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August 17, 2016 6:35 am

What Europe Could Learn From Israel

avatar by Judith Bergman

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The morning after the November Paris attacks. Photo: Wikipedia.

The morning after the November Paris attacks. Photo: Wikipedia.

If there is one thing at which Jews have traditionally excelled, it is adapting. Throughout history, Jews have managed to adapt to often overwhelmingly negative circumstances, while constantly maintaining and developing their culture. This ability to adapt occasionally gave way to an irresistible temptation among Jews to blend in with their surroundings and to stop actively practicing Judaism.

Nevertheless, this flexibility of mind and spirit — coupled with a basic willingness to endure and to work hard to improve — is one of the many factors behind the deeply innovative character and resilience of Israeli society.

A flexible society will not break when subjected to pressure, even overwhelming pressure. Whereas a society that is very rigid and set in its ways will often feel defeated at the onset of real trouble. This can result in denial of said trouble and/or in the gradual breakdown of a society.

Israelis possess great flexibility and an ability to react to circumstances on the ground without questioning what the correct procedure might be or what others may think of them. Take one example: Recently, a female passenger collapsed and lost consciousness on an Egged bus in Haifa. The driver was informed that an ambulance could be dispatched, but it would take about 20 minutes. Instead of waiting for the ambulance, the bus driver decided to act on his own. He closed the doors and sped off to the Rambam Medical Center, with all his passengers still on board. The driver reported to the emergency room that he was on his way with a patient and the hospital’s resuscitation team was ready for the collapsed passenger when she arrived.

This is actually not such a rare occurrence in Israel. A friend told me that only a few days earlier he had been on a bus in Jerusalem when the same thing had happened, except the bus driver had first let off all the other passengers before continuing to the hospital with the ill passenger.

While love of one’s fellow man and an admirable sense of responsibility for the ill passenger were the motivating factors here, they were not the only factors. The bus driver was able to think outside the box and to set the right priorities for himself. He did not care about sticking to the bus schedule or whether his other passengers would get annoyed — instead, he quickly adapted to the situation and did the right thing.

The bus driver’s potentially lifesaving reaction is of course a relatively insignificant example in the grand scheme of things, but I mention it because this example represents the greater adaptability and flexibility displayed in Israeli society. The ability to act with little or no hesitation, come what may, and to do “the right thing,” especially under pressure.

Most Western European countries are under tremendous pressure at this time from a number of sources, chief among them the wave of migrants from the Middle East and Africa and the growing terror threat. Europe is not used to this kind of pressure and, for many among the European establishment, the preferred strategy is that of denial. This manifests itself most clearly in attempts to classify terrorists as “mentally ill,” lone wolves or both — anything to avoid the obvious conclusion.

In other parts of Europe, societal breakdown is de facto accepted: For example, there are certain suburbs of Paris, France and Malmo, Sweden that police can scarcely enter. Clearly, these strategies are not working, but Europe is not able to adapt to the new reality, because it refuses to acknowledge the full extent of its consequences for the continent. This leaves Europe like a deer caught in the headlights, unable and unwilling to act.

Europe could learn a lot from Israel, but instead, it is too busy vilifying and boycotting the Jewish state.

Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel. This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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  • stevenl

    Europe, the cradle of antisemitism, has EVERYTHING to learn from Israel! Let us start with ETHICS! That will have to wait for next Big Bang!

  • The unique ability for adaptation in the most unusual situations made the Jewish entity to stay alive against the most difficult and sometimes horrifying situations in the diaspora during the history. Inbuilt in the Jewish character to perform well under pressure, and to utilize unorthodox methods to solve problems. Perhaps all this produced the surprising results of successful existence which created furious envy jealousy and hatred called antisemitism as a byproduct. At the preset situation however regarding the Muslim danger in Europe, would be advisable to follow the Jewish example and attitude in order to overcome the threatening problem aiming the whole Continent.

