A recent American Jewish Committee (AJC) survey has discovered that while slightly more than half of American Jewish millennials feel that Israel is very or somewhat important to them, nearly a quarter said that antisemitism has caused them to hide their identity. The survey also showed that more than a quarter of American Jewish millennials approve of distancing themselves from Israel “to better fit in among friends,” and a little more than a quarter said that the anti-Israel climate in the US is making them “rethink their own commitment to Israel.”
These “disturbing trends within the U.S. Jewish community’s younger cohort,” as the survey referred to them, will gain momentum and overtake American Jewry unless we Jews, and especially in Israel, know our place and role in the world. If we recognize why we are here in Israel, the whole world will recognize it, too, and respect us. If we do not, the whole world, world Jewry included, will condemn us and exclude us from the family of nations.
The fact that it has been nearly four millennia since the founding of our nation and the assumption of our role to be a light to nations does not mean that we have been relieved of our duty. We became a nation by espousing and fighting for unity above all our divisions. Because we succeeded, we were ordered to set an example to the world. That order has never been revoked, and the “anti-Israel climate,” as the AJC survey calls it, is the result of our negligence in carrying out our duty.
The formal establishment of the State of Israel, through the November 29, 1947 vote in the League of Nations (the precursor of the United Nations), was a precedent. It was, and still is the only case in history where the world’s nations debate, vote, and agree on creating a new state. But if the vote that went so well in 1947 were to be taken now, no one would vote in favor of establishing a Jewish state. After seventy-five years of negligence and contempt for our only duty—to exert to unite above our divisions—the world has lost its patience with us, hence the anti-Israel climate.
If you look at our history, and I have written two books about it (links below), you will find that all our major catastrophes were preceded by prolonged periods of division and internal hatred. Our sages in antiquity did not blame foreign enemies for our downfalls and exiles, but corruption and division that emerged from within.
They do not blame Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, for the destruction of the First Temple and the expulsion of the Jews from the land of Israel. Rather, they blame our own corruption and bloodshed, particularly among the Jewish leadership of the time.
Likewise, our sages do not blame Titus, the Roman general who later became emperor, for destroying Jerusalem and the Second Temple, and expelling the Jews. Instead, they pin it on baseless hatred among us, Jews. Our sages assumed responsibility for our woes, the complete opposite of today’s approach, which depicts us as helpless victims, when in fact we could have opted to unite in the face of adversity but failed to do so.
Today, as it happened every time in our past, Israel will not win the approval of the world until it raises the value of unity above all other values. Regardless of political opinions, culture, origin, tradition, or education, unity among Jews must be the prime value in the Israeli society. Otherwise, everyone will turn against us, as is happening now, including Jews around the world—either in order to protect themselves, or because they, too, will feel that Israel is not a country they can or want to sympathize with. They may find other justifications for distancing themselves from the Jewish state, but the real motive will be the division, partisanship, and hatred among the Jews in Israel.
Until we return to our core values of love of others, mutual responsibility, and connection above all differences, we will not have the approval of the nations to live in Israel and maintain a Jewish state here. We will continue to be pariahs in Israel, and pariahs in the world. If, however, we reassume our duty, everyone will accept us, respect us, and justify our presence here. We will not need to fight for our national survival since we will have no enemies, not even the Arabs. In such a situation, world Jewry will rally behind us and strengthen our unity even more, and we will truly be a model of unity, a light unto nations.
For more on the linkage between Jewish division and its impact on Jewish history, see my books Like a Bundle of Reeds: Why unity and mutual guarantee are today’s call of the hour, and The Jewish Choice: Unity or Anti-Semitism, Historical facts on anti-Semitism as a reflection of Jewish social discord.