by Rabbi Menachem Brod, Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio, November 11, 1999
We need not look to the recent developments in the European political scene to understand that anti-Semitism is alive and well in the world around us. It seems that the rise of modern neo-Fascist parties in some parts of Europe took by surprise some Jews who were convinced that anti-Semitism was a mere fad of the past. Such Jews blindly adopted a view according to which a sophisticated, modern world left little room for hatred of foreigners or a specific doctrine of hostility towards the Jewish people.
The true reality, however, can be readily seen by examining the consistent approach of the United Nations towards Israel over the years. One might have thought that over the years, the world - and its international representatives at the UN - would take a sympathetic attitude towards our tiny, persecuted people, a people that only recently succeeded in reaching its ancient homeland after thousands of years of murder and persecution. One would think so. In practice, however, UN delegates - if they do not themselves represent states openly hostile towards Israel - tirelessly stand behind those condemnations of Israel uttered by her enemies.
UNIQUENESS EARNS RESPECT
It was once popular to explain anti-Semitism as a hostile response to the Jews' unique way of life. The Jewish religion, and its unique clothing and customs, brought about the hostility, according to this theory. History has proven, however, that Jew-haters are rather indiscriminate in identifying the objects of their hatred; they rarely distinguished between religious and non-religious Jews, between those who ear black suits and those Jews who make a point of being "at the cutting edge" of modern fashion.
The once-popular myth is also weakened in light of the way the modern world relates to Arabs. These people generally dress in a manner quite different from that of the west; they also proudly speak their own language, and hundreds of millions of Arabs faithfully preserve their religion and customs. The result? Arab leaders are treated with more than just a modicum of respect and honor by the international community. In contrast, Israeli politicians don modern clothing, exert great efforts at speaking a fluent English, and dress in a manner similar to that of other western leaders - with quite a different result: Israeli politicians and diplomats constantly find themselves the subject of international pressure and castigation. Our officials do occasionally earn universal accolades: when they concede to Arab demands to forfeit precious assets of the Land of Israel.
In contrast, religiously observant Jews throughout the world generally benefit from the respect and adulation of their host cultures. These Jews are treated with reverence; their problems are taken into consideration, and their needs are treated with understanding. In summary, the premise that it is the Jewish way of life that prompts anti-Semitism - stands on shaky ground.
BACK TO THE BOOK
The roots of anti-Semitism go back to this week's Torah potion, Toldot [Genesis 25 - 27]. This story gives an account of the births of twin brothers, Yaakov and Esav, and traces a struggle that first starts when the two are still gestating in their mother Rivka's womb. "And the children struggled within her," reports the Torah, prompting Rashi to comment: "One boy was pulling in one direction, the second in the other direction." A troubled Rivka, who tries to understand what is happening to her, receives the following answer: "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall be separated from your bowels; the one people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger."
The internal tension between the Jew and Gentile can thus be traced to the origins of our people. The ongoing skirmish sometimes presents itself in rather ominous and ugly garb. At other times, it takes on a more delicate, reserved tone. But the essential tension is ever present.
ACCEPTING OUR DESTINY
The Torah promises - and experience attests to this - that when the Jewish people as a whole accepts its destiny, and Jews come to term with their unique responsibility, Yaakov is in fact revered by Esav. In a rather paradoxical fashion, when we are courageous enough to accentuate the differences between ourselves and the world around us, we earn universal respect. When we choose an assimilationist track, however, an opposite reality - that of denigration and disrespect - seems to be our lot.
As believing Jews, we are confident that we will soon experience our "Geulah," our redemption, with our righteous Messiah at the helm. It is only at that point that the Jewish people - and the world as a whole - will truly understand the profound significance of Israel's role in history.