In the midst of the Israel-Hamas war, while we grapple with life-and-death challenges, it seems as if the world is ablaze with a virulent strain of hatred aimed squarely at us, the people of Israel.
We witness the disturbing echoes of history in France, where Jewish homes bear the ominous Star of David, much like in Germany during the 1930s. On the Paris metro, the haunting strains of antisemitic songs resound, and an airport in Dagestan erupts with a fervor for the slaughter of Jews. In many countries, Jewish communities live in constant fear, with reports of Jews shying away from wearing their kippot and also refraining from speaking Hebrew in public.
My students, too, have reported on the antisemitic atmosphere in the world: Aaron was in Israel during the period of the horrendous October 7 attacks, and soon afterward traveled back to Baltimore in the United States, only to find that he felt safer in war-ridden Israel than in the States. On the Global Day of Rage declared by ex-Hamas head Khaled Mashal soon after the October 7 attacks, Debbie in Sydney took care of her grandchild instead of sending him to his Jewish day care while watching a nearby rally of people shouting “Gas the Jews!” on her local news. Seth in New York City reported that thousands of people marched past his office window in support of Hamas, openly calling for the death of the Jews, i.e., in the same city where many people recently become offended by being called the wrong pronoun.
What was once concentrated antisemitism confined to Germany has spread worldwide, manifesting itself in a disturbingly crude and shameless manner.
We should first debunk the notion that this hatred stems merely from criticizing the State of Israel’s policies and actions. With several open calls for the death of Jews, and the virally-spreading slogan at pro-Palestinian protests “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” suggesting Jewish genocide in the region, it becomes clear that Jew hatred is aflame far beyond criticism of the State of Israel.
The enmity is simply because we are Jewish. As Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) wrote: “Israel is hated by all the nations, whether for religious, racial, capitalist, communist, or for cosmopolitan reasons, etc. It is so because the hatred precedes all reasons, but each merely resolves its loathing according to its own psychology.”
Antisemitism is a phenomenon dating back thousands of years prior to the emergence of the State of Israel, at the origins of our identity as the people of Israel.
Our first forefather, Abraham, was a person with no distinct characteristics, talents or skills, but who sought to discover the omnipresent laws of nature that operate on us before they manifest into our desires, thoughts and actions. Rampant social division during Abraham’s time inspired him to seek the source of the divisiveness that separates human beings. He found it in the inborn egoistic human nature that constantly aims to benefit the individual at the expense of society and nature. Through dedicated inner exploration to find out what was behind and beyond man’s egoistic nature, his quest led him deeper to discover the oneness of an all-encompassing force of love, bestowal and connection. Moreover, using this force, he found that people could unite above their divisions and discover a whole new sublime reality of love above hatred, altruism above egoism, and mutual consideration and support above disregard and disdain. Most significantly, by connecting these two opposite poles in creation, Abraham found that all people can reach eternity and perfection—a state of total harmony, peace and balance with nature’s fundamental laws.
Abraham’s groundbreaking revelation drew like-minded individuals from around ancient Babylon. Those who resonated with the idea of unity joined his teaching and started implementing his method. This group eventually evolved into the people of Israel, a nation committed to rising above their inborn egoistic nature and discovering the single force of love and bestowal that bonded them together. That is why they became called “Israel” from the two words, “Yashar Kel” (“straight to God”), i.e., a people directed at discovering the single all-encompassing force in reality.
The people of Israel then became tasked with exhibiting the power of unity above division as an example to humanity, which is the meaning of them becoming “a light unto the nations.” In other words, unlike other nations, the people of Israel did not form through natural biological ties, but through a shared mission that led them from one end of reality—living for self-benefit alone—to its other side—living for the benefit of others and nature.
Over the course of 3,800 years, human desires grew, and at various stages of development when we failed to uphold our unity, we inadvertently bred hatred toward us from various other people in the world. That is the root cause of antisemitism. It is a hatred that dresses itself in all kinds of reasoning and accusations, many of which have been completely illogical, such as Jews having horns on their heads, drinking children’s blood, and being human embodiments of Satan, to name a few. In the meantime, the more we remain aloof to the unifying trajectory that made us the people of Israel to begin with, the more humanity suffers from intensifying division and conflicts, subconsciously depending on us to unblock the tap of a unified human consciousness to flow out to each and every person.
Therefore, while we find ourselves in a situation where we need to defend our nation in practice, we must also engrave a fundamental truth in our hearts: The fate of our people, whether it be the hostages, the soldiers, their families, and the collective triumph of unity above division among the Jewish people and in humanity as a whole, depends on a common prayer for the unity of the people of Israel. This is our enduring commitment that stretches into eternity.