In 1895, French Jews thought they had made it, they thought they were accepted and successful. And then, a high-ranking officer in the French army named Alfred Dreyfus was falsely convicted of treason despite concrete proof of his innocence. To publicly humiliate him, his rank and badges were stripped from his uniform and then he was paraded through the streets of Paris to crowds shouting “Death to the Jew.” It was his ethnicity and nothing else that fueled the accusation, the sham trial, and the hatred hurled at him by the violent crowds.
Another Jew, Theodor Herzl covered this affair as a journalist and was forever marked by the brazen Jew hatred he saw displayed on the streets of a modern metropolis. This horrible moment struck Herzl with inspiration, and the vision for what would become the modern State of Israel was crystallized.
Herzl understood that the Jewish people needed to take charge of their own destiny and return to their ancestral soil. That we could not rely on any other people to grant us assimilation, but rather it was our own responsibility to build a new future. Now, it is our turn to catalyze unspeakable acts of violence and chants of hatred against us into action for the betterment of our own future.
Today, we have what Alfred Dreyfus, and what those who perished in the Holocaust, the Farhud, and the pogroms did not have. After 2,000 years, we have the land of Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Herzl was right more than 120 years ago and today’s events just prove how necessary a Jewish state is. We no longer need to hide. On October 7, they came for us again and murdered 1,200 people. We lost a piece of our soul, but we did not lose heart.
Work has already begun on a plan called “Livnot B’Yachad” - Build Together. An opportunity for organizations and individuals everywhere to join forces in creating a bright new future for the Israeli lives and communities devastated by terror. A plan to work together in unity as one family. New houses, fresh paint, beautiful parks, repaved roads, and strategic community infrastructure will be the more visible cornerstones of this effort. Vision and imagination will be the architects as we rebuild the Israel Envelope (formerly known as the Gaza Envelope) to a new level of glory.
Many are overwhelmed by trauma, pain, fear, and grief, and understandably so. Yet, we will make it a home they can come back and be renewed, and that new families who never considered leaving Tel Aviv, New York, or Paris before will now want to be first on the list to join these revitalized communities. In our Jewish country the size of New Jersey, ceding an inch of this beautiful land to the brutality of terrorism is not an option.
Security will be of the utmost importance, and our partnerships with the government and civil defense forces will ensure that residents in this region will enjoy the same safety as their friends and families do in the rest of the country. This will no longer be known as the region of PTSD and 15 seconds, but as the region of vision and prosperity. It will be known as a place with thriving music, culture, sports, and education.
There will be challenges, and this will not be done overnight, but it will be worth every ounce of effort it takes to reestablish the paradise that the people of the Israel Envelope called home. The sovereignty of our Jewish homeland is at stake, and the security of our Jewish future is in our hands. We will do it by putting aside ego and pretensions and focusing on sustainable, efficient, and intelligent planning and execution. From the smallest park bench to the largest multi-sport complex stadium, each element will take the help of Zionists from Israel and around the world. If you will it, it is no dream. Jewish National Fund-USA dreams and we do!
We believe in tomorrow, and we will build tomorrow together. We will show the world that you cannot extinguish our light or our hope. This is not our plan – it is everyone’s plan. We will rebuild together and make the Israel Envelope a place to envy. We are duty-bound to come together, without perceptions of ego and without pretensions, to do what must be done. Together, and only together, we will help heal the land and people of Israel, the spirit of Israel, and the soul of the Jewish nation worldwide. Join us!
- Russell F. Robinson is CEO of Jewish National Fund-USA.