Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Israel at 64: “Chutzpah is the Key”

April 23, 2012 10:14 am 1 comment

The famous Israeli flag above the Choshen building in East Jerusalem signifies Jewish presence. Photo: JewishPress.com.

As Israel prepares to begin its 65th year of modern-day independence, there can be no disputing that this nation remains confronted with a myriad of challenges and threats to its very existence.  But despite the perceived pall of fear and tension which seem to hang eternally over Israel, I can confidently say, as someone who has been blessed to contribute to its modern renaissance, that Israel’s daily reality is one of hope and promise for a brighter future – a reality in which most Israelis live.

Recently, I appeared in a new film which will soon be showing across the world: “Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference.” The film attempts to pin down the elusive key characteristics that make modern Israel a nation unlike all other nations.

I’ll name a few: Chutzpah, Transforming Adversity to Advantage and Powerful Family Links. While many explanations have been offered as to why our nation has accomplished so much in such a short amount of time and in a challenging and hostile environment, I believe that the issue of national character and personal determination shouldn’t be overlooked.

Undoubtedly, there is an underlying Israeli (or many would say Jewish) characteristic that can only be defined as chutzpah.  To the uninitiated, this term is often mistranslated as brashness or even rudeness.  Yet, those who truly appreciate what motivates chutzpah know that this is a character trait driven by an unwavering determination to get things done – and ensuring that “no” can not be the answer.  Chutzpah can also be used positively to challenge the status quo and look for new ways to do things better and reject the skepticism of the naysayers.  This is a big part of what makes Israel so successful and unique.

I can certainly relate to this character trait  – it’s what made me push ahead when I founded Birthright Israel and since then, it’s a vision that I have been blessed to share with hundreds of thousands of young people since the program’s launch.

In the spirit of this film, Israel’s 64th anniversary should be used to dismiss the notion of a modern Israel solely defined by the conflict that surrounds it. In little more than half a century, a country has been created that is a burgeoning haven of scientific innovation, a marketplace of ideas that attracts the world’s leading minds and a center of some of the world’s most contributive medical discoveries.

An arid land of desert and harsh climate has literally been transformed into a leading international exporter of thousands of products to the majority of ports around the globe.  Despite the global economic downturn, the Israeli export industry continues to grow and in 2011 recorded $89 billion in sales, a 4.5 percent increase over the previous year.

As clichéd as many might think it to be, the truth is that all of Israel is one big family – in times both good and bad.  The concept of a national collective that motivated the establishment of the state demonstrates itself today in the ethos of a national responsibility for fellow citizens and has penetrated into all aspects of Israeli society.

I chided the Jewish establishment when I founded Birthright. My theory was that Jewish identity among American secular Jews would surge if that group felt connected to Israel. And I was right.

Here, I will chide again: Israel’s identity at 64 must be linked to our collective pride in Israel’s accomplishments, and the confidence that we have only revealed a portion of the country’s full national potential. It is for this reason that I threw my lot in with the makers of Israel Inside, JerusalemOnlineU.com, a group of innovative American Israelis dedicated to upping the connection of unaffiliated American Jews through paradigm-shifting film education.

Israel gives us many reasons to look forward to another year of our beloved nation’s independence.  But most of all we need to remember that now is the time to embrace a new outlook on the Jewish State and ensure that we begin to view her for what she truly is – a nation of remarkable progress, innovation and the very best of downright chutzpah.

Michael Steinhardt is the Founder of Birthright Israel and a member of the advisory Board of JerusalemOnlineU.com.  He is featured alongside other leading Jewish and Israeli personalities in the film Israel Inside, produced by JerusalemOnlineU.com. To find out about viewings in your area, please visit www.israelinsidethemovie.com

The Algemeiner newspaper delivers breaking news and insightful commentary from Israel, the Middle East and Jewish communities around the world | Host to an international Jewish interest blogger community covering Zionism, Israeli politics, Middle East security, terrorism, Jewish tradition, Jewish art, Jewish culture, Jewish music, Jewish activism, Jewish family and spirituality, interviews, profiles, features, video and much more. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

1 Comment

  • I really love what Michael Steinhardt has to say and the fact that once again he proves that he has his fingers on teh pulse. i recently attended a first county wide israel Tech Fair in New Rochelle NY) hosted by Beth El synagogue Center and go to see Israel Inside….it was fantastic and should be on everyone’s list.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    JNS.org – Sonnenallee, a street in Berlin’s Neukölln district, looks like it comes straight out of an Arab city — so much so that it goes by the nickname “Gaza Strip.” Kebab and bakery shops are advertised in Arabic; men sit in men-only coffee shops; and bridal shop windows showcase glittery, not-so-stylish gowns. But take a random turn, and you’ll find a swath of bars, burger joints, and Indian restaurants where hip Berliners announce that they have arrived to urban coolness. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot engages in fierce action sequences in the new Wonder Woman trailer, which Warner Bros. premiered during the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The nearly 3-minute trailer, the first to debut for the superhero film, shows scenes of Diana, princess of the Amazons, fighting alongside men in the battle against the world’s toughest enemies. The first shot of the video shows Wonder Woman discovering a man, Steve Trevor (played by actor Chris Pine), washed ashore. The clip then takes viewers to the all-female island where Wonder Woman was born. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli actress Moran Atias said that playing a Muslim woman in the hit FX series Tyrant has changed her outlook. “Educating myself about a different culture has made me more hopeful and humble, that we’re all the same,” the Jewish actress, 35, said during an interview with AOL Build. Atias plays Leila Al-Fayeed, the strong and politically minded wife of the president of Abbudin, a fictional Middle Eastern country run by a dictatorial family. The Israeli-born former model, who earned the title of Miss Globe International […]

    Read more →