With so many threats to Israel’s security and assaults on its legitimacy, as well as so much internal political and social malaise, it’s not surprising to hear Israelis speak about the future glumly.
This may be natural, but it is a short-sighted misreading of Israel’s national situation. From an overall perspective, this country is stronger than any of its enemies without and within. Israel is far healthier than any dour forecasts. And on the eve of Sukkot, the festival of rejoicing, there is an obligation, I think, to eschew negativity and instead bask in Israel’s national blessings. I offer here a buoyant evaluation.
Confounding its critics, Israel is effectively advancing its national agenda. It is a military and intelligence superpower. More so, it is a force for regional stability, an anchor of sanity in an unruly region.
It also is a source of ingenuity for global partnerships in arts and education, health, hi-tech, biotech, energy and environmental tech and much more. Israel sizzles with creativity.
After two millennia of dispersion and degradation, Israel has ingathered the exiles from 70 Jewish diasporas and facilitated development of an animated and resilient society.
In fact, this is the finest moment in Jewish history in 2,000 years. Jews have regained sovereignty in their indigenous homeland and made it blossom anew. Israel is a brave place where citizens sacrifice to defend the country, maintain its morals and settle the land. Israel’s youth are motivated to excel and animated to serve out of a deep sense of responsibility for Jewish and Zionist destiny.
Moreover, Israel is a great place to live and raise a family. Healthcare and education are universally guaranteed rights. The average lifespan is 80 years, the average annual income is $40,000 and the average family size is 5.7 people. Compare that to the crumbling Arab states or much of the failing West.
On a deeper plane, on a spiritual level, I think it can be said that the draw of Divine proximity and the powerful magnetism of Jewish peoplehood makes for a robust Jewish identity in this country that is growing ever stronger. (Elsewhere around the world, Jewish identity is significantly challenged by homogenizing culture and woke ideologies.)
So, in my view, Israel comes out way ahead: Way ahead of its Western counterparts, way ahead of its adversaries and detractors, well beyond any point in centuries of Jewish history and well positioned to overcome its many challenges.
Of course, I am aware that Israel is still demonized in parts of the world, that some prefer to ignore Israel’s impressive achievements and instead assert a narrative of Israeli criminality and that Israel’s outstretched hand for peace and its humanitarian record are globally under-appreciated.
It also is true that radical Islam is encircling Israel from all sides, with an Iranian nuclear bomb an almost-foregone conclusion; that Arab gangs are chipping away at Israeli authority in the Galilee and the Negev (as well as mixed cities like Lod and Acre); and that Israel’s sovereign control in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria requires significant reinforcement or else it will be lost.
I am also aware that post-Zionist and individualist discourses on the extreme left, and racist and anti-democratic undercurrents on the extreme right, are undermining the country’s stamina and unity. The no-holds-barred ideological debate within Israel often inflicts deep wounds. I am alarmed by yawning income gaps and the skyrocketing cost of living, which have led to gross social inequalities. These ailments drive dangerous internal Israeli resentments.
Still, my net assessment is that Israel is a tremendous success story in so many ways. That life in Israel is full of meaning and delight, adorned by commitment, achievement and joy—all the components that make life satisfying and exciting, and certainly so for a Jew.
Moreover, I am convinced that beyond habitual grumbling, Israelis are neither crushed nor truly dispirited by their challenges. Even though Israelis worry about the future (and are deeply disappointed in their politicians), they remain energized to build an even better future. Despite all the naysayers, boycotters, detractors, radicals, ruffians and anti-Semites, Israelis are achieving, creating, producing and advancing.
I am not peddling naivete, but I think that Israelis have ample reason to reject bleak and defeatist outlooks. We ought to cultivate mindfulness that emphatically exclaims: We have faith in the future. Not blind faith, but the kind of faith that says, “We are not helpless, we are stronger than all our enemies and—for most Israelis who manifestly believe in Divine Providence—we are not alone.”
After all, as the late, great Chief Rabbi Dr. Lord Jonathan Sacks has written: “The Jewish people have been around for longer than almost any other. We have known our share of suffering. And we are still here, still young, still full of energy, still able to rejoice and celebrate and sing. Jews have walked more often than most through the valley of the shadow of death, yet they lost neither their humor nor their hope.”
“Faith does not mean believing ‘six impossible things before breakfast.’ … Nor is faith certainty; it is the courage to live with uncertainty. Faith does not mean seeing the world as you would like it to be. It means seeing the world exactly as it is, yet never giving up the hope that we can make it better by the way we live,” he wrote.
Or as Rabbi Chagai Londin wrote in his outstanding new book Another 12 Challenges to Faith in the Twenty-First Century, the operative keywords we need to drill into our heads and the minds of our kids are hope, realism, positivity and proportion. This is not meant to make us apathetic or willfully ignorant about the challenges ahead, but to make us determined to have the mental poise and patience to overcome them.
It’s easy to be an unrelenting pessimist. Alarmism is an easier sell than optimism, and fear can be fiercer than faith. Alas, politicians campaigning for election take advantage of this. We should not stoop to such sullen thinking or enfeeble ourselves with despondency.
David M. Weinberg is a senior fellow at the Kohelet Forum and Habithonistim: Israel’s Defense and Security Forum. His diplomatic, defense, political and Jewish world columns over the past 25 years are archived at www.davidmweinberg.com.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.