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      Op-Ed: Lead Us In the Promised Land

      Published: Thursday, November 20, 2008 11:18 PM
      I have become the wondering Jew.


      As a Zionist and a modern observant Jew, I had compunctions about putting these painful points to pen. But if God Himself openly criticized the Jews in the most popular and widely read book in history, the Bible, we should take note. If we see a wrong among us, we are duty bound to point it out and correct it. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was permitted to speak at Columbia, my alma mater, I publicly and strongly spoke out against it and ripped up my master’s diploma from that institution. When my own people do wrong, I’m equally obliged.

      Golda Meir once said that as long as the Arabs hate us more than they love their own children, there will not be
      Their convictions evaporate like footprints in the sand when a challenging tide rolls in.
      peace. We can flip that thought onto Israeli leadership: as long as our leaders love themselves more than they love their country, their people and the future of Jews, then their leadership will be hateful, and their actions and decisions will remain highly questionable.

      Egomania has not allowed the full term of a single government in almost a decade. To what end? The thirst for power is palpable, but grossly unpalatable. Israel’s current crop of leaders galvanize the people around passionate issues, stir up hearts, souls and minds, but then their convictions evaporate like footprints in the sand when a challenging tide rolls in. The only good thing is that if anyone wanted to target an Israeli leader, by the time they load up there’s a new leader in his stead.

      Without naming names, it is unconscionable that so many Israeli leaders - not just the prime ministers - in recent years have been involved in scandals, or have been the subjects of inquiries and investigations, from ambassadors to Israel's former president to members of the Knesset. How shameful for representatives of a people who are supposed to be “a light unto the nations.” Instead, we have become a veritable “sight” among the nations. Indeed, headlines across the globe are fraught with stories of world leaders who behave inappropriately and vacillate on core issues, but it is not in those countries that people are dying every day protecting holy places and holy land. If our wise leaders would just pull their self-indulgent egos out of the equation, then they could weave great legacies instead of holding the reins by default in a faulty parliamentary system.

      Just the other day, as I was looking through a beautiful book about Israel’s history - called To Be Free People written by Michael Bar Zohar, David Ben-Gurion’s and Shimon Peres’s biographer - my eyes filled with tears recognizing the passion and selflessness with which the country was built. I saw pictures of the pioneers young and old, tilling the land with their prayers and hopes. And when the land itself seemed to ironically persecute them (as did many of their native countries) - arid and unyielding or mired in malaria infested swamp and marshes - they did not give up building and bettering their country, their safe haven, their Promised Land. But I wonder if it is still the land of promise. We have been led to the Promised Land, but who therein is leading us now?

      I’m sure it’s very exciting to be a prime minister, with all the clout, prestige and power the position yields, not to mention the mandatory ego boosting photo-ops with presiding American presidents that it provides. But striving for and delighting in those self-serving benefits does not a leader make. Along with the kavod, the honor, comes the kaved, the burden and the weight of doing the right thing, regardless of the political price.

      It must certainly be true that “ambition knows no father” - for our leaders have forsaken the way of our forefathers and, as such, are doing a great disservice to our sons and to our daughters.
      Passion built a desert country one seedling at a time into one of the most technologically advanced countries on the globe.

      This truth has turned me into the wondering Jew. I wonder what Ben-Gurion would say. I wonder, in 60 years from now, when the next generation will open up a history book about Israel, will they be proud too? I wonder if they will have role models to emulate?

      Today, I envy and fear the passion that the Palestinians have toward their cause. We had it once. That passion built a desert country one seedling at a time into one of the most technologically advanced countries on the globe. Today, Israel has more companies listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange than any other country outside North America. But that is not enough. As the Israeli economy goes north, we cannot allow everything else we stand for to go south. As Jews, as mensches, as the chosen people, we cannot equivocate like share prices fluctuating in the stock market. Our leaders must reignite the hearts and passions of our people in a deep and meaningful way by reeling in their egos, embracing honorable positions and standing by them. Our greatest leader, Moses, has shown us that humility leads to immortality; ego can be found in ruins everywhere.

      I beg of you, Israeli leadership, custodians of the Jewish people, please stand for something and stop falling for everything. You owe it to your fathers; you owe it to your sons.