While Israel’s ultimate raison d’etre has always been to help improve the moral behavior of our fellow humans, historical circumstances have contributed to this mandate remaining largely dormant.
Our own struggle with idolatry in the First Temple period made our leaders reluctant to encourage wide-scale interest in the moral potential of our idolatrous neighbors. Some positive developments which began in the Second Temple period were ultimately arrested when the Roman Exile brought with it the double threat of physical annihilation and total assimilation. Modern Zionist leaders also felt the need to build mental “iron walls” in order to concentrate on the establishment and defense of the State of Israel.
However, since the Oslo process began there have been an ever growing number of indications that neither peace nor security in the Middle East will be obtained as long as human life is undervalued by large segments of the Arab and Muslim world. At the same time, more and more Israelis are looking for universal expressions of their Jewish identity. The time has arrived to apply Hillel’s maxim on a national level: “If I am not for me, who will be for me? And if I am only for me, what am I? And if not now, when?”