In recent weeks and months, whenever I’ve had the chance to speak with friends from abroad, I’ve been immediately encouraged by the support expressed in their first question, “How is Israeli coping with the current situation?”
While my initial reaction is one of pride at the sense of solidarity that Diaspora Jewry has for the fate of our nation, I also see a need to inject some perspective into how we relate to Israel these days. Perhaps we must again remind ourselves that support for Israel is not simply a matter of empathy over our security challenges and that there is so much more to our nation at all times, both good and bad.
While I don’t for a moment mean to downplay the extent of the evil that motivates our enemies to stab innocents, or mitigate the pain of the losses and injuries sustained in recent weeks, the reality is that Israel is a nation that continues to thrive regardless of how determined our enemies might be to destroy us.
In keeping with that concept of perspective, it is important to maintain a sense of history when reacting to current events. In so doing, we can understand that while every act of terror is inexcusable and abhorrent, we are in fact living in the most glorious period in our people’s long history. This reality therefore deserves to be celebrated alongside the focus on our challenges.
Terror and the loss of Jewish souls to enemies are inextricable parts of our nation’s past. And as optimistic as I might be by nature, it would be irresponsible of me to ever project that the near future will be any different. But the facts show that we live in a nation that is far more secure than any place the Jewish people has ever lived throughout the millennia.
On a basic statistical level, Israel, even with the pain of losses to terror and war, can boast a very low murder rate, one which many Western nations, including the United States, would be thrilled to be able to maintain.
To be sure, numbers don’t tell the entire story and the fear imposed by terrorism is very palpable and we need to take every precaution to ensure our safety and that of our children. But at the same time we cannot allow the narrative of terrorism to overcome the true Israel, a nation defined by progress, innovation and — as remarkable as it might sound at a time like this – security.
Backed up by an Israel Defense Force that is defined both by its tradition of Jewish values and its military excellence, the borders of the Jewish state can be defended against a myriad of threats without fear of our people’s destruction — which was a very real danger in decades and centuries past. Our cities, even with the current threats, are defined as locales where crime is low and children are afforded a level of independence that could never exist in other parts of the world.
Most impressive is our success in building a society that in which Jews of all backgrounds have the opportunity to build a land that we can call our own, and to personally contribute to the realization of this age old prophecy of returning en masse to our ancient homeland.
The lives we live need to be understood in the context of a modern miracle and we should project a sense of pride rather than fear as we appreciate the true wonder of having a land of our own.
The underlying message which I therefore hope Israel can successfully share with the world is that we must not be defined by our threats. Rather, we must rally behind our accomplishments and opportunities and work together to build an even better, more united and more prosperous nation.
So my answer to all who ask how Israel is doing: Yes, we are in pain and concerned. But this will never dampen our hope and pride in the remarkable country we are blessed to call home.