Created by Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from all over the world, the State of Israel just celebrated its 70th birthday, despite facing ongoing, multiple existential threats. After one of the bloodiest centuries in recorded history and more than 2000 years in exile, Jews in Israel are figuring out how to live in their own nation, where they can embody the letter of their holy book heretofore practiced in abstract through the generations. No other people or country have historically had this kind of experience.
Israel’s every step, action, law and leadership decision are endlessly scrutinized, misinterpreted and criticized. Every leader, nation, international organization and journalist in the world feels entitled to pass judgment, holding Israel to impossible and unjust standards.
While the world ignores millions of people who are living under oppressive regimes and dying in on-going conflicts, the 100- year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with relatively low casualties on both sides, commands persistent worldwide scrutiny and condemnation of Israel. Why is the world so intensely focused on Israel? Does such prejudiced scrutiny serve a higher purpose to push Israel to seek the best of itself?
INCORPORATING ISRAEL’S MISSION
It may be Israel’s role to resolve some essential ethical issues for humankind. Israeli and Diaspora Jews could recognize this role, explaining to their detractors that their task is to be in God’s service by serving humanity, God’s creation. In recognizing Israel’s special task, the world becomes Israel’s partner rather than its critic; and the collective consciousness – incorporating every nation and religion – can take part in Israel’s mission. Israel and the Jews can then feel they finally belong to the collective and continue to accomplish their God-given destiny.
The world’s unreasonable demands on Israel, and Israel’s persistent enemies have impelled Israel’s creativity, requiring it to excel in many areas. Sharing the same small piece of land with its enemy, Israel needed to avoid traumatization of its enemies’ civilians; this has forced it to develop innovative solutions to warfare, such as precise targeting tactics; perfecting tools against rioting, deflecting guerrilla warfare and all manner of intifadas, destroying homes instead of lives, etc. Israel has developed defensive weapons that can save its people’s lives and spare the enemy’s population by not needing to deploy an otherwise necessary deadly firepower. Israel’s defensive technology includes the anti-missile Iron Dome, the Arrow and the David Sling; the technology to find, destroy and thwart the building of land and sea war-tunnels, as well as special underwater communication systems (recently used to save a Thai sports team stuck underwater). Israel recently created Sky Spotter in response to months of unrelenting hundreds of fire kites and balloons from Gaza, which destroyed thousands of acres of land. Additionally, Israel used drones and precise sniper fire to keep enemy casualties at a minimum, despite 40 thousand “marchers” at a time on its borders. This forced creativity has also contributed to other Israeli contributions, including medical and technological discoveries.
Israel’s commitment to the sacredness of life is illustrated in several of its strategies- exchanging 1,000 terrorist prisoners for one Israeli medical soldier who was attending to wounded terrorists, establishing field hospitals in Syria, etc. Western commanders recognize Israel’s highly ethical ways to deal with an enemy that breaks all military ROE, using its civilians for shields, and homes and schools for storing and launching missiles. Contrastingly, Israel minimizes damages to its enemy by using warning pamphlets, phone calls, and ‘knocks’ on roofs before attacking military targets so enemy civilians can protect themselves. This extra ethical adherence to ROE is done at the expense of Israel losing the element of surprise and putting its own soldiers at risk.
Israel has yet to figure a way to counter its enemy’s use of doctored pictures of their own “martyred” children and women to gain world sympathy; and how to change the international media’s complicity with Hamas’ unrelenting destructive narrative, as well as biased accusations of lack of proportionality.
WHEN TERRORISM CALLS
Nations are slowly getting the wake-up call. When terrorism became prevalent in the Western world, and the West needed Israel’s technological expertise in self-defense and its intelligence gathering, some empathy developed toward Israel’s ongoing security challenges. Israel’s deeply criticized separation walls are now being emulated by Europe’s besieged populations. Latin American and African countries have also opened to Israel, slowly disconnecting from the decades-old OPEC ideological alliance against Israel. More countries are fighting the anti-Israel BDS movement. Most Arab countries have awakened to the Iranian nuclear threat. They realized their need for Israel’s power and expertise in self-defense, which has helped dial down their enmity towards it. Their virulent anti-Semitism is being slowed. More self-criticism by Arab intellectuals and media is being noted.
Israel’s commitment to democracy, a real challenge in the least democratic corner on earth, is now becoming the standard, by which its neighboring countries’ populations measure themselves. They are looking closely at a country where leaders are held to the same laws and punishment as civilians and where human rights are a given, despite the precarious safety situation. Israel’s light is beckoning despite the century-old prejudices, hatred and vilification.
