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...

  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →