Monday 16 November 2015

The New Type of Jew is Here

The resilience and the toughness of the Israeli people never ceases to astonish me.  Even though I know that it exists and I have seen it many times before, I still feel a sense of surprise when it comes to the fore as has been the case over the past few months.

Zeev Jabotinsky wrote about the "new type of Jew" that he dreamed of seeing.  He was tired of witnessing the abuse that Jews in Europe were subjected to in the period prior to the Shoah, particularly in Europe.  He hoped to see a situation where Jews would walk with their heads held high, proud to be Jews and willing and able to stand up for their rights as Jews.  He wanted Jews to be more in the mould of Joseph Trumpeldor, after whom he also called his youth movement, Betar.  Jabotinsky hoped that those coming through the ranks of the movement, would emulate Trumpeldor's example of being proud, tough and willing to stand up for their rights.

When looking around Israel today, I frequently wonder what Trumpeldor and Jabotinsky would think of the type of Jew that this country has produced.  I wonder if they could have envisaged in their wildest dreams, the Jews that one sees in Israel today.  It is true to say that Israel is a mixing pot of Jews (and others) from all countries around the world.  Each person comes with their own unique character and style, which mixes into the pot to create many different types of people.  There are, however, some common characteristics that we see in the people living in Israel,  which have come out very strongly and positively during this period of violence that we are currently experiencing.  If adversity is what brings out the true character of the Jew, this true character has much to celebrate.

Despite the fact that the terror attacks have been carried out in a random and unexpected manner, the people of Israel are unafraid.  Not only are people unafraid, they are willing to stand up for their rights and for their safety.  The level of pride and resilience that we see coming out at this difficult time, is truly heart-warming.  It comes out from all types of people across the country, and often in the most unexpected ways.  The determination shown by our security services acts as a true example to the people of our country, and Jews around the world.  When the call went out for reservist border policemen to report for service to augment those who are doing their compulsory military service, there were more respondents to this call than ever before in the past.  The reserve community dropped what they were doing, and left their families and their home lives in order to come to the assistance of the Jewish state and her citizens.  All of this despite the obvious dangers that they are forced to confront every day while on duty.  The same can be said for all our IDF soldiers and private security guards.  They do their duty with full understanding of how important it is for the safety of our country.  They know that, while in uniform, they are the main target of the terrorists' knives, firebombs and of the vehicles that are being used to mow down pedestrians. This does not deter them, or stop from them from carrying out their important work.

This fighting spirit filters through to the civilians on the streets of Israel.  Everybody understands that Israel is under a concerted attack that could rear itself at any place and time.  And yet, people continue to go about their daily business, with the determination not to allow this to disrupt their lives in any way.  It is true that people are more cautious, perhaps even afraid of what can happen.  But this does not dilute their determination.  Instead of staying home in fear, they prefer to arm themselves with whatever they can in order to be ready for any eventuality.  Many women have purchased pepper spray and other personal protective devices in case they are attacked.  Some people are arming themselves with firearms, or simply walking around with a baseball bat to be ready for any situation. The picture shown here of a lady on a bus carrying a rolling pin in her bag has caused many people to
laugh, but it demonstrates the resilience shown by the new type of Jew.  Even this older lady will not be deterred from going about her business.  She has decided to take whatever she can find at home, that will help to protect her if she needs it.  This is her way of holding her head up high, being proud and not allowing anything or anybody to stand in her way.  We are proud of her, and of the wonderful example that she sets to those around her.  More importantly, she sends the clearest possible message to our enemies.  Our people will not be frightened off protecting and building our country.  Not even our senior citizens.

The expulsion of the Jews from their homeland in 70 CE was followed by almost 2,000 years during which Jews were forced to keep their heads down, and pander to their hosts around the world.  This engendered a general impression that Jews were timid, afraid and unable to stand up and fight for themselves.  Since the independence of the State of Israel in 1948, we have seen the creation of a new type of Jew.  The transformation has been led by our brave IDF soldiers, who have shown themselves willing to do all that it takes to defend their homeland and their people.  Regular civilians have followed their lead, and we see an amazing level pride and patriotism coming out of all citizens in Israel.

Some of the fighting spirit and determination to survive is sometimes interpreted as undesirable, particularly by those who do not know and understand the Israeli character.  They have a tough exterior that is, at times,  considered to be rude and inconsiderate.  There is a level of intolerance and impatience that is regarded by some to be synonymous with Israelis.  In reality, this is simply the external manifestation of the resilience and the fortitude that come with being as determined and proud as most Israelis are.  For those who are prepared to peel back the tough outer shell that so many Israelis have, they will be lucky to discover kind, considerate and caring people who are willing to look after their fellow-man as part of their survival instinct.  This the where the "sabra" or prickly pear label comes from, that describes Israelis.  Hard and resilient on the outside, but soft and sweet on the inside.

Perhaps more than being resilient and tough, Israelis are immensely patriotic and proud of their country.  Even while feeling dissatisfied with political leaders, and perhaps not agreeing with their policies and behaviour, Israelis are incredibly proud of Israel.  Finally, Jews have a place that they can truly call home, and nothing can break the bond that they have with their homeland, and the pride that they feel for Israel.  Nothing will stop Israelis from fighting for this.  Am Yisrael Chai!

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