Back in high school we used to play a risky game called Johnny on the Pony. This game, also called Buck-buck, required one group of players to pile on as many of their group on to people from another group who bent to form a chain. The first group would jump on the backs of the pony group before the weight caused them to collapse. The group that could support the most people won. We thought it fun and apparently the teachers and school administrators did not find it so dangerous as to have us stop playing it. I especially enjoyed the thrill of winning. Sure, we were banged and bruised, but that was part of the excitement, at least at the time. Nowadays, despite the fact that Johnny on the Pony is still played in some colleges I personally would be very hesitant to suggest that my children, or any children, play the game. It is just too hazardous.
The Palestinians, indeed the Arab world along with many others in the West are playing this game now with us. In 2009, in response to Obama’s Cairo speech, I wrote that it is “not just a tragic history that affords Jews the right to a homeland, but a strong history of faith and determination” something Mr. Obama failed to acknowledge. So we are dealing with six plus years of a US administration intent on a liberal agenda that is distortive of reality with an indifference to facts that supports piling on as many possible random attacks, lies, and anti-Semitic acts as the world can possibly conjure up.
From the seriously flawed New York Times article on the history and archaeology of the Temple Mount; to UNESCO’s attempt to remove the Kotel, the Western Wall, from its Judaic roots; to the BDS movements’ false narrative; to the West’s philosophy of moral equivalency that is anything but moral or equivalent; to a rendering of Palestinian rage as reverential, it appears that these ever mounting attacks on Israel in particular and Jews in general are escalating.
This is, of course, not a new tactic. Even the random stabbings are not new. Check your history books. Josephus documents three different groups that ran through the streets of Jerusalem stabbing innocents. Some serious researchers would like to think that society has evolved since those times, even finding evidence for the fact that the world has become less violent. A perfect example is Steven Pinker’s text, The Better Angels of Our Nature, which is subtitled, “Why Violence Has Declined.” Maybe in some ways violence has declined. But there has been little to no change, not for the tiny State of Israel or Jews. While violence for us waxes and wanes, it has never completely abated.
Nevertheless, I am optimistic. How can I not be? There is an adage in psychology that is relevant — “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” To a certain degree this maxim can be interpreted to mean that in the absence of a significant attempt to change, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. On the other hand, it is a message of hope. In light of life’s many serious, even debilitating challenges and tribulations we have a narrative that has taught us that we always find a way through and continue on. We have survived and thrived and will continue to do so. Try as they might, Jews and Judaism will endure.
While survival is important, the message is deeper than one of simple existence. It is a message of perseverance, thriving and continuing growth. What much of the world does not understand is that the more they pile on, the more unified the Jewish world becomes. Under very high temperature and severe pressure, simple carbon is transformed into a magnificent diamond. When the burdens grow, we have a Jewish history of resilience to carry on and get stronger. No one would choose to be placed under such stress and pressure. They never give us the option, though.
Moreover, as much as we have an intense aversion to war and a desire for peace to live in harmony with our neighbors wherever we live, something we pray for daily, we cannot ever be complacent. The human condition is such that there will always be radicals in all groups, cultures, religions, countries. It is in our DNA to confront it and carry on despite what they pile on.