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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.