Continued from Rabbi's Study...
I do not at all mean to suggest that anyone should give up on Jews and Judaism outside of Israel. But, we would be wise to ensure that the IDF remains capable not only of defending Israel, but, of fostering and encouraging healthy generations to come of the largest Jewish population in the world. After all, by sheer necessity, due to the large number of young adults and reservists required for Israel's protection at any given moment, the IDF is, in fact, one of Israel's largest social service agencies, it is one of Israel's most important educational agencies for the purposes of teaching Jewish history and the history of the State of Israel to Israeli youth, and it is often the training ground and connecting-web for technical or professional careers for Israeli men and women who contribute after their IDF service to one of the world's most advanced work-forces and economies or go on to study in some of the world's finest universities. In supporting the humanitarian welfare of the IDF, we can help to ensure that Israel's future is a bright one and that our own children and grandchildren will have meaningful partners in Israel with whom they can collaborate for decades to come in the development of every facet of Jewish life and otherwise.
However, as vulnerable as we are in North America to the population challenge, Israel has its vulnerabilities, as well - some of them equally or more so existential in nature. Israel lives in a neighborhood at least as rough as it has always been. For instance, Israel's vulnerability to a nuclear-armed Iran is compounded by the fact that two-thirds of Israel's roughly 5.5 million Jews live within a 3,500-square-mile area on the Mediterranean coastline. Iran's previous ruling Mullah, Hashemi Rafsanjani, often touted these days by the western media to be a "moderate," therefore posited almost a decade ago and quite publicly that one nuclear weapon dropped on Tel Aviv would, for all practical purposes, destroy the State of Israel and that Iran could certainly bear the cost of one-third of its population in an Israeli counter-strike, toward this genocidal end. Israel's security is clearly more important than ever!
Given the huge cost that Israel bears as a society to ensure its defense, and given the unique role that the IDF plays in preserving and weaving the very fabric of Israeli society, Israel must rely upon generosity from the private sector - individuals, foundations, and corporate sponsors - both in Israel and beyond - to support the services provided by the IDF that, in the United States, for instance, would be provided by other tax-funded government agencies or non-profit organizations and institutions.
Consider, as well, that a great many of Israel's young men and women serve not only in defense of Israel, but, with an ever-present awareness that they serve to as a protective shield for every JewFishel community at risk, anywhere in the world. Their strength is, indeed, a source of our sense of security, as Jews living today in the Diaspora (needn't we imagine the difference that an IDF could have made on behalf of 6,000,000 Jews less than a century ago). Their courage inspires our own. Not only are they a source of enormous Jewish pride for so many of us in their decency, humanity and dedication, but they deserve our own support for that which they extend to us every day. I have met and spoken with literally thousands of Israeli soldiers, aged 18-21, over the years, and I have yet to encounter even one of them unready or unwilling to protect or rescue Jews and all others in distress, anywhere in the world and at a moment's notice (e.g., the Jewish communities of Yemen and Ethiopia, Muslims trapped under rubble after Turkey's earthquake, Haitians suffering even greater distress under even more disasterous circumstances, Muslims in Kosovo displaced by Serbian aggression, etc.). Our support for their humanitarian welfare is the least that we can do for those who embody and exhibit such extraordinary commitment to the Jewish People, to all of humanity and to our Homeland.
There are yet other existential threats, some of them growing and deepening, to which Jews in Israel and all of us elsewhere are increasingly susceptible. Advocates for Israel's demise urge the world toward a normative view that Zionism is an imperialist, colonialist and racist ideology. The campaign to discredit Israel and challenge its very right to exist is organized and energized. The vast majority of those involved in perpetrating this big lie cloak their anti-Semitism with the veil of anti-Zionism. They manipulate public opinion to affect the foreign policies of countries that have enjoyed cooperative relationships with Israel, including our own, suggesting the "Zionists" dominate the press or unduly influence legislators. Similarly, they work to isolate Israel, to ban its scholars and products, and to tie its hands when attacked by terrorists. Increasingly, Israelis and other Jewish academicians and diplomats are challenged to prove their lack of bias in favor of Israel by repudiating their Zionism and even renouncing their Israeli citizenship!
We must remember, most importantly, that when it comes to anti-Semitism, all Jews sail in the same boat, and we are sea-worthy only to the extent that we remain united, rowing in tandem. When the world perceives Israel to be strong and willing to act as it needs to do so, either in its own defense or to deter aggression against itself or Jews anywhere else, and when it is clear that Jews worldwide stand likewise behind Israel's soldiers both in spirit and otherwise, Jews throughout the world are the safer for it. Our strong support for the humanitarian welfare of Israel's young men and women serving in the IDF is an absolute necessity toward this end, boosting the morale of of the world's most selfless young Jewish men and women who give so much of themselves, knowing they may be called upon in an instant, Heaven forbid, to risk giving even more.
Israel's security rests upon the shoulders of the men and women of the IDF. As do Jews from other countries today, our children will need Israel and Israelis as primary partners for the development and deepening of their Jewish identities. As well, as the future unfolds, the apparent likelihood is that existential threats shared alike by Jews in Israel and around the world will need to be addressed in ever-deeper and more coordinated partnership by all of us together.
Let's remember who the young men and women of the IDF really are; they, too, are our children. As Americans, they are our truest allies in defense of liberty, anywhere in the world. As Jews, they are our sons and daughters, and granddaughters and grandsons, our boys and girls; they are mishpoche - family. They need us. And, they know, at least as much as we do, that we need them. Both our present and our future are indeed inextricably bound by a sacred trust with Israel's, and with every young man and woman in the IDF. It is up to us to ensure that this trust is never broken. In doing so, we will help to ensure a vibrant Jewish future -- one IDF soldier at a time.
*Rabbi Isaac Jeret is the Spiritual Leader of Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Among his various communal involvements, he serves as the Chairman of the National Rabbinic Cabinet of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), as the vice -President of the L.A. chapter of FIDF, and as a member of FIDF's National Board.
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