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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Proud to be a Zionist - 5770 edition

I wrote the original essay around 2002 and I have been modifying it since then. Here is this year's edition:


Every year, the State of Israel seems to be up against yet another unsolvable crisis. Whether it is war against terrible odds, a wave of terror attacks, a new feeling of isolation as friends seem to turn hostile, or the threat of nuclear-armed enemies, there are always new challenges that she faces - sometimes simultaneously.

Yet, here she is, 62 years old and more beautiful than she was at birth.

In prayers every morning Jews say a phrase praising G-d, describing Him as המחדש בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית - He who continually renews the act of Creation. In other words, the Jewish concept of G-d has him in an active role keeping the universe running, and as such it is appropriate to praise Him.

It is a little hard to conceptualize this idea, that the very laws of physics, of the world turning and revolving around the sun is not automatic, but only occurs due to the constant will of G-d. But perhaps it is easier to understand this phrase if we apply it to the modern state of Israel.

Every single day that the Jewish state continues to exist cannot be explained adequately with historical or social or military reasons. Which means that we are witnessing a miracle every day.

The most recent years have been very hard for Zionists, as well as for religious Zionists. Yet when we step back and look at the big picture, Israel remains something to be very proud of.

Yes, I am a Zionist and I am proud of it.

I know that Israel has the absolute right to exist in peace and security, just like - and possibly more than - any other country.

I am proud of how the IDF conducts itself during the war on Palestinian terror. There is no other country on the planet, save the US, that would try to minimize civilian casualties in such a situation where innocent Israelis are being threatened, shot at, mortared, rocketed, and murdered in cold blood. At times there are discussions whether the IDF's moral standards end up being counterproductive - and what other army could one even have that conversation about?

I am also proud that Israel investigates any mistakes that happen on the battlefield and keep trying to improve its methods to maximize damage to the terrorists while minimizing damage to the Palestinian people. This is not done because of "human rights" organizations - it is done because it is the right thing to do. Even when everyone knows that the world will accuse it of "war crimes," the IDF retains an incredibly high moral standards.

I am proud that Israel remains a true democracy, with a free press and vigorous opposition parties, while in a constant war situation. Any other nation, again besides the US, would have imposed martial law to maintain peace.

I am proud of how the IDF responded to the terror attacks of the early days of the intifada, managing to bring deadly suicide attacks from 60 in 2002 down to a single attack in 2007 and one in 2008. The enemy has not stopped trying, and if Israel hadn't acted decisively things would look like Iraq or Afghanistan today. For every "successful" attack (if you can use such a term) there have been many failed attempts, and these are truly miraculous.

I am awed and humbled at how ordinary Israelis responded to the dark days of 2002-2004. Rather than demanding revenge, the victims of terror worked hard to help others - building institutions, creating scholarships, volunteering their time, all to help other victims of the same horror. To Israelis, it is not a zero-sum game, and every new setback is an opportunity to improve the world.

Of course, I am proud of Israel's many accomplishments in building up a desert wasteland into a thriving and vibrant modern country, with its many scientific achievements, world class universities and culture. A tiny nation, under constant siege, with almost no natural resources besides breathtaking beauty, has used its brains - and strength - to build a modern success story. In a short period of time Israel made itself into a strong yet open nation that its neighbors can only dream of becoming. At a time that people are trying to hurt Israel economically, it has thrived.

I am proud that the vast majority of Americans support Israel as I do, and that the rabid terror-lovers we see on the Internet are the aberration.

There is a right and a wrong in this conflict, and I am proud that Israel is in the right.

Immediately after the prayer mentioned above we see the phrase 'מה רבו מעשיך ה , "How great are Your works, O G-d." It is easy to find faults but in the big picture, the accomplishments are remarkable and need to be highlighted.

The word "Zionist" is not an epithet - it is a compliment.