"...but I will make you a light of nations, so that My salvation shall be until the end of the earth." - Isaiah 49:6
Haters gotta hate.
Sadly, this dismissive shorthand for the cruelty of individuals and nations has weighed on Israel too heavily throughout our history. Our tradition has incorporated it into its teaching. In each generation, a Haman will arise… In each generation, there will be hatred directed toward us, and attempts to destroy us. But our salvation is and will be as it has been from the outset, with the One Who revealed Himself to Abraham and freed us from slavery, the One who gave us His Torah.
But for Israel and the Jewish people, it is not enough to survive. We have been called to be a light unto the nations. Our lives are not defined by survival but by enrichment and meaning, for ourselves and the world. For some, surviving hate – or just the burdens and challenges of life – would be enough, to “keep out” the darkness. But we are dedicated to not simply keeping the darkness out, but to shining God’s light throughout the world.
Our call and our charge is to make ourselves and our world better, to engage in tikkun haolam – fixing and repairing the world.
Love, not hatred, defines our existence. Peace, not strife. Justice, not lawlessness. Light, not darkness is the purpose of our existence. Light defines our lives as certainly as it illuminates our rituals. Think of Shabbat, which we begin and end with not just candle lighting but candle lighting with blessing.
The light that illuminates our world is not just physical light but a spiritual light, one that brightens the soul and spirit, the light of Torah illuminates all aspects of our lives and our world. Through Torah, we are taught to live meaningful, moral and ethical lives.
Life is challenging. The world is filled with darkness and hate. It would be “understandable” if we simply girded ourselves for the task of living. But our Torah teaches us, commands us, to do more. It is not enough to survive. It is not enough to endure. We must cast a light that brightens the world.
Just as Sinai transformed us from a mass of former slaves into a people, the Torah has provided the laws and ethical teachings for the entire world. We have brought to ourselves and the world the teachings of the prophets. In so doing, we have provided the foundation of all of Western civilization.
Without Torah, our world – not just our Jewish world – would not exist. Without the teachings of our prophets, our world would be unrecognizable. We are the people who taught the world to pursue peace and justice, rather than power and violence.
We are the people who gave the world the image of the lion living peaceably with the lamb.
But even those who acknowledge Israel’s foundational contributions to Western civilization are too often quick to hate the Jews. They might dismiss the significance of these powerful ethical and moral teachings by saying, That’s old news.
Like professional athletes and movie stars, the sentiment seems to be, What have you done for me lately? Well, when it comes to Israel, we have done a lot! Our contributions to the world are far out of proportion to our modest size. We continue to be a true light to the nations!
Few areas are as threatening to the health and well-being of the world as climate change. Changing weather patterns, record-setting droughts in some places and punishing rains in others have disrupted food distribution patterns.
Israel, which has transformed a desert into a garden, has been at the forefront of innovations to minimize the damage of climate change even as it works to prevent greater disruption. Drip irrigation is almost synonymous with Israel, allowing deserts to be turned green.
As far back as 1955, Israel had turned its attention to solar heating when Professor Zvi Tabor developed the solar water heater.
A young Israeli student living in Shanghai, China, has developed a product derived from essential oils that preserves fruits and vegetables three times longer than usual.
“These oils have been known about for thousands of years, but they are very volatile and evaporate very rapidly so their effectiveness disappears very quickly. The researchers wanted to transform the preservative properties into a liquid or powder and then release it very slowly and therefore multiply its effectiveness,” Amit Gal-Or, founder of Phresh Organics, told the Tazpit News Agency.
Gal-Or, 20, originally from Ra’anana, utilized Israeli research and other past research in the field to create a powder called Food Protectors that any household can use.
“Strawberries, for example, usually go bad after three days, and yet we can keep them good for consumption for another four or five days. At the other extreme, there are things like eggplant and potatoes that last weeks. We can expand their life by months.”
With more, and more long lasting, droughts, water, the lifeblood of all living things is in constant demand. Israel leads the world in seawater desalination, taking advantage of the resources of the oceans to keep people alive.
