When Pandora’s box was opened, allowing to escape all the ills and evils of the world, the only thing that remained behind was hope.
This is an important image since, while hope itself has very little power against forces of darkness (or, more specifically, the ruthlessness I’ve been talking about the last couple of weeks) hope has the power to rally all of the virtues (compassion, reason, loyalty, courage, etc.) to win out against this common and unending enemy of civilization.
Keep this image in mind as we consider the possibility that the war against the Jews might not be solved next week, or next year, or next century, or ever, a thought that can easily lead to despair. Although it doesn’t have to – especially if we can get our hands around what we should be hoping for.
Hoping for a “final end to conflict,” for example, implies that the forces of ruthlessness ranged against civilization in general and the Jews in particular can be finally and ultimately vanquished, a “victory” that could only be achieved through a transformation of the species. But, as we learned last century (in one of those dialectical switcheroos that litter history) attempts to re-create the species to eliminate ruthlessness inevitably lead to supreme rule by the ruthless.
In contrast, hoping to win just this battle, to hold the enemy at bay while we inch civilization forward (or, more specifically, counteract a two inch retreat with a two-and-a-half inch advance), is not just possible but the only way we have ever achieved success (or at least progress) in the aforementioned endless war.
Of all peoples, Jews should have learned this lesson by now. For every time we have tried to hasten history to a final conclusion (i.e, tried to create heaven on earth through religious or secular Messianism), things have not turned out so well for us. But when we instead muddled through (particularly with regard to changing what can be changed and accepting what can’t), we have succeeded.
Not just succeeded here and there, but succeeded to such a degree that our example should be providing endless hope to those also battling mankind’s oldest enemy. For we have remained a people for thousands of years, even as the ruthless kings and emperors and dictators that tormented and enslaved us came and went (along with the kingdoms, empires and nations they ruled). We have built a new nation out of sand, and by basing this nation on principles of trust and compromise (via choosing the route of democracy, coupled with a willingness to accept half a loaf), our tiny, impossible state has not just survived, but thrived.
In contrast, our enemies who could have built their own thriving societies (especially given the unearned wealth they’ve been blessed with) have instead chosen to side with ruthlessness and everything that comes with that package (rule through force, intolerance of descent, unwillingness to compromise ever), decisions that leave them (ironically) in an endless state of conflict, weakness and decay.
This should give us some encouragement since it demonstrates that ruthlessness is NOT all-powerful, but carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. For what better describes the degeneration of Arab society over the last century than one group of ruthless actors replacing by another (and violently smashing all societal underpinnings of once-great societies along the way)? And while ruthlessness itself may never leave us, when it hits a wall of resolve, it’s always a contest to see what will crumble first: civilization’s readiness to defend itself vs. the glue of hatred and fear that holds the ruthless society together.
The continuing incremental advance of civilization is not guaranteed, nor is it in any way cost free. To cite the most obvious example, the elimination of last century’s ruthless political ideologies (Fascism and Marxism) came at a cost of 100,000,000 lives each. But in the end, they were defeated – despite being a hundred times more powerful than the ruthless actors we face today.
This points out that hideous things can happen in the battle of civilization against the ruthless (such as the aforementioned 200,000,000 casualties of World Wars II and III). And the Jews, who have been on the frontlines of all of the major conflicts between these two forces (either as a people or as a nation) understand the cost of incremental victory (such as survival).
So turning back to hope, we can’t let fear of even a major setback (like an Iranian atom bomb or an Israeli defeat on the battlefield) prevent us from maintaining the hope that Israel (like civilization itself) can ultimately hold out against its enemies (at least this time around). It may come at a cost that can seem too high to bear. But Jews have paid far higher costs for survival within living memory. And civilization as a whole has been paying the cost to win such a battle since the beginning of time.
Which means we should not just learn to live with an ongoing conflict, but embrace it – even enjoy putting our armor on and going into battle when we know our cause is just. For as one of ruthlessness’s champions aptly distilled their strategy last century: “Probe with bayonets. When you encounter mush, advance. When you encounter steel, retreat.”
Thus, it is not just our responsibility, but our sacred duty to ensure that steel is the only thing humanity’s oldest foe ever encounters.