By all accounts and reports and observations, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s first official visit to Australia will be hailed as a success. With agreements signed for cooperation on trade deals, cyber expertise, and the development of the start-up culture, how could it not be? It achieved all the economic goals that two close allies could hope for.
But beyond the monetary values and the trade bonanza this visit could lead to, it also achieved something else – something of even far greater value that the most open free trade agreement could ever hope to achieve.
That value could be seen on the faces of the little school kids at the Jewish day school of Mount Moriah College. It could be seen in the faces of the older children who looked on with excitement. It could be seen at the synagogue where people showed a genuine warmth and appreciation. It filled the air around us, like a warm blanket wrapped around our shoulders.
And while you might read of some 60 odd not so prominent Australians signing a petition against Netanyahu, and you might hear some ramblings of some protests in the street, and you might read some articles that demanded Australia not let him in, those voices were voices of hatred and intolerance, drowned out by the smiles and the laughter and the excitement of Jewish kids, both young and old, jostling to shake the Israeli Prime Minister’s hand and calling out to him, “Bibi! Bibi! Over here!”
These were Jews, filled with a genuine excitement, an electrifying awe and a real pride in being able to host the leader of their Jewish State.
Sometimes you read of polls telling us that some American Jews no longer identify with Israel and it can cause despair, for Israel’s strength lies not in the size of its land, but in the size of its Jewish heart. As a threat, Iran, the palestinians and the Arab states, pale in comparison to Jews not being proud of being Jewish and of their Jewish State.
For that is the biggest threat to the Jewish nation and our very future, for what is Israel without the Jews?
Jews are a people – a single people – small by the scale of almost any other nation, yet as old as the oldest nations. With our number of about 14 million out of a world population of 7 billion, the secret to our survival has never been about those numbers, but about a strong and robust Jewish identity. That identity has allowed us to survive without our land for 2000 years, even though the history of nations dictates we should have long disappeared into the mists of time.
Those critics of Israel, who try to hide behind their false platitudes of “Zionism has nothing to do with Jews,” have been dealt a blow on this trip, because what we saw here in Australia was that Zionism has everything to do with Jews. The pride on display, the excitement in the air, the buzz that filled Australia’s Jewish population blew away the hatred that those protesters wanted to unleash.
So while there might be some Jews who decide that Israel is insignificant to them, and there may be some Jews who actually work against the State of Israel and support BDS, and there may be some Jews who do not even care about being Jews, there are so many more who do.
And while there might be those who protest in the street against Israel, and there might be those who hold placards denying our legitimacy in our own land, and there might be those who threaten us with violence, they will see that we are a strong people who will not bow down or cower to their demands – a people who know our place in history.
Benjamin Netanyahu brought with him, not just Israeli business leaders and trade experts, not just cyber geniuses and entrepreneurs, but he brought with him the 4000 year old connection between the Jews of all countries and the Land of Israel.
And that was the greatest gift of all.