|Updated September 10, 2001|
The tragic assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin has effectively humbled into submission any meaningful voice of dissent to the current peace process. There is no opposition today worthy of its name. This eerie silence, at a time when Israel is deciding its very fate, is unsettling and very disquieting.
The greatest challenge for those who oppose the current peace talks in Israel is to propose viable alternatives. Ironically, the "starry-eyed Jewish messianists," who are opposed to the peace process, are more optimistic about the realistic prospect for peace in the Middle East than is the most left-wing dove.
Maimonides (Laws of Kings chaps. 12, 13) gives us the most articulate and comprehensive presentation of Jewish messianism. He postulates that there is nothing miraculous about the Redemption and that the messianic age will be a totally natural event. It is the status quo that is an aberration, a distortion.
Maimonides then makes a startling statement, "When Moshiach comes there will be neither jealousy, nor hatred, nor ruthless competition." How will the nature of six billion people transform naturally from greed into sainthood?
Maimonides clarifies this by defining the messianic era as a time when the main occupation of the world, for Jew and gentile alike, will be the pursuit of information and knowledge -- the ultimate knowledge being the knowledge of G-d.
While materialism divides, spirituality unites. As long as people define themselves by materialism, the world will remain divided between the haves and the have-nots, which naturally leads to strife, war and conflict. Information, however, is a spiritual commodity. Knowledge is comparable to a flame. Unlike the other elements, which displace each other, fire is so flexible that one can light a thousand flames from one candle, and not only does he not diminish the original flame, he strengthens it. Consequently, when people define themselves by knowledge and information, strife and conflict become anachronisms.
The defining event of our times is the birth of the information age. As we hurtle forward into this new era, companies are spending billions of dollars on the information super highway.
The information revolution has already created positive upheavals in our lives: The collapse of Communism and totalitarianism around the world is a direct result of the information revolution. Totalitarianism can survive only in closed societies. When the person in the street has instant access to the same information as the one on top, dictatorship falls by the wayside. In the information age possession of knowledge is more valuable than possession of land. Consequently, peace is breaking out around the world.
Over the past few years, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, tz"l, has urged all of us to open our eyes and to realize that we are living through the fulfillment of the messianic era as prophesied by all the Jewish prophets.
Clearly, we are living in the messianic era. More people were freed from totalitarianism in the past few years than in the entire span of human history until now. For the first time since Cain and Abel, there is no more superpower rivalry. Nations are turning swords into plowshares. Peace has replaced war as the new currency of power. All these changes represent a seismic shift in man's consciousness.
However, the Middle East -- the only anachronism left in the world -- has so far successfully resisted the wave of democracy that has swept through the rest of the world. The swift, total, and relatively bloodless upheavals in the Soviet Union took even the experts by surprise. Is it utopian to believe that as we rush into the information age, it is only a matter of time before totalitarianism in the Middle East will go the way of Communism and become history?
Jews were always counted among the more optimistic people, never wavering in their belief that change for the better was not only possible, but inevitable. For the first time ever, history has vindicated the Jew.
If Israel surrenders today to the status quo, instead of holding out for genuine peace with democracies founded on righteousness, human dignity and the respect for human life, will our children and grandchildren ever forgive us?
Ben Gurion once quipped: "While it's easy to take the Jew out of exile, it is difficult to take the exile out of the Jew." Instead of exiling themselves, it is high time that the Jewish people remove the exile from within them.
from the weekly newspaper Algemeiner Journal
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