10212018

Pride and Confidence

“Who is rich? The man who is content with his lot.” This is where Israel excels! Compared to the Jews living in the Diaspora, Jews in Israel have a massive psychological advantage that can’t be measured in money or wealth, and that is pride and confidence. In Zion, they are not an exotic minority but free to state their views, to shout, to protest… The Promised Land liberates the soul…

The hoopoe is Israel's national bird © Zeynel Cebeci / Wikimedia / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.de

The hoopoe is Israel’s national bird
© Zeynel Cebeci / Wikimedia / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.de

 

An old Israeli joke goes, “How does a clever Jew talk to a dumb one? By telephoning from New York to Tel Aviv.” In its latest incarnation, the punchline is “From Berlin to Beer Sheva.” Today, some 30,000 Israelis live in Berlin. For Israelis, it would seem, the German capital has lost none of its fascination.
The punchline implies that it is the dumb Jews who live in Israel – the idealists, pioneers, and risk-takers. But the smart ones, the successful achievers, live and work in the Diaspora. And indeed, cleverness is often measured in terms of net dollar worth, and not just in Forbes. If monetary wealth is the measure of success, then American Jews are indeed very well situated. The New Economy billionaires Sergey Brin, Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg rank among the richest of the rich. Sheldon Adelson is also noteworthy in this respect. While many a fortune has been made in gambling, Adelson is so wealthy that he has taken up ownership of Israel Hayom as his own personal hobby. As a free daily newspaper, Israel Hayom has decimated the Israeli press landscape. As a result, the US casino mogul has become a major power broker in Israeli politics. Until now, Adelson has lent his clout to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Now that Bibi has proven to be somewhat volatile, there is speculation that the American billionaire might throw his weight behind someone else – religious-nationalist Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, for example.
American Jews run the show, at least financially. But they are also prominent figures in the fields of science and culture, with Philip Roth, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen being but a few of the notable examples. Some 20% of American Nobel Prize winners in the natural sciences are Jewish – even though Jews make up only 2% of the US population. This is a source of pride for the Jews of the Diaspora, particularly in the United States. But in Israel, Jews make up three-quarters of the population and all of the Nobel Prize winners. Clearly, Jews in Israel can also scale the heights of achievement and receive worldwide –
or nearly worldwide – recognition for their successes.
All witticisms aside, does this mean that it is Jews who live in
Israel who have actually made the clever choice? Yes, if the World Happiness Report is to be believed. The report, which ranks countries by their happiness levels, freedom and integrity of society, has Israel in 11th place, Germany in 15th, and the United States in position 18. Based on this ranking, at least, the old witticism should be turned on its head. “How does a clever Jew talk to a dumb one? Via conference call from Tel Aviv to Berlin and New York.”
Let us consider the more serious question. Where can you feel most at ease and at home as a Jew? Everyone has their own criteria. But our sages give a clear-sighted answer: “Who is rich? The man who is content with his lot.” This is where Israel excels. In Israel, Jews have a massive psychological advantage that can’t be measured in money or wealth, and that is confidence and pride. In Israel, Jews are not an exotic minority. They are free to state their views, to shout, to protest, to announce what they support and what they oppose. That may not always be objectively wise. But so what? Objectivity, shmobjectivity! In the US or Germany, Jewish writers and journalists who violate the tenets of political correctness fall victim to self-censorship. “What would the goyim say to this?” This is a question that has beset every Diaspora Jew – if not subjectively, then it is imposed upon them by publishers and by society as a whole. Israel liberates the soul. ■

Photo Credit:

What Next?

Related Articles