We are surprised!
Last Wednesday night, delivering the keynote address at the Herzliya Conference, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, gave aÂ surprisinglyÂ brilliant speech. He spoke of security, saying that Israel “must continue and strengthen its military might,” elaborating that the “weak do not survive in this region [the Middle East], and the weak do not make peace.” Yet, he noted that defending against terrorism is costly. Every state need (including security, health care, education, etc.) requires a strong economy. Israel has a strong economy, with a GDP per capita of around $30,000 a year. But to allow the economy to continue growing, Netanyahu stated that economic impediments must be removed. Israel, he expressed, should become a leading technological power. Mostly, he spoke of education. Education, he said, “is the melting pot for national resilience.” He discussed the need for greater Jewish and Zionist education in Israel, and the opening of two new national trails; one to be the historic Jewish trail of Israel and the second to be the historical Zionist trail of Israel.
I will admit, as I stood there listening to his speech, I was in shock. How could he have wasted this opportunity to address the international community? Yet, upon reflection, I came to see that his speech was ingenious. He was not merely addressing Israel, saying that our youth must be more connected to their Jewish and Zionist past. Rather, he addressed the world. To the international community, he subtly said, enough is enough. Enough with attacking the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel. Enough with disparaging the Jewish connection to the land. The land of Israel has been ours from time immemorial; from Jerusalem to Be’er Sheva, Tzfat to Tel Lachish, Tzipori to Massada. Enough with the narrative that the existence of Israel is only the result of the Holocaust. The Zionist enterprise is behind the modern State of Israel; the pioneers and waves of aliyah who built the kibbutzim, raised the modern city in Tel Aviv, established a de facto government in the Yishuv, protected their settlements through organizations such as the Shomer HaTzair and the Hagannah, garnered international aid and support, such as through the World Zionist Congress, and fought a war of independence against five invading armies. Netanyahu said that “the survival of the Jewish people is tied to the State of Israel.” Yet this is no new fact. Judaism has always inherently been tied to the land, and the land is a part of the people and culture. Enough, said Netanyahu. And I say, kudos.