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My Talk at the JNF National Conference

I want to speak to you today about a love affair, a love affair that may very well be the longest, most continuous love affair in history.  Like most love stories, it entails a pledge to be loyal to each other forever, through good times and bad.


Only it is the story, not of two people, but of a people, a people and a land.  It is the story of a people who were promised a parcel of land for eternity, and who believed in that promise and who remained faithful to it.   While they lived there they nurtured it and it in turn nourished them, yielding not only fruits, but lofty visions uttered by prophets which were shared and bequeathed to the world and which would inspire civilization for millennia.


Although eventually exiled and expelled from that land after a period of time, and dispersed across many lands, throughout the ages and across the generations they maintained their faith that they would return, that one day they would come back and be able to plant vineyards and fulfill the vision of those prophets that, “one day, everyone would lie down under his vine and fig tree, and none would make them afraid.”


The dream is as old as the people itself.  The dream of course, is the Zionist dream, and it is why we are here.  As supporters of the mission of the Jewish National Fund, we all work to make the dream a reality.


We read in Kee Tavo, this week’s Torah reading:  Ve’haya kee tavo el haaretz asher Adonai elohecha notein lecha nahala:  It shall be when you enter the Land that the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.  Our commentators tell us that whenever the word vehaya is used in the Bible, as it is in this passage, it always introduces a joyous event.  And even though, the Talmud tells us the Land of Israel is one of the three gifts we acquire through toil and suffering, vehaya is used here, so that we will never forget that it is a source of great joy.


Amir Gilboa’s song from an earlier era, sung by Israeli singer Shlomo Artzi captured the innocence and hopefulness of the Zionist dream and the return to the land, with his song, Pitom Kam Adam.


Pit’om kam adam baboker
umargish shehu am umatchil lalechet,
ulechol hanifgash bedarko kore hu ‘Shalom.’


Suddenly a man wakes up in the morning
He feels he is a nation and begins to walk
And to all he meets along the way he calls out ‘Shalom!’

. . . to the glory of a thousand years flowing forth from

the hiding places,

a thousand young years in front of him

like a cold book, like a shepherd’s song, like a

branch . . . he sees that the spring has returned and the

tree is turning green . . .


I am always haunted by the song’s hopeful lyrics and its simple, beautiful innocent refrain.  “To all he meets along the way, he calls out shalom.”


Would that it were so.   But as we all know, this naïve hope was not the fate our people encountered.  Unfortunately Israel’s enemies still have not resigned themselves to accept its existence.  After the withdrawal from Gaza for example, greenhouses, schools and community centers were left behind and were either destroyed or used for militaristic purposes, inverting the prophet Isaiah’s vision of peace.  Plowshares were turned into swords and pruning hooks into spears.


But those of us here today support the work of those who continue to aspire to hope and to make the dream a reality.


Speaking of reality, I am not a fan of Reality TV shows, which may be one reason why I have never been a fan of Kim Kardashian – until yesterday.  My impression of her was the caricature of being superficial and lacking substance.  But yesterday I became a Kim Kardashian fan, because she taught all of us an important lesson.


She took out a full page ad in the New York Times lamenting the Armenian genocide and the ongoing denial by Turkey of the atrocity.  In case you didn’t know, Kim Kardashian is an Armenian American, a proud Armenian, who seeks justice for her people and who is not afraid to speak out on behalf of her people.  I must confess I don’t know much about Armenians, but I doubt that there are many self-hating Armenians.  Reading what she wrote, I could not help but hope that we will be touched by what has so often been our hallmark, a spirit of loyalty and unity.


Many years ago poet laureate Natan Alterman wrote a Hebrew poem called, “Then Did Satan Say”.   It goes like this, “Then did Satan say:  How will I conquer this beleaguered one, how will I best him?  He possesses courage, ingenuity and tools of war.”


“I’ll neither rob his strength, nor bridle him, nor rein him in, nor plant fear in his heart.  But (Satan said), This I’ll do.  I’ll blight his mind, til he forgets his cause is just.”


My friends, let us never forget that Israel’s cause is just.  We are here today because we proudly stand with her, in the holy task of continuing to build the land.

Also published on Medium.


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Stuart Weinblatt

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt is the President of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America. From 2009 - 2014 he served as Director of Israel Policy and Advocacy for the Rabbinical Assembly.
Rabbi Weinblatt is the rabbi of Congregation B'nai Tzedek in Potomac, Maryland, a vibrant Conservative synagogue of 650 families he founded in 1988, along with his wife and a handful of families.