“No man is an island, entire of it self; every man is a peace of the continent, a part of the main. …And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” In one phrase, poet John Donne managed to capture the inclusiveness of reality and the role we are incumbent to play within it.
The bells are tolling very loudly nowadays—all over Europe, in America, and the world over. Just over a week ago, two stories were published a day apart. “Europe’s Jews decry ‘beast’ of anti-Semitism overtaking continent” screamed the burgundy headline in Amanda Borschel-Dan’s June 24 story in The Times of Israel. A day later, Yossi Aloni stated in Israel Today that “Anti-Semitism Infects Mostly Democracies.”
It’s not as if there hasn’t been anti-Semitism before there were democracies. It’s also not as if pre-developed Europe did not harbor anti-Semitic sentiments. But the ideology of destroying the Jews altogether came from the most developed country in Europe at the time, and is emerging again from the most developed countries in this continent, and from the heart of free thought and liberalism: the campuses of US universities.
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We should also keep in mind that so far, the anti-Israel campaign has been a great means of masking anti-Semitism, but this mask will not stay on for long. When the next clash erupts in Gaza, the mob won’t see the difference between a Jewish mother in Brussels and an Israeli soldier in a tank.
We are being repeatedly blamed for causing every war and trouble, not just in Israel, but throughout the world, from the financial collapse of Greece, through the outbreak of Ebola, to the emergence of ISIS, or every other misfortune that befalls people.
When people ascribe us that much destructive power, we should pay attention. Because deep down, every Jew harbors a desire to correct the world, not to see it ruined. And if we are blamed for just the opposite, we should at least see what has “earned” us that reputation, what is the great wrong in the world for which we are categorically blamed.
To do that, we need to understand that indeed, “no man is an island.” Humanity is by all accounts an integrated and interdependent system where each element influences every other element. We, Jews, have a unique role in it. Reluctantly, we are regarded by more and more people—especially in the developed world, and particularly in democracies, where people are socially aware—as having some sort of hold on the world’s well-being. Put differently, anti-Semites are stating that we control the system, and that we’re doing a bad job at it. However, this implies that we can also determine the direction of the system: for better or worse.
We may not feel that we’re controlling the world, certainly not the vast majority of us, but that changes very little in the eyes of those who see us as responsible. And so with that in mind, perhaps we should take a look at the world and see if we can do some good.
When it comes to charity, no one donates more than Jews. When it comes to helping in disaster zones, no one helps more than the Israelis. When it comes to self-scrutiny and self-restraint with regard to entities that have vowed repeatedly to destroy us, no one is more humane and considerate than us. But the world doesn’t care; the majority of it still sees us as the cause of all that’s wrong.
The world is a mess, no doubt, but making things right again is easier than we think. The prime culprit of the global muddle we are in is our ruthless pursuit of domination and power. We do this on all levels—in our own families, our communities, our countries, and internationally. This control frenzy is destroying our society and will ultimately destroy our chances for survival. And even though we clearly see that it’s as stupid as a fight over excess blood and oxygen among our inner organs, we cannot bring ourselves to stop.
The nations are accusing us of precisely this senseless battle. They will continue to do so until we learn how to unite among ourselves and set an example of unity to the rest of the world. We are certainly not the worst example of discord that the world could find, as some nations take to cutting off their antagonists’ heads as a means to “make their point.” And yet, no other nation is even remotely scrutinized and criticized as we, which means that whatever negativity we project among us spreads a thousand fold more powerfully than that of other nations. And in the end, as we have seen, the nations blame us even for the way they fight among themselves.
The solution, therefore, is pretty simple: we need to unite. We needn’t put aside our differences. On the contrary, we need to display them openly, and then display how we unite above them. If we set this example, the world will have an outlet from the ruthless power-struggle.
Unity has been our nation’s DNA since the days of Abraham, who taught mercy, and the days of Moses, who united us “as one man with one heart.” But our “unity gene” is dormant. The only way we can awaken it is by trying to do so, much as children learn to walk before they can do it, but the knowledge that exists within them expresses itself when they begin to try.
In conclusion, we needn’t fight anti-Semitism directly, but use it as a reminder of our need to unite and set an example of unity. If we act on this intention, we will set an example of unity and unfounded love for all the nations.