It is fairly obvious to any unbiased observer of our current world scene that things are pretty messy right now. The economic markets are reeling from the unexpected decision of the British electorate to leave the European Union. The sectarian wars in the Moslem world in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia continue without mercy, without abatement and with no exit strategy in sight.
The United States is experiencing a period of racial tension, a throwback to a similar situation a half-century ago. The difference being that back then the naïve amongst us thought that legislation, governmental programs and other social initiatives would solve the problem of racial friction and discrimination. But currently, no one really believes that the underlying issue of race and the legacy of slavery that shaped it are really on the way to solution and amelioration.
Iran blatantly continues its aggressive military buildup, certainly ignoring the spirit, if not even the letter, of the nuclear disarmament agreement that it signed. And, the world powers that agreed to that treaty are powerless to truly enforce it. All in all, the world scene is fraught with difficulties and dangers. And there is certainly no strong leadership present in the United States or the Western world that seems able to deal with this messy situation.
In the midst of all of this there is an election campaign beginning in the United States to elect a new president with neither of the candidates currently inspiring much confidence or hope for the future. It seems that we have literally painted ourselves into the proverbial corner.
Here in Israel we are living under the shadow of a possible earth shaking political scandal that will certainly end the life of the present fragile coalition government. I hope that there is nothing to the rumors currently circulating in the Israeli media regarding this potential scandal. But, we have witnessed before how the mighty and powerful have been brought down by their misdeeds, greed and bad judgment.
It would be naïve in the extreme to think that this scenario cannot repeat itself once more. In the best of circumstances, the mere possibility of this potential disgrace is disturbing and undoubtedly will have political and social effects.
Here in Israel, as in the United States (as pointed out above,) the ugly specter of ethnic discrimination and strife has reared its head once again. In Israel we also thought that the bad, old days of the 1950s and 1960s were behind us and that we were past the worst parts of the Ashkenazic-Sefardic ethnic divide. However, some of the enlightened ones amongst the Israeli Left have reignited the fires of attack and discrimination against the Sefardic population by disparaging, insulting and demeaning their society, culture and beliefs. This naturally has led to a heated back-and-forth debate that really accomplishes nothing and only infects old wounds once again. All of this makes for a truly hot summer.
The difficulties outlined above will eventually work themselves out for good or for better. Life constantly brings problems and issues to the fore. The main thing is to be able to isolate the truly existential problems from the passing distractions that will always abound. The distractions are usually more fascinating than having to deal with the pertinent, basic issues involved in national and personal life.
Survival of the Jewish people, as a uniquely Jewish people, is the major issue that confronts us in this generation. All of the distractions may impinge upon the central issue and perhaps even influence its direction and solution, but the distractions should never become the key issue itself.
So, governmental leaders here in Israel will come and go, ethnic frictions will continue to exist even though we hope they will be lessened and ameliorated, the world economy will eventually stabilize itself and today’s distractions will enter tomorrow’s books of history. But the issue of Jewish survival, here in our ancient homeland and in the Diaspora, is capable of being dealt with only by our continuing efforts and consistent fortitude.
We should invest more of our resources and talents in dealing with the central issue and let some of the distractions die on the vine from benign neglect. Our efforts should be concentrated in building Jewish loyalty and traditional knowledge in the next generation of Jewish youth. The great maxim of Hillel applies here – if I am not for myself than who will be for me? And so it is.