constant need to stand up and defend us, often in the face of a hostile public and not least on your campuses. I wish to confess to you that I sometimes get weary too.
I get weary sometimes because, as you heard, my wife’s sister, Esther, was killed defending Jews in 1948 – she was 22. Our son, Danny was injured in the Yom Kippur 1973 War, our daughter Yael, suffered severe burn injuries when a car bomb blew up our Embassy in Buenos Aries, where she was working, in 1992.
And now we have three grandchildren in the army. So yes, I confess, I sometimes get weary because I could not keep the promise to my children that the last war that I had to fight would be the last war of all our wars. And now they, my children, want to protect theirs but they can’t. In fact, their children, namely my grandchildren, are protecting us all.
And because we know that, there are moments when you pick up the phone to call your grandkids, not for anything in particular, but just to say that you love them but more often than not, they don’t answer. They don’t answer because they are busy. And when they don’t answer there is sometimes that split-second when you wonder what are they busy at and you are sometimes overcome with the sweating agony of thinking the unbearable worst – and that is a very wearying experience indeed.
It is a weariness – and I say this with great respect – it is a weariness that no Jew who does not have a loved one in the IDF can possibly begin to understand.
So I believe that the real question is not whether we are weary but rather: what do we do with our weariness?
For surely, there is a distinction between weariness and love. One can be weary without losing love. Israel has many flaws; so does my family. And so does yours. But we love them nonetheless.
Is loving exhausting? Of course it can be.
Does it require lots of equivocation? Of course it does.
Loving Israel is not an affair; it is a deep and abiding relationship.
Who among us can imagine a world without Israel? We have but one Jewish State. It is worthwhile discussing at an appropriate time, why is there just one Jewish State in the world? The only country in the world whose language is Hebrew? Why? It’s worthwhile analyzing sometime.
And God forbid if we were to lose it. All of us would enter into a dark and uncharted territory that I don’t think any of us can possibly begin to imagine.
So under these circumstances, if you ask me – as everybody asks me – as I am sure you ask yourselves on occasion, the way things are going: where is all this going to lead to? What’s the future? Ma Yehihe?
Essentially, I would have to tell you in all honesty, I don’t know. And you know what? We’ve never known. In a sense, the essence of all of Judaism is the capacity of a people to live with the unknown. People who have a measure of certainty about their future assuredly will find this rather hard to understand. But when you think about it, the entire venture of Israel has been achieved only by jumping into the unknown.
Ambassador Avner lived at close proximity to modern Israeli history for decades and his book – The Prime Ministers – is an exquisitely written journal of his professional experience, replete with anecdotes and reflections on how successive Israeli Prime Ministers grappled with issues of the day.
As we know, Israel inspires elation and joy in its supporters as well as worry and, yes, weariness. When weariness takes hold, and the future regarding Israel looks uncertain, it is worth reviewing Ambassador Avner’s words. They provide a source of strength and inspiration for this generation of Zionists.