Wednesday, May 07, 2003
True freedom

From the Stanford Daily-- the author and his family fled the Soviet Union when he was ten, and he is now a doctoral candidate in biological sciences at Stanford University:

Celebrating freedom on Israel Independence Day

Thus, despite the obvious way in which I can see myself as having been personally freed from slavery, it occurs to me that there are two radically different ways to view and commemorate that freedom. Either, as Jews, we can remember our release from slavery by viewing ourselves as victims of terrible oppression, or we can celebrate our miraculous passage from slavery to freedom as the ultimate affirmation of human dignity, a pinnacle of human achievement.

Yom Ha’atzmaut is a celebration of the Jewish people’s refusal to see themselves as victims. In one of the bloodiest centuries in history, during which a large population was brutally victimized, the Jewish people produced one of history’s great achievements on the heals of their biggest tragedy. Whereas many people have come to worship victimhood, the Jewish people, with most of the world united against them, revived their nation, resurrected a dead language and built a thriving country where much of the terrain was once swamp and desert.

In its first 55 years of existence, Israel has become a major player in the world’s economy. Israel is a center of high-tech industry and scientific innovation. Many regard Israel’s scientific research community as second only to that of the United States. In addition to its national achievements, Israel is at the forefront of economic and technical development in struggling countries around the world. Having accomplished the unprecedented re-forestation of Israel, Israeli engineers have aided in agricultural development in India, several of the former Soviet Republics, as well as in other countries. Israel has also fostered a liberal and tolerant democracy in a region where such a system of self-government is extremely rare.

Despite Israel’s obvious success and its radically positive contribution to the world, many of my friends find it challenging to truly celebrate its Independence Day because of the massive and united front against the nation and what it stands for. I suggest that one of the reasons that the propaganda against Israel and the Jewish people is so ubiquitous and overwhelming is that Israel poses an existential challenge to ideologies that identify themselves primarily with victimhood. How else does one explain that while the Jews claim only the smallest of lands as their own, they are accused of wanting too much — merely a piece of real estate the size of New Jersey? How else could a country which has been attacked by every nation around it — and despite this aggression has often sought peace with its neighbors — be blamed for all violence perpetrated against it?

The author quotes Elie Wiesel:

"No one has a monopoly on suffering. The question is what you do with it.”

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