From the Editor – Tu BiShvat 5784

BY RABBI ELIE MISCHEL

Israel Will Overcome. America? I’m Not so Sure

“It is not the gun that does battle, nor the army that truly fights. The true war takes place far from the field of battle – deep in a man’s heart, in the hearts of the nations.” (Rav Moshe Zvi Neriah)

I recently met with a small group of American Christians in their 50s and 60s who came to Israel to express their love of Israel during this painful time. They called it “the ministry of presence”; sometimes, simply showing up and being present makes all the difference. Still, I couldn’t help but notice that the vast majority of Christians who support Israel are older. I asked the group’s pastor about the younger generation of American Christians. “Will they also support Israel?” With a pained expression, he said, “We’re not confident that America will make it, that America will be there in the end. We’re a country that no longer loves the Bible and G-d’s word. There are no guarantees.”

The pastor has good reason to worry. By all accounts, young Americans are turning away from the Church in droves. According to the Pew Research Center, people who say they do not have a religious identity are projected to rise from about 30% today to over 50% in the coming decades. The main reason for this shift is “switching” – Christians deciding to no longer be Christian. In other words, America is suffering from an “off the derech” crisis of epic proportions, with the vast majority of the dropoff taking place among young Christians between the ages of 15 and 29. Millions of young Americans are turning away from God.

This is hardly an internal Christian problem. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “When men choose not to believe in G-d, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.” Young Americans who abandon their parents’ religious path are radicalizing in ways previously unimaginable. A new Harvard–Harris poll found that 51 percent of Americans between the ages of 18-24 believe that Hamas’ slaughter of Israeli civilians “can be justified.” Given the high number of antisemitic incidents at America’s top universities, it is reasonable to assume that radical anti-Israel beliefs are even more prevalent among the future leaders of the nation. “The road to hell,” Thomas Sowell prophetically said, “is paved with ivy league degrees.”

Without the moral grounding that religion provides, young people are struggling to distinguish between a genocidal terrorist group and the Jewish nation. Whether we realize it or not, we are fighting a war for the hearts and minds of America’s younger generation – and we are losing.

Still, the abandonment of God and the radicalization of American youth is not inevitable. The proof stands before our very eyes, here in Israel, where young people are on an entirely different trajectory from their American counterparts. Our young people are more religious than their parents’ generation. During our darkest hour, they have proven themselves to be Israel’s “greatest generation,” selflessly fighting to protect our people and avenge the atrocities of October 7. Filled with Jewish pride and love for one another, they are not only heroes, but also role models for young people across the world. I have no doubt that this incredible generation of Jewish heroes, driven forward by their faith in G-d, will lead us to victory over our enemies. 

The religious revival  of our youth is no accident, but rather a sign of the “great awakening” of our people foretold by our prophets about the end of days. “Days are coming, says Hashem, and I will send famine into the land, not a famine for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the word of the Hashem” (Amos 8:11). Our soldiers are thirsty for G-d’s word, for Torah and mitzvot. “This tangible living thirst, which fills the practical lives [of the Jewish people] with its light… calls out to the nation to wake up, rise up and shake off the dust of humiliation” (Rav Kook, Orot HaTechiyah 1). 

America’s spiritual decline is real, and it does not bode well for the future. But let us not forget that G-d has a plan for the world, a plan far deeper than our human understanding can grasp. It may be that the spiritual bankruptcy of the West is setting the stage for the day when all of the nations will turn to Israel for guidance. “And many peoples shall go, and they shall say, ‘Come, let us go up to Hashem’s mountain, to the house of the G-d of Jacob, and let Him teach us of His ways, and we will go in His paths,’ for out of Zion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Yishayahu 2:3).

Perhaps that day is coming sooner than we think.

 

Rabbi Elie Mischel is the Editor of HaMizrachi magazine. 

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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