Seeing the light unto the nations

Israeli media hearkens to the world's criticism of Israel; it should do the same for the world's praise
Guatemala President Jimmy Morales speaks during the official opening ceremony of the Guatemala embassy in Jerusalem on May 16, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Guatemala President Jimmy Morales speaks during the official opening ceremony of the Guatemala embassy in Jerusalem on May 16, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

I looked up the full text of the speeches delivered here in Israel in recent weeks, and I thought, as I have done in the past as well, that we had let the grandiose words slip through the net. It happens almost every time a high-ranking guest comes to Israel. The media is on the lookout for the instant headline concerning the political or diplomatic situation, or about Hamas or Iran. However, in the quest for a newsworthy comment, we tend to miss out on an important message being conveyed, for it is not considered “newsworthy” enough. The following are sentiments expressed by three presidents and one businessman in recent weeks in Israel, and their comments certainly are newsworthy. Read these speeches and take note of what drives Israel’s guests. It is not mutual interests, but rather justice, morals, and doing the right thing.

Juan Carlos Varela, the president of Panama gave a powerful speech at the President’s Residence last week. In a voice trembling with emotion, he spoke of his university roommate who was murdered in an airplane terrorist attack committed by Hezbollah in 1994:

I lost one of my best friends because of Hezbollah terrorism. This is the reason why you can be assured that wherever I go, I will always support you. I will always defend the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Panama is the only Latin American country that joined the coalition against ISIS. I made this decision because in life one has to do what is right. The right thing was to join the coalition against ISIS and the correct thing is to defend Israel’s right to defend herself against terrorists who are trying to infiltrate her borders. I admire this country, I admire her people and I admire her leaders. You are always fighting for an ideal and a purpose and I want to learn more about you.”

In a later interview, Varela added: “Even someone who is not a believer becomes a believer when he visits Israel.”

Horacio Cartes, the president of Paraguay echoed these sentiments when he spoke at the opening ceremony of his country’s embassy in Jerusalem:

Many people ask me why I decided to move our embassy to Jerusalem and I answer that we want to be in the right place. We do not owe you anything and you do not owe us. It is simply the right thing to do.”

Panama has a population of 4 million, and Paraguay’s population numbers 7 million.

Another country that moved its embassy to Jerusalem is Guatemala, which has a population of 17 million. President Jimmy Morales spoke at the opening ceremony:

I ask you to also honor the president of our parliament and our chief justice because all three presidents supported the embassy move. I feel at home here. We admire the spirit of Israel. We share brotherly love. You are a light to the Nations, God bless you.”

Maybe the reason we suppress these compliments is that they obligate us or pose a challenge to us. No Israeli leader would go to Guatemala and tell the hosts that they are a “Light to the World.” So why do our guests say it to us? What does it mean for us?

This brings us to another visit a few weeks ago that barely received any media coverage. I cannot understand why no one has prepared a short video clip with choice quotes from these speeches. Jack Ma, the founder and owner of the Chinese e-commerce website Alibaba made a request to the organizers of his visit to Israel:

I do not want to only meet people from the business community, I want to have some Judaism as well.

During his meeting with Nobel Prize laureate, Professor Yisrael Auman, Ma said:

You have brought a unique spirit to the world and the power to change it and so I want to learn about your story. I hope that one day we will also have a similar story to tell.”

In his acceptance speech upon receiving an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University, Ma noted:

You are a miracle. I asked people why you are all so smart and they said it is because we were homeless and the only thing that cannot be taken away from such a person is their intelligence. You people remind us that education is of paramount importance. We have to appreciate our brains and not our property and money.”

We are world champions in giving media prominence to the criticisms heaped upon us. While it is certainly important to listen to our critics, should we not also take good notice of the compliments we receive? How can we ensure that they also get prime coverage?

About the Author
Sivan Rahav Meir is a media personality and lecturer. A Jerusalem resident, she is the World Mizrachi’s scholar-in-residence. Her lectures on the weekly Torah portion are attended by hundreds and the live broadcast attracts thousands of listeners around the world. Sivan lectures in Israel and overseas about the media, Judaism, Zionism and new media. She was voted by Globes newspaper as most popular female media personality in Israel and by the Jerusalem Post as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world.
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