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Beit Midrash Family and Society Leadership

National Honor

The whole concept of Jewish national pride must be totally reconstructed. True, our Sages teach that a person should "flee from honor," but this is said in reference to personal honor. Israel's national honor must be staunchly protected.
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The honor of Israel, the Jewish people, must be defended. True, our Sages teach that a person should "flee from honor," but this is in reference to personal honor. National honor, though, must be staunchly protected. A Jew must be sensitive in this respect. No lenience should be permitted when the honor of Israel is trampled. Furthermore, it goes without saying that we must ourselves be sensitive and take care not to belittle our national honor.
The whole concept of Jewish National Pride must be totally reconstructed. During many generations of exile, we became accustomed to having our honor defamed. We became used to degradation and humiliation. Our honor was stripped from us and we were outcast like lepers. The Jewish people were disgraced and humiliated for nearly two thousand years. We had no choice, we were forced to swallow it all, to stoop low and give in. Any attempt to fight for our honor was useless, and any attempt to cast off our humiliation could imply even life-threatening danger. Hence, being degraded became second nature, such that even today we continue to be insensitive when it comes to national pride. In fact, we have even made a sort of ideology of it: The honor of Israel is unimportant, even trivial.
Though we have regained national independence, it is taking time to restore our pride as a people - not only in the eyes of the nations, but in our own eyes as well. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, we have been slowly freeing ourselves from the mentality of the exile. It is no longer possible to assault us without suffering the consequences. The nation of Israel is gradually earning a respectable place in the family of nations, and the assembly of states. Nevertheless, there is still a long road ahead of us. Our independence is not yet complete. Biting, denigrating anti-Semitism is still alive in the world and beating in the hearts of the nations. There is strong criticism of Israel. Our actions are being examined as if through a magnifying glass. We have not yet escaped the exile entirely. Even today, anti-semitism makes itself felt, and some people are desperate to escape the isolation and degradation. Many sincerely feel that it is best not to stick out, not to draw attention. There is no reason, they claim, to go emphasizing our uniqueness. According to this school of thought, we would do well to adopt the behavior of other nations, to attempt to resemble them - perhaps in this manner we will succeed in freeing ourselves from isolation and hatred. Sometimes the arrogant attitude of the nations toward us succeeds in convincing Jews that these nations are in fact superior to us, and that we ought to esteem and imitate them - to "be like America." Israel's economic and diplomatic dependency on these other countries also affects national pride and taints spiritual independence. All of these factors contribute in delaying complete Israeli burgeoning.

All the same, we are progressing toward national self-esteem. We are constantly advancing. The time is not far in coming when we will cease imitating the nations and refrain from bowing to them. The time is coming when we will return to ourselves, to our own way of life, to our own holidays and festivals, to the Jewish calendar, and our own Jewish New Year. The day is coming when we will no longer stoop so low as to participate in foreign holidays - holidays which run counter to our healthy independent Jewish character. Then, when we finally return to ourselves, other nations will come to learn from us. "And many people shall go and say, Come, let us go up the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths, for out of Zion shall Torah go forth, and the word of God from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).
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Biblical quotations were taken from the Jerusalem Bible, Koren Publications.
Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh Yeshiva of the Bet El Yeshiva, was the head of the Yesha rabbis board and rabbi of Bet-El, founder and head of Arutz 7.
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