Monday, July 1, 2002

There really is more to life than football

There really is more to life than football
July 1, 2002


Last night, while sitting down for a bite to eat I turned on the radio. What was the talk of the day? Yesterday afternoon were the World Cup Finals – as we call it in Hebrew, the Mondial. According to radio stats, over one quarter of the world’s population viewed the games over the past week.

The interviewer was speaking to an Israeli in Brazil – the Brazilians beat the Germans for the Cup, and the Israeli was describing the celebrations in the streets, dancing, singing, and the like. He made a comment which caught my ear, “Nothing is more important in Brazil than football.”

That really hit me. The most important facet of life is, no more, no less, football. All life revolves around football.

It’s not only in Brazil. An interviewee from Germany describing the feelings of the defeated, mentioned that the Germans, not expecting to lose, were planning a four year celebration, climaxing with the next World Cup championship, which is to take place in Germany in 2006.

I thought to myself, I wonder what its like to have a life where everything is so unimportant that the nucleus of one’s life is a national sport. The truth is, it is rather disappointing. Not that sport is bad – there is nothing wrong with good exercise and some competition, but to think that nothing is more important than football – well, it seems a little shallow.

Let me suggest an alternative.

This weekend we are celebrating Shabbat Eretz Yisrael.  One hundred and fifty  couples from Judea, Samaria and Gazza will be visiting cities all over Israel, from Beer Sheva in the south to Akko in the north. Men and women will be speaking to various groups, in shuls, at community centers, at youth groups and other functions, focusing the discussions on one item: Eretz Yisrael.  The purpose: to strengthen our ties, our personal and public link, our religious and nationalistic relationship to our land.

Why is this so important? It is clear that our People are still in the late stages of a metamorphosis, a transformation from being scattered amongst the nations of the world, in Galut, Diaspora, to a people living in its own land, amongst ourselves, interrelating with the nations of the world, but not as an persecuted minority, rather as one amongst equals.  In order to interrelate with others it is essential that we know ourselves, including, of course, the significance of where we live. If we question our identity and we query key elements of our existence, it is difficult to attempt to deal with others who not only know who they are, but also have very clear and defined attitudes about us. For example, many Jews are still unclear as to our genuine right to live in Eretz Yisrael, and actually doubt the legitimacy of all of Eretz Yisrael as our homeland. At the same time there are many, throughout the world that do profess to really know about Eretz Yisrael, claiming that it certainly does not belong to Am Yisrael, to the Jewish people. How can we convince them that they are wrong if we don’t know ourselves?

So this Shabbat, as we conclude the fourth of the five Books of Moses, Sefer Bemidbar, or Numbers as it is called in English, one hundred and fifty couples will spend the day speaking about and discussing why Eretz Yisrael is important to the Jewish People.

At the present, perhaps no subject is more vital or important.  Our enemy has designs on all our land. Most of the world favors a so-called ‘two-state’ solution. Many amongst our own people are ready to give up all of Judea, Samaria and Gazza, some because they do not comprehend its intrinsic importance as part of Eretz Yisrael, and others, simply due to despair.

Israeli Defense Minister ben Eliezer, with the backing of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has begun uprooting so-called illegal outposts and communities throughout Judea and Samaria. During this time war, when our enemy is trying to take our land away from us, rather than strengthen our grip on our land, the Israeli leadership, showing unbelievable weakness, is doing the very opposite. Rather than call on Israelis to massively settle the Land, all the Land, they are trying to uproot us from our Land.

A special poster was written, to be publicized throughout Israel. It is titled:

One people in One land.
Announcing a grand Shabbat of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael.

Let this be a time of blessing, faith and aspiration.

Coming at a time when we all sense the growth, the thirst and the opening of hearts, on one side, and the difficulties, the pain and the challenges on the other side.

In cities and in towns, in the center of our country, and by the border, we sense that the time has come to reinforce our bond to our people and to our land. This is a time of strength and renewal, deepening our dedication, a commitment that we must all take upon ourselves.

We turn to all, from the depths of our hearts, to participate, both in quantity and in quality, during this special Shabbat, in the north and south, in the center and by the sea, throughout the land.

When all brothers and sisters will partake together, a day of study and of uplifting spirit. Each will say to the other, Have courage, enhancing the potency of  Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, a sign unto ourselves and a sign unto others.

I add to this poster, and call upon you, wherever you are in the world, to participate in strengthening the Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael, in all of Eretz Yisrael. Be it at home at work, at the shul, or at a picnic, talk about Eretz Yisrael, about Jerusalem, about Hebron, about Shechem. Talk about the hills and the valleys, the desert and the sea, the wondrous land that G-d gave us, the promise made to our forefather Abraham so many centuries  ago.
Don’t just speak about it – come here this summer to visit – for a few days, for a week, for a month. Tour the land, showing all, Eretz Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael and we are here to prove it!

And remember, there really is more to life than football.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

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