Some time ago I visited a country of which it is said that its Jewish inhabitants are God’s Chosen People. I am not convinced of this. The Arabs living in the countries surrounding it were gifted by God with oil and gas, while Israel has mostly sandy deserts. Nonetheless this Jewish island has managed to survive and live despite the hostile surroundings of the Arabian Sea. In an almost miraculous military victory in the Six Day War, Israel defeated an enemy three times as strong, and in the Yom Kippur War it fought to victory despite suffering heavy losses.
Following this it built prosperity for both its Jewish and also Arab inhabitants. Some maintain that this has been underpinned by American military technology and Jewish money from around the world. Be that as it may, the argument does not sufficiently explain the sustaining of its six million Jewish population in the grip of eighty million Arabs, the building of a modern country attaining world levels in economy, culture and education – it does not explain the provision of the GDP more than twice as high as Slovakia’s, and the ranking of the Jewish state among the most advanced societies in the world. This has been accomplished in a constant state of alert, with a gun on its shoulder, so to speak. I wondered how the Jews had gained the favour of a God who is clearly in their corner. I found the answer in Jerusalem.
I once saw Buddhist pilgrims in Lhasa, Tibet crawling on their knees to such an extent that the stone floor before their holiest shrine, Jokhang, was brightly polished. I saw Moslems in the Hagia Sofia Mosque in Istanbul barefoot and on their knees, invoking and praying to their Allah, and I saw Christians on pilgrimmages to Levoca, St. Peter’s in Rome and at the Sacred Tomb temple in Jerusalem humbly praying on their knees to God the Father and to his son, Jesus. As I moved among the Buddhist worshippers in Jokhang, the Christians at the Sacred Tomb or Moslems at Hagia Sofia, it was made clear that I was bothering and disturbing them. So it was with fear, and the expectation that I would be expelled as I had been elsewhere, that I approached the holiest site for World Judaism, the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
I placed the yarmulke on my head and proceeded cautiously to the Wall. Friendly gestures and glances, however, invited me closer. Here, I was bothering and disturbing no-one. I spent a short time at the Wall, but my curiosity drove me on to the synagogue which was a kind of continuation of the Wall itself. There again I was not an interruption, so I continued right to its most distant bowels. All around me, the Jews who had come to communicate with God were praying, debating, singing, dancing and smiling. Some quietly, some loudly, they questioned Him, reproached Him and, most of all, thanked Him. Not the Jewish God, but that God who is the Father of us all, for the Jewish faith does not have its own exclusive