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Virtual Talmud

Here are my top four reasons American Jews should care deeply and passionately about Israel:

1) Security.

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg argues that absolute powerlessness corrupts as completely as absolute power because it invites persecution.

Jewish history is a catalogue of such powerlessness: expulsions, pogroms, blood libels…

The early Zionists understood that a sovereign Jewish state was the only answer to the cyclical, but unending vulnerability and persecution of a powerless Jewish people.

If Israel existed just 10 years earlier, Europe’s Jews not only would have found haven from Hitler’s ovens, Israel would have taken out the ovens.

Where other nations may be immobilized by “mitigating” concerns, Israel remains committed to the well being of the Jewish people everywhere, even here.

If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

2) Identity.

Jews are not just adherents of a religion. We are a family, and Israel is our ancestral home. As such, Israel evokes the warmth of nostalgia, a longing for sights, sounds, and smells that we may only know from stories or the deep recesses of our souls.

Israel is the place we can most deeply and fully be ourselves.

There is nothing like being in Israel during Hanukkah and seeing the menorahs blazing in every town square, home, and store window. Israel is our true home, and we are stronger inside ourselves when we nourish that connection.

3) Covenant.

Longing for the land of Israel is perhaps the oldest covenantal tradition of Judaism, older than brit milah. The land of Israel links us with our past and our future. It links us with each other and with God. It provides us with spiritual transcendence.

Our passion for Israel contributes to the ongoing relationship between God and the Jewish people. Whenever we support Israel, financially, politically, economically, or emotionally, we are helping to keep the covenant between God and the Jewish people alive.

4) Hope.

Israel is all about hope: the hope that a ragged band of slaves, or survivors, could build a life of dignity and independence; the hope that the desert could bloom, the hope, currently much strained, that enemies can someday become friends.

I saw this most clearly last summer on our synagogue mission to Israel. On the Golan Heights, I was surprised by a profusion of statues lining the path to the defensive bunkers. Our guide explained that the fields had been covered with the remains of destroyed tanks after the ’73 Yom Kippur War. Israeli soldiers had converted the blasted metal pieces into these whimsical statues. The modern equivalents of swords were beaten not just into plowshares but into life-affirming art.

Anything is possible as long as hope remains alive. The very existence of Israel is a symbol of the hope not only that the Jewish people will survive but that someday every human being will be able to sit in safety and satisfaction under his or her vine and fig tree.

Israel protects us. Israel unites us. Israel gives us purpose. Israel gives us hope in a better future. What happens to Israel will affect us, whether or not we care about it or think it will. But if we do care, if we do think about it, if we participate in its wellbeing, we will be the ones to gain the most, through the inner strength, the communal connection, the spiritual fulfillment, and the energy to go on, even in the face of set backs. All this becomes possible through the promise and miracle of Israel, our Promised Land.

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