  • nat cheiman

    Europe can learn nothing from Israel because they choose not to

    • Leslie Benjamini

      And unfortunately it’s too late.

  • Duane Bradley Jr

    When I 1st read this article,I thought it was a spin-off of Al Jazeera, an Islamic News feed. I was surprised to discover that it is Jewish!
    They envision tolerance and acceptance of the Islamic immigration flood while overlooking the menacing growing threat to the civilization they built since WW2.

    Islamic Invasion of the West is being ideologically promoted by this group of US liberal intellectuals that the Western civilization just accepts them, Blanche Ala Carte. This Jewish News Source unbelievably scrutinizes those Western citizens who question any sort of concern about the later consequences of unbridled immigration.
    I think that there is a deeper more honest question that Islamic people need to be asking themselves, instead of accepting the propaganda of the tyrannical dictators who exploit the resources of the Islamic nations exceedingly above any White Satans.
    This article should read, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait need to learn a lesson of how to adapt from the Jewish people.
    Here are Islamic Arabic Speaking people who could easily assimilate into these cultures and religion,if they were invited and accepted into these rich close nations. Instead, these people are immigrating into non-Islamic nations not because they reject them as brothers, but because they are rejected as brothers and used as fodder.
    Why do these immigrants go to an environment of culture shock in which they demand acceptance by blowing up everything and killing lots of innocent sheep?
    If I had the choice of immigrating to New Zealand or Iran, should I go to Iran because it is hostile to Jewish people?
    So since this article is from a Jewish News Source, we should ask them why they don’t accept massive Islamic Immigration into Israel? Why did they build a wall and guard their borders?
    I think that the Jewish people need to tell this Jewish newspaper that they are insane and promoting insanity. This is madness!

    How much terrorism has Europe and the United States experienced as the Jewish people lived among them?
    I’ll answer for the past 200 years of US history. We have seen one terrorist Jewish person that I can recall, Bill Ayers. (He was surrounded by many others including Gentiles)
    In that context, he really stands out with disrepute among his ethnicity.
    In contrast, how much terrorism have we seen from Islamic terrorist in the US and Europe in the past 50 years?
    Dealing with Islam is not like dealing with Judaism.
    This is scientifically proven with evidence like a truck mowing down hundreds of bystanders along a French boardwalk.
    Islamic terrorist are frequently shooting missiles at Israel. Why don’t they assimilate with their neighbors by saying come on in and live among us without question?
    This newspaper is telling us to accept a lower standard then Jewish people are doing.
    I say, let Israel show us how to bring all these immigrants into our nation by giving us an example.
    Of course, this is idiocracy. All you Jewish people should tell this Jewish news source that they are operating while missing screws.
    Frankly, this is the craziest Jewish logic I have ever read.

    • Leslie Benjamini

      Duane Bradley Jr.
      I agree with you 100% that these migrants/refugees should be assimilated into the larger Middle East countries however, it is already too late unless you can change the mindset of the leaders of these countries to ACCEPT them. Then you would have to reverse the migration that has already taken place. Failing that there will be millions more leaving Syria, & other countries ready to follow their brethren to Europe & USA. This must be stopped & this migration has to go to Arab & Muslim nations where they will be with people of like mind.
      It’s a real mess, not easily remedied but it is critical that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey & any & all Muslim countries take these people in or we are facing WWIII, which actually I believe we are already in.

      • Duane Bradley Jr

        Thx Leslie for your excellent dialog with my initial comment.

        The heat is certainly heating up in the global pot.

        WW3! WOW!

        This is a terrifying picture of the world we walk in.

  • Gary vidor

    Such a good opinion piece and so true ! One of the
    Many things I love about Israel Israeli society and Israelis

  • Yaakov

    If Israel acted like a “Jewish state,” a term that should have much more than ideological significance and meaning, it would indeed be a light of nations, and Europe would have much more to learn from it. Jews don’t have a culture; they have a faith and a way of life. An ability to adapt does not lead to a cessation of their Jewish practice.