How can we allow ourselves to worry about others when we face so many threats of our own? +There is no contradiction between owning our essence and promoting our external and internal national interests. To the contrary: ending our indifference to moral challenges in the Arab and Muslim world is an important strategic element in addressing our external threats and in strengthening our internal unity and resolve.
“When the wicked spread, it is the righteous man in their midst who first suffers for their sins” (ZOHAR: Noach 68a)
Isn’t the Vayigash approach condescending? +Actually, the opposite is true. Few things are more condescending than “exempting” individuals or groups from basic moral demands because they are Arabs and/or Muslims.
“For the person does not live by bread alone, but rather by whatever comes from the mouth of the L-rd does the person live” (Deut. 8:3)
Why should we change? Aren’t we already one of the most moral societies in the world? +It is often pointed out that the IDF does more than any other army to avoid civilian casualties during armed conflict. We also provide important rescue services and medical aid to victims of natural disasters in many countries. In addition, we offer agricultural aid to nations throughout the world.
These are indeed positive phenomena. But moral leadership needs to go beyond saving lives and advancing economic betterment. It needs to include an active interest in the moral welfare of fellow human beings. This idea is expressed well in the title of Arnold Foster’s book “Indifference to Evil Is Evil” and in the Talmudic maxim (Sukkah page 56b):
“Woe unto evil, and woe unto its neighbor… Good for the righteous, and good for his neighbor.”
Who are we to want to influence others when we have our own moral challenges? +Making moral perfection a prerequisite for advocating better moral behavior is a dangerous position. Had it been followed, what society could have opposed Nazi atrocities, human rights abuses in the Soviet Union or the destruction of the rain forest in Brazil? True, we are not yet morally perfect. But indifference to extremely problematic behavior of our fellow humans can only make us less perfect.
“Where there are no men, strive to be a man” (Pirkei Avot 2:5)
Isn’t it naïve to think we can influence the political and religious culture of the Arab and Muslim world? +The people of Israel have often dared to think big and have often succeeded. We experienced the Exodus from Egypt, and we returned from Babylon to rebuild the Temple. We rejected idol-worship, and served as a catalyst for the emergence of other monotheistic religions. In modern times we have succeeded at two seemingly impossible tasks: the creation of the State of Israel, and the struggle for freedom of Soviet Jewry. But when it comes to solving the Middle East conflict, we’ve forgotten how to think big. A new dose of “holy chutzpah” is exactly what we need.
“Chutzpah, even towards heaven, is efficacious” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 105a)
Isn’t it difficult to care about our enemies? +It’s not easy. But as the Yiddish saying goes, “it’s difficult to be a Jew.” “Do the will of G-d as if it were your own, so that G-d will do your will…” (Avot 2:4)
Consciousness change is very nice, but what about concrete actions? +Our religious tradition stresses the idea that prayers, tears and feelings can have considerable cosmic influence in their own right. (See Examples)
A change in the mindset of the Israeli public would unleash tremendous energy and direct some of our creative genius toward finding many potential concrete ways of addressing the moral challenges of our region.
"A reform happens when you change the policy of the government; a revolution happens when you change the mind-set of a country." (Ron Dermer)