As detailed in the accompanying editorial, the recent decision by UNESCO — only the latest in a long string of vicious actions taken by a body blinded by baseless hate — is downright indefensible. Nothing that the Israeli government does or doesn’t do can possibly give any credence or legitimacy to their nefarious actions.
Yet concurrently, at a time when the Israeli government rightfully pours its wrath against those countries who deny the eternal bond between the Jewish nation and Eretz Yisrael, it is only appropriate for this very government to apply its own message internally as well.
As noted, the connection between our people and the Holy Land is based on the Torah, specifically, the very first Rashi in the Torah. Yet, tragically, the majority of Israeli Jews being educated in the secular state-run school system know virtually nothing about the Torah and what it stands for.
According to the most recent pew Research Center study, only 22 percent of the Jewish population of Israel — and only 4 percent of those who identify themselves a chilonim — see being Jewish as a matter of religion rather than ancestry or culture. Only 30 percent of the general Jewish population, and a minute 2 percent of chilonim, see religion as something “very important” to them. To put this in perspective, two-thirds of Israeli Arabs and 57 percent of Christians living in Israel say their religion is “very important” to them.
The overwhelming majority of the respondents who gave these heart-piercing replies are tinokos shenishbu, innocent souls whose rich heritage has been stolen from them due to no fault of their own. They cannot possibly be blamed for not knowing something they were never taught and never exposed to. While the government rightfully demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish State,” it does virtually nothing to help its own citizens discover what being Jewish is really all about.
The forceful condemnations aimed at a U.N. body that chooses to deny the fact that Yerushalayim was the capital of Eretz Yisrael for many centuries, and that it was where the Beis Hamikdash once stood, ring hollow when the entity issuing these very denouncements fails to teach its youth about what Yerushalayim really stands for and what Har Hamoriah is really all about.
The Jewish people face existential threats from numerous formidable enemies. Yet the most devastating force of destruction we are afflicted with is not Islamic terror — though this danger must never be underestimated — but the tsunami of ignorance and assimilation that has already destroyed so many precious souls.
Throughout their sojourns in the Diaspora, our ancestors endured horrific persecutions: the murderous mobs of the Crusaders, the inhuman cruelty of the Inquisition, blood libels, pogroms, and, in more recent times, the Holocaust. As they gave their lives sanctifying the name of Hashem, the fondest wish of so many of the kedoshim was that their children should remain Torah Jews.
It is the ultimate tragedy that in times of relative tranquility and prosperity, so many Jews are so close — and yet so far — from reclaiming the glory of their heritage. Never has Torah study been more accessible to beginners, yet only a fraction of the populace takes advantage of the opportunities available.
As we count down the days of the Omer, Shavuos — the anniversary of the day when we stood at the foot of Har Sinai and received the Torah — is rapidly approaching. All of us — every Jewish soul — were there. We all heard Hashem speak to us directly, and all were included when Hashem anointed us as a Mamleches Kohanim. To this very day, whenever a Yid davens, he is speaking directly to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and when he learns Torah he merits that Hashem — the Melamed Torah L’amo Yisrael — is teaching it to him.
There is no greater gift one can give a fellow Yid than to teach him about a Torah-true life, and no greater crime than willfully depriving him of being able to learn about the beauty of Yiddishkeit.
The travesty occurring on a daily basis in the state-run schools throughout Eretz Yisrael has been transpiring for the past seven decades. Yet as our Gedolim — most notably Hagaon Harav Avraham Pam, zt”l, who founded Shuvu for this very reason — have repeatedly reminded us, we must never become indifferent to the terrible spiritual tragedy that is befalling our brethren.
We all are obligated to use every opportunity to cry out on behalf of all these precious souls and do all we can on their behalf.