Israel maintains a very clearly delineated national and cultural identity, while remaining a democracy committed to pluralism, an on-going challenge creating tension and at times splitting Israeli society. Yet, its various minorities are totally integrated in all sectors- no bans on chadors, muezzins or building mosques like in some European countries. Christianity is flourishing, contrary to the surrounding countries. This could be a potential model for nations strongly attached to their religious or cultural identity.
The Israeli model for national identity and democratic pluralism could be an example for others. National identities do not like to disappear. Cultures prefer not to disintegrate. Nations can review their pasts, enhancing their good and repairing their bad; this necessary step can help them reach and live their own identity while remaining open to “the other” among them.
THE UBIQUITOUS ISSUE OF ANIT-SEMITISM
Israel and the Jewish people are battling a resurgent anti-Semitism and its modern iteration, a virulent anti-Zionism. These waves are spreading around the world, adopting Nazi slogans and radical Islamic anti-Semitic expressions. However, new energies are rising against this movement, an effort to finally harmonize the different religious groups of the world. Historically, there has never been such interfaith efforts, not-withstanding present-day violent radicalism.
Movements have already happened in the different religions, which can facilitate this new civilizational order. The Abrahamic religions are being forced to revisit their origins and dogmas; assess their similarities; negotiate their differences; come to terms with struggles for supremacy and make room for each other. Every Abrahamic holy book acknowledges Israel’s and the Jewish People’s mandate in the world, despite their later denial. Interfaith dialogue is taking place in an unprecedented fashion.
With its revolutionary Nostra Aetate document of 1964, the Catholic Church has made its peace with Israel’s role in the world and place in Christianity. The Christian evangelical world also is committed to Israel’s establishment and survival. The Islamic world had in the past embraced its Jews and, while often cruelly discriminating against them, had rarely reached the brutality of European anti-Semitism.
The Islamic world could be at the forefront of the battle against anti-Semitism, the world leader in combatting this evil, thousands’-year-old prejudice. Some Islamic voices today are expressing the need to ally with the Jews instead of killing them. Recently, the Imam of a 60 million-strong Muslim movement from Indonesia came to Israel to offer interfaith dialogue. Furthermore, the Muslim radicalism which sees Israel as its mortal enemy, sees many of the Muslims as their enemy, too.
In the case of the present-day conflict between Jews/Israelis and Arabs, the Jews from Arab countries have a deep understanding of the Arab nations and can bring them closer to Israel. The Arab and Muslim worlds have a great opportunity to ally with Israel and help transform the world. They carry the flag of faith, despite a significant radicalized and alienating minority. The Muslim world, with its huge numbers and unshakable faith in God, may be holding the flag of religiosity for the whole world. This makes it incumbent on them to clean up their religiosity’s traumatic accents of supremacy, as the Catholic church and Evangelism have done.
SERVING HUMANITY FOR GOD’S SAKE
The Jewish exile has come to an end. Diaspora Jewish communities have it easier than any time in history, fully contributing to and belonging to their host countries.
Can we view Jewish exile and the scattering of the Jews among most civilizations and in most corners of the world as beneficial? The Jews zealously kept their tribal elements while embracing universal Judaism and acclimating to their host nations. They know and understand firsthand the different religions and cultures of the world; they belonged to the cultures, while keeping their own unique religious traits. They have seen these nations’ strengths and embraced them culturally and emotionally.
The Jews and Israel can move from being the pariahs of the world to uniting the world. They have the capacity to bring together the different cultures, having learned to marry their tribal characteristics to their universal yearning everywhere. Instead of the odd man out, they can be the common bond, bringing about a new order. However, the world must contribute to the healing of the Jewish trauma, so that assimilation does not become a defensive measure for survival, and Jewish identity doesn’t become diluted.
Recognizing and honoring the Jewish people’s mission and capacity to serve humanity for God’s sake, helping the Jews heal from their traumas so that all their energy is oriented towards serving, as well as contributing to the Jewish efforts, can only benefit all of humanity.
Gina Ross, MFCT, is Founder/President of the International Trauma-Healing Institute in the US (ITI-US) and its Israeli branch (ITI-Israel). Born in Aleppo, Syria, Gina has lived in eight different countries on four continents. A specialist in individual and collective trauma, she authored a series of books “Beyond the Trauma Vortex into the Healing Vortex,” targeting 10 social sectors implicated in amplifying or healing trauma. She created “The Ross Model: Working with the Collective Nervous System, and Free from Conflict: A Protocol for Conflict Resolution and Successful Communication.” Gina focuses her analytical work on the collective trauma behind politics, specifically the Israeli-Jewish/Palestinian–Arab conflict.
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