When I was a child, the Israeli soccer team competed in the qualification round for the World Cup as part of the Australia zone, because no other continent would have us. And so our players had to travel to half way across the world to embarrass us, instead of suffering defeat close to home.
I later thought that these trips might have been a fulfillment of biblical Balaam's prophecy: "It is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations." The nation of Israel is not considered as part of the family of nations – when all nations are listed and arranged according to geographical affiliation – some in Europe, others in Asia and others in Africa – the Israeli nation is left outside.
Why do they hate us? I once tried to decipher this hatred in my mind. Over time I gave up. In the context of current affairs, I fail to understand why the global media is out to get us. Palestinian civilians were killed in Gaza after receiving a warning by phone, for the first time in the history of warfare.
I am not trying to play dumb or deny: Yes, we had no choice but to hurt uninvolved civilians as well. But was their blood redder than the blood of the civilians killed by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or those killed by the Russians in Chechnya? Arab governments have also eliminated hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in their campaigns against the opposition in their countries.
Why are we the only ones to be condemned and persecuted by every international forum? Why are our just claims not heard?
Paranoids can have real enemies
Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik gave a historical speech in 1956, in which he declared his unequivocal support for the State of Israel, but also offered to it goals and warnings. The rabbi said that there were those in Israel who believed that the hatred of Israel has vanished when the State of Israel was established. But Soloveitchik asserted that this hatred did not disappear, but only changed its form: Instead of being directed at Jews as individuals it is now being directed towards the Jewish state.
The hatred towards us is part of the mysterious Jewish fate. A rationalist analysis which attempts to ignore this fact will fail to explain the history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
On the other hand, we must not exaggerate the fear from anti-Semites. In 1985, a third of the donors to the Jewish federation in San Francisco said that they did not believe that a Jew could be elected to Congress as the city's representative. On the same year, all three congressmen from the San Francisco District were Jewish, as were two California State senators and the city's mayor.
This goes to show that we sometimes overestimate the power of the hatred of Israel. Not every penalty ruled against a Maccabi Tel Aviv player indicates that the referee is anti-Semitic. Sometimes our players truly do commit fouls.
But hypochondriac get sick too, and paranoids can have real enemies. Our slight paranoia is completely justified in light of the enormity of the hatred we are facing. After you have been stabbed by bullies carrying knives so many times, it's only natural that you make the pizza delivery boy go through a metal detector.
The most important thing is not to deny or repress. Our hand is extended to the world and we are a part of it. We do not wish to isolate or alienate ourselves. But we need to acknowledge the fact that there are many in this world who hate us. This is a strange, profound and incomprehensible hatred. We did not cause it. We cannot explain it. And we must not ignore it.