This week began and ended on a similar note, although from totally different angles.
On Sunday night, Sabine and I joined a number of our members at the annual banquet for Stand With Us. In a fantastic presentation of their work, the Stand With Us team informed the more than one thousand guests at the dinner how they combat the frightening array of deliberate attempts to delegitimize Israel in the media, and on campuses throughout the United States.
Their student training programs and public on-campus pro-Israel campaigns are the frontline offensive against the enemies of Israel, and antisemites, who flourish in a vacuum of information and an atmosphere of apathy.
Then, on Wednesday, many of our synagogue members attended the annual JNF breakfast at the Beverly Hilton, where we heard from Ron Prosor, Israel’s fearless ambassador at the UN, who shared with us the dangers posed to Israel at the highest levels of international diplomacy.
Enemies of Israel, dressed as diplomats and statesman, endlessly plot the demise of the world’s one Jewish state. We ignore this threat at our peril. His depiction of life in the world’s most hostile environment for Israel and Israelis was as fascinating as it was frightening.
I am glad that we are exposed to these painful truths. Exposed to footage of students on American college campuses screaming with joy when a divestment motion is passed. Exposed to the reality of speech after speech at the UN General Assembly singling out Israel as the root of all the world’s ills. Perhaps this exposure will wake us up and make us realize that unless we do something about it, things will get worse, not better.
Which is why, in the Torah portion of Vayechi, when Jacob instructed his son Joseph that he wished to be buried in the Land of Israel, he was sending a message that resonates to this day.
No one had a better life than Jacob and Joseph’s family had while they lived in Egypt. They were in the lap of luxury, protected by the might of the most powerful superpower of the era.
Nonetheless, Jacob compelled Joseph to promise him a burial in Hebron. He did so to remind Joseph that power, riches and influence are fickle, and can only too easily disappear.
Jacob was telling Joseph never to forget his roots, and he was telling us the same thing. We are Hebrews from Canaan. And ultimately our focus must remain on who we are, however wonderful our contemporary situation may be.
We must fight to protect our homeland, and keep our connection to that homeland at the forefront of our minds, never losing sight of who we are, where we come from, and what we represent.
Photo: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the opening of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York Sep 20, 2016. Copyright: Mykhaylo Palinchak