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Jewish Journal

Reflections at the New Year

We need to know that we are not alone.

by Yuval Rotem

September 5, 2002 | 8:00 pm

On behalf of the State of Israel, it is my honor to commend this community for all the magnificent work you have done with and on behalf of the Israeli people during this most painful year. Your outpouring of love and support constitutes a source of invaluable encouragement to us. Through your words and deeds, you have directly touched the lives of those Israelis most in need: the ones who have suffered from terrorism, who have lost loved ones and who need us now more than ever.

Now, as we approach Rosh Hashana, we cling to a vision of a better life and a more promising future, for it is no exaggeration to say that the year just passed has been perhaps the most tormenting we have faced since the establishment of our state in 1948. As of this writing, 611 innocent people have been murdered during the ongoing campaign of Palestinian terrorism. At the same time, of course, the past year will be remembered for the fact that the onslaught of hatred and destruction landed on America's shores. Within hours of the attacks on Sept. 11, the United States revealed its full power and glory, its determination and strength. The reaction of the American people became a lesson to anyone who doubted the resolve of a free people to combat terrorism until it is defeated.

During this year, we also witnessed in horror the slaying of five Americans at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, as well as the Israeli Americans murdered at LAX on the Fourth of July. It is hard to ignore the explosion in the number, prominence and perceived legitimacy of anti-Jewish acts perpetrated in locations within Europe and the Arab world in recent times. These frightening events must call each of us to attention, and remind us just how connected we truly are.

While Israel has long had an overwhelmingly positive and strengthening effect upon Jewish communities in the Diaspora, we must acknowledge that, at times, the consequences of our conflict in the Middle East can adversely affect Jews elsewhere. This linkage places a heavy responsibility upon Israel, and highlights the extent to which Diaspora Jewry has a moral right to intervene in Israeli concerns. I would argue that not only is there a moral right, but a moral obligation for the Diaspora to intercede in Israeli life. If your communities can be drawn into our disputes, and if we expect you to take a public stand on Israel's behalf in the United States, how could we legitimately tell you not to play an active role among us?

A fundamental aspect of such a role must be the commitment to spend time with us in Israel. As we make resolutions for the upcoming year, I would humbly urge you to come to Israel on regular visits, and urge your communities to do the same. Especially now, there should not be a single Jew who has not experienced firsthand the wonders of the Western Wall, the power of Masada, the mysticism of Tzfat or the beauty of Eilat. We are all uplifted when you spend time at our world-class universities, our institutes of art, science and research. We need to see you with us. We need to know that we are not alone.

The obstacles we now face can easily overwhelm us with a sense of pessimism; yet Rosh Hashana should mark a moment when we reflect with pride upon Israel's accomplishments and breathtaking successes, which we must never take for granted. Sixty years ago, Jews desperately seeking to escape from Europe had nowhere to go. Now, with our own state, our people have been able to come home en masse.

In the early days of statehood, we were struggling to tame the deserts of the Negev and the swamps of the Galilee. Who could have foreseen that in the year 2002, Israel would have moved to conquering outer space with satellites and astronauts, establishing ourselves as pioneers of cyberspace and as global leaders of the most cutting-edge technologies known to mankind?

In all of its complexity and uncertainty, Israel is, in its totality, our home. It is the only home where Jews can defend themselves, by themselves. We truly have a wonderful land, an amazing country and, in the upcoming year, may we merit the courage to protect our security and our freedom; may we find the creativity to persist in the greatest struggle of all: the struggle for peace. I conclude with our people's ancient prayer of peace: "Give peace, goodness and blessing, life, grace, loving-kindness and mercy to us and to all Your people in Israel."

May each of us and all Israel be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

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