It is exactly because we are in unprecedented, uncharted and therefore frightening waters that we need to take a collective deep breath, step back and employ the combination of astute analysis and sincere hakarat hatov (appreciation of the good) that the Jewish people are well known for.
Shuttling back and forth between the Center of the country and the Upper Galilee, I have noticed one important thing in common: people are going about their business in regular fashion. While our military leaders are expressing concerns about possible reprisal for our recent attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, that concern has not affected our day-to-day behavior.
We are a people fiercely determined to live with normalcy. This of course is the Herzliyan dream: the normalization of the condition of the Jewish people. In Israel, we have turned that determination into an art form.
I tell friends in America that Israel is a country with a very strong citizenry, and a fairly dysfunctional government.
Both those aspects are being accentuated now. Precisely because of our manifold political uncertainty, we have had to find within ourselves, the citizens of Israel, the inner conviction – the validation – for our continued collective life.
In this challenge, I would suggest that we have had two significant assists. The first has been continued clear-headed thinking and action concerning the security threats that we face.
The strong, unequivocal and blessedly disproportionate response given to four missiles fired from Syria, likely intended for the center of the country, were as much a message to the people of Israel as they were a warning to the mullahs of Iran.
The message to us was that our stasis is political, but our security concerns are both existential and consensual. In other words, our security focus has not been distracted, no matter how distracting our political issues might be.
Many have noted with great satisfaction that the IDF has shown a newfound determination to up the ante of response to any incursions. To my way of thinking, this shows the underlying consensus that transcends the current political morass, when it comes to our security. I do not think this heightened response is politically motivated, in the sense of trying to make the prime minister or anyone else in the government look strong or resolute.
On the other hand, the message to our adversaries is that we are in fact strong and resolute, no matter how uncertain is the question of who will be steering the ship of state.
The other significant assist has been the Trump administration’s declaration that the United States does not view the Jewish communities in Judaea and Samaria to be per se illegal.
There has understandably been a great deal of discussion as to the implications of this in terms of how other countries will continue to view the status of the Jewish communities, and that of the area itself. There have been condemnations of fostering illegality, laments about burying the two-state solution, and fears that the cause of peace has been derailed.
Without addressing these erroneous and/or misplaced convictions, I want to point out its impact on us, the people of Israel. The declaration has been a great validation of our sense of our rightness, appropriateness, justice and yes, normalcy in our land.
The leader of the Free World has just pointed out that we are not flying in the face of international law, we are not sticking a finger in the eye of world opinion. Rather, we have been putting down roots in the land that God bestowed upon us, and that we liberated in a defensive war more than 50 years ago.
Not only this, but that land was ownerless. Its last widely recognized sovereign was the Ottoman Empire, which had relinquished it after World War I.
It will be for us to work out with Palestinians and other Arabs the ultimate adjudication of these lands. But the point is that we will make those decisions as the rightful and legitimate possessor of them. If we choose to exercise sovereignty over them in whole or in part, that will be the expression of what we believe is in our best self-interest.
It will not be a wilful flaunting of an international consensus that we are interlopers or usurpers, because we are not these things.
This is the power of the Trump declaration: It stiffens our own spines.
It is our custom to host a Thanksgiving Shabbat dinner each year. This year we did it a bit early to accommodate our daughter’s IDF availability. I pointed out that Thanksgiving was a very popular holiday with Jews in America and suggested that the reason might be the strong projection of Jewish values that Thanksgiving embodies.
By that I primarily refer to gratitude – to the willingness to see the good and the blessings in our lives.
Right now, we are being challenged as a society. But I believe that we as a citizenry are showing – and will continue to show – the strength that our founders dreamed of for us: the determination to proceed as the true sovereigns of our nation.
Our political issues are a given, and will be resolved at some point. But it is us, as a people, who are the backbone, the glue: the ultimate strength and conviction of our nation.
Let’s keep it that way.