Less than a month after the normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain has also joined the peace train. I am all for it; peace and normalization are always better than war and animosity. To be honest, I don’t see that the rest of the world is so excited about it, and I think this shows how isolated we are in the world. Despite the fact that Israel has established connections with countries who were previously enemies, no one is cheering, no one is sounding the festive trumpets. For all our efforts to be accepted, Israel and Jews (though they may not recognize it), are excluded from the family of nations.
Wherever Israel appears, it is unlike any other country, and so it is with regard to Jewish presence anywhere. It is time we asked ourselves why this is so; it is time we understood that the way the world relates to us depends on us and not on them. The nations will welcome us when we bring to the world something that not we, but they consider worthwhile. Until then, whatever we offer them—advanced technology, developed agriculture, innovations in medicine, and brilliant novelists, actors, and filmmakers—the world will only hate us more. We will not receive an ounce of gratitude until we bring them what they really want from us. They do not express it, but we must figure it out and do it nonetheless.
But that something is plain to see: In a broken world, splintered by hatred, we—Jews and the State of Israel—have to bring correction to the world, Tikkun Olam, through unity. The world will accept nothing less from us.
We hate the idea, but we are not like everyone else. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who isn’t Jewish and they will tell you that they feel that there is something special about Jews. Some hate us, some like us, but most everyone senses that we are different, and they’re right. No other country or person has to justify their existence, but we Jews do, as a nation, as a country, and as individuals. We should recognize it, since otherwise the nations will tell us this the way the Nazis told this to us eighty years ago.
No nation attracts more attention than the Jews, since no other nation is expected to set an example to the whole world. We are judged by a different standard because we are expected to be more virtuous than everyone else, more loving, caring for each other, and with more mutual responsibility toward each other than all other nations.
For saying this, some Jews have accused me of being antisemitic. But denial gets us nowhere. Instead, we must roll up our sleeves and get to work, because the whole world is waiting, and it is becoming increasingly impatient.
The demands of the nations from the Jewish people are not some fabrications of sick minds; our own sages told us throughout the ages that we must be a role model nation, “a light unto nations.” Rav Kook, the leader of religious Zionism before the establishment of the State of Israel, articulated this message poetically and succinctly in his book, Orot HaKodesh:
“Since we were ruined by unfounded hatred, and the world was ruined with us, we will be rebuilt by unfounded love, and the world will be rebuilt with us.”
As just said, we need to unite not for our own sake, but to set an example to the world. In the days before the ruin of the Second Temple, there was a period when we were so united that people from the nations flocked to Jerusalem to see the miracle. The book Sifrey Devarim details how gentiles would “go up to Jerusalem and see Israel … and say, ‘It is becoming to cling only to this nation.’”
Similarly, The Book of Zohar (Aharei Mot) wrote about our hatred for each other and the importance of our unity for the rest of the world: “‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to also sit together.’ These are the friends as they sit together and are not separated from each other. At first, they seem like people at war, wishing to kill one another … then they return to being in brotherly love. …And you, the friends who are here, as you were in fondness and love before, henceforth you will also not part from one another … and by your merit, there will be peace in the world.”
The book Kol Mevaser also stresses the importance of unity for the people of Israel: “This is the mutual guarantee on which Moses worked so hard before his death, to unite the children of Israel. All of Israel are responsible for one another, meaning that when all are together, they see only good.”
Therefore, we need to realize that we will have no peace or peace of mind until we make peace among ourselves. Until we rise above our deep-seated hatred for each other and unite in order to serve as an example to the world, the nations will treat us as pariahs.