Israel was an early innovator in breaking away from petroleum-based technology. Its early innovations provide structure and predictability to the marketplace, combining long-term public sector commitment with regulatory stability to send a clear message that innovation will have a home in Israel. Through investments in basic science and industrial R&D, and the launching of pilot programs and full scale-ups for promising technology, Israel is taking the lead in confronting one of the most pressing security issues of our time.
An Israeli company created TourEngine which reduces fuel consumption and harmful emissions in common engines by utilizing a thermal management strategy. Not only is it useful for current, internal combustion engines but the technology can also be integrated with the hybrid engines in the future.
Leviathan Energy has created a cost-effective, silent and vibration-free wind turbine. Not only does it produce clean energy, but it is beautifully designed and aesthetically pleasing. Solaris Synergy has discovered a way to float solar panels on water.
The Israeli company, Pythagoras Solar, created the world’s first solar window, which combines energy efficiency, power generation and transparency.
The Jewish people have long been leaders in science and medicine, discovering medicines and methods to improve people’s health and lives. Often, the pressing needs of Israel’s precarious relationship with its neighbors has proven to be a catalyst for some important innovations.
Trauma care has been advanced thanks to a new method to stop uncontrolled bleeding. Gallium, a biometal, is normally used to stop bone loss in cancer patients, but in liquid form (gallium nitrate) it induces “flocculation” of the clotting protein in blood, resulting in external clot formation. Gallium can “dramatically increase the chances of survival by victims of terror or accidents,” as it quickly stops bleeding without causing blood clots, said Moshe Rogosnitzky, director of the Center for Drug Repurposing at Israel’s Ariel University and co-founder of the non-profit MedInsight Research Institute.
Researchers in Israel developed a new device that directly helps the heart pump blood, an innovation with the potential to save lives among those with heart failure.
Israel's Givun imaging developed the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill. It is used to view the small intestine from the inside; allowing doctors to more accurately diagnose cancer and digestive disorders.
Each and every year, 7,000 patients die in U.S. hospitals not from illness or injury but from treatment mistakes. An Israeli company developed a computerized system for ensuring proper administration of medications, thus removing human error from medical treatment and potentially saving thousands of lives a year.
An Israeli innovation, the EarlySense continuous monitoring solution, lets nurses watch and record patients’ heart rate, respiration and movement remotely through a contact-free sensor under the mattress – better monitoring, better access, more comfort. All leads to better outcomes!
And, lest one thinks that innovation is only for life and death situations, it is good to remember that life is lived day to day, requiring just as much creativity and innovation to be as enjoyable as possible.
An acne treatment developed in Israel, the ClearLight device, produces a high-intensity, ultraviolet-light-free, narrow-band blue light that causes acne bacteria to self-destruct, without damaging surrounding skin or tissue.
In 1985, two kibbutz members, Yair Dar and Shimon Yahav, registered a patent on “Epilady” - the first electronic hair remover. Decades later, women of the world silently thank them (even without knowing who they are!) each day.
Jewish teaching and insight has formed the foundation of our world. Jewish leaders in politics, science and medicine have always been at the forefront of the discoveries that have moved our world forward. And to this day, Israeli innovation continues the sacred task of tikkun haolam.
Perhaps even as so much of Europe and some in the United States look to jump on the “divestment” bandwagon, it would be wise to consider just what this small nation has given, and continues to give, to the world. Perhaps it would be wise to think of the darkness that this small light has dispelled.
Because of Israel, a nation and a people who have refused to merely survive against nearly insurmountable odds and against challenges and threats that arise in each and every generation of its existence, the world is an infinitely better place.
Thanks to Israel and the message of our Torah and our prophets, the world continues to be a place where peace, and not war, is the ideal and where justice is to be pursued. Thanks to Israel, we are all able to sleep a bit better each and every night.
Particularly new parents who since 1993, thanks to the Israeli company, Hisense, and its baby monitor “Babysense” have slept easy, knowing that they would be alerted if their baby stirred.