Jews and France—Where Do We Go from Here?

by Michael Laitman

This past weekend horror in France must be a wakeup call for all of us, Jews and non-Jews alike. But to be honest, I am not optimistic that this will be the case. I have been warning for years that our sages, our wise spiritual leaders of the past, have written over and over that Jews must unite and serve as a role model of unity to the world. In their writings, they state time and again that this is the only thing required of us.

Back in 2011, I published Like a Bundle of Reeds: Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, a book that details why our sages assert that it is our role to introduce brotherly love and unity to the world, and that until we do the hatred toward us will keep growing. Alas, so far, too few have listened.

We cannot expect the shock and justified abhorrence of the French public toward extreme Islam to last for long. In fact, today, just a few days after the shock, a French girl is already willing to proclaim (though still incognito) her allegiance to ISIS through the world media. At the end of the interview, CNN’s Arwa Damon expresses her alarm at the fact that French young men and women aspire to join ISIS and see it as a role model. But as the girl in the interview says, France has nothing of meaning to offer her, whereas with ISIS, she has a purpose!

Today, France, the cradle of democracy, is taking a good hard look at itself in the mirror, and asking itself serious questions about its society, about freedom of speech, freedom of practice (of religion), and freedom of immigration. But these questions will remain unanswered, and more and more French will lean toward the far right and toward Islam, because in the extremes there are no questions or doubts; there is purpose!

And the target of those two extremes will be the Jews. Gradually, but not necessarily slowly, the backbone-lacking moderates will wane until they are swallowed by one of the extreme. The reason is simple: the moderates have nothing to offer but high-tech gadgets, booze, and drugs. For today’s millennials, this is not enough. They don’t want to know how to have more fun the 90s way, but rather why they were born in the first place. And since there is no answer in the middle, they turn to the extremes.

As Jews, we have been privileged with the gift of an answer to this question. Our purpose in life is to be a light for the nations. Albeit its unappealing name and the bad PR it has been given over the past few centuries, it is what the nations expect from us. Consider what we have contributed to humanity in science, culture, and social sciences. What, on the other hand, gratitude have we gotten from them? None. It is time to face the grim reality: no one thanks us but ourselves.

The one and only gift the nations want from us is the secret to unity above differences. Not unity that oppresses or suppresses individuals, but one that embraces differences and diversity, and nurtures these assets to the benefit of society. Only we can do that, since only we have done it before, in our ancient past. And therefore, only we can rekindle that gift and share it.

But to rekindle it, we need to have a purpose greater than ourselves. We need unity not for our own sake, but for the sake of the world. The world needs unity above diversity because by that we all embrace our interconnections and develop mutual, global responsibility, compassion, and friendship. This is the one thing neither extreme will ever have, and the one thing they will demand of us.

They will not come out and say, “Unite or we will kill you!” They will simply try to kill us. But if we unite, in order to offer it to them, then we will be valuable in everybody’s eyes. This is the value that all the Nobel Prizes won’t award us.

In my journeys throughout the world, I have met with numerous anti-Semites in different settings. Not one has responded negatively to the message of Jewish unity in order to be a role model. But Jews have always resisted it. When I speak to Jews of being a role model of unity, they almost always snub my words. Indeed, a stiff-necked people.

Now I think it’s time we started reconsidering our options. On the current trajectory, even the near future doesn’t look bright for Jews. And unity, what can anyone say against it? Let’s give it a chance; if anything, it won’t do any harm.

Photo by Gaya Telem

This article orginally appeared online in the Jewish Journal

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