Israel is one of the smallest yet most powerful countries in the world. However, Israel is not invincible; G-d is!
Israel and Individual Jews are Mortal.
No matter how strong anyone thinks they are, at the end of the day, we are all just mere mortals. In synagogue today, one lady told me that even the greatest astrologists or futurists can’t tell a person when they are going to die. She said, and I paraphrase:
Life and death, and everything in between, only G-d decides!
Similarly, today in The Wall Street Journal, there was an article called “The Fighting Spirit of Bruce Lee.” It was interesting that, even though many viewed him as one of the greatest martial artists of all time, Bruce Lee tragically died suddenly at the age of 32 from cerebral edema. Who would guess that someone of his personal caliber, physical skills, and mental acuity could succumb so suddenly to the angel of death, yet that is what was decreed for him when he potentially could have had so many more years ahead of him to teach and give the world?
Similarly, Israel is a powerhouse militarily; the nation is highly motivated and tenacious to defend our lives and land (post-Holocaust “Never Again”); the people are intellectually astute and culturally vibrant; and the country is bustling with innovation and technology. Yet like Bruce Lee, even the very best can be brought to their knees, and that is not what we want to happen to the holy land of Israel during this time of the third Temple.
Israel has enemies both inside and outside of its borders, despite its strength. These enemies constantly threaten Israel through war, terrorism, BDS, delegitimization, and one-sided UN resolutions. And regardless of what peace initiatives Israel embarks on, including Oslo’s land for peace, Gaza’s and Lebanon’s unilateral withdrawal, and Camp David’s attempt at negotiations and compromise, the answer from the other side keeps coming back as a resounding no.
Safeguarding Israel Through Peace and Security
On one hand, the State of Israel needs to continue to do everything it can to advance its power (militarily, economically, and diplomatically); on the other hand, it also needs to be open to and pursue peace (for example, the Abraham Accords and maybe even peace with Saudi Arabia soon in our times). Specifically, as the article about Bruce Lee states,
Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.
The martial philosophy should be to move like water—be adaptable and agile with changing tides of circumstance (and in the Middle East there is never a dull moment); when still, be like a mirror—stay hidden (low key, no ego, below the radar) as under a cloak of invisibility; and respond like an echo—when attacked, hit back, from all directions, and hard. In short, a warrior (individual or nation) doesn’t look to fight and generally seeks harmony and peace with everyone, but if it is attacked, then it will become a fearsome force defending its people and sovereignty with absolute courage and resolve. This must be the dual reality of Israel and its nation’s warriors, the IDF!
In the physical world, as they say, you are either the predator or the prey, the hunter or the hunted, and after 2,000 years of exile and persecution, we are done being in perpetual statelessness and victimhood. This means that while we aren’t looking to hurt anyone (we place an extremely high value on human life, and yes, even those of our Palestinian neighbors), we are prepared to defend ourselves from their incessant attacks (be it from wars, suicide bombs, shootings and stabbing attacks, rockets and missiles, and more).
“Sheeple” No More
Perhaps you’ve heard the term sheeple. It’s a conjunction of sheep and people and denotes people who follow blindly or go like sheep to the slaughter. For Jews of the 21st century, whose parents and grandparents perished in the pogroms, the ovens of Auschwitz, Israel’s War of Independence, the Intifadas, and more, those days of sheeple are over!
We also know that in war, there is no second place. Israel must win every war, every time, because we know with surety that if we lose, just one time, our enemies will obliterate us off the map and throw every single Jew into the Mediterranean Sea. Virtually every one of Israel’s enemies has expressed this genocidal Jew-hatred—from the grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who during the Holocaust plotted with Hitler to exterminate us, to Egyptian President Nasser, who threatened to obliterate Israel in the 1967 War, and nowadays to the Iranian Ayatollah, who is building nukes and the missiles to deliver them to our Israel address.
Jewish Unity From The Four Corners of the Earth
The good news is that the people of Israel are, underneath it all, a good and united people (despite the recent bickering over judicial reform, this too, we shall survive!). One elderly man in shul asked rhetorically about the infighting in Israel, “What is the underlying Israel?” And he answered:
An Ashkenazi and a Sephardi made a Sabra!
Truly, this is the miracle of the State of Israel, where just as G-d had promised the Jews that He would return them from the four corners of the earth, so it was that the people came on the “wings of eagles,” shedding millennia of dispersion and aspersions, and became a new Jew in the Land of Israel, a melting pot creating the best from across all the nations of the world—Jews brave, strong, and determined to succeed and achieve shalom (peace)!
What Does a Successful Israel Look Like?
For Israelis and Jews around the world, success includes being powerful enough to defend ourselves from no longer being every demagogue and dictator’s scapegoat, but much more than that, it means that we become a true “light unto nations.” We want to be a democracy anchored in freedom and human rights. We also want to be a “Jewish State” (it’s the only one in the world!) that is a haven for every Jew to come home to and that is culturally and religiously Jewish (but not a Jewish dictatorship). Israel will not survive by strength alone but rather by the spirit of Hashem (Zechariah 4:6). And so our values are to follow in G-d’s path and do good in the world, fix what’s broken, and make it a better place, and that includes, as the prophet Isaiah said, “beating their swords into plowshares.” Moreover, we understand that G-d is not only the creator but also the perpetual master of the universe, and it is He who decides whether Israel behaves righteously and ultimately whether she will merit to stand for the duration this time and, hopefully, the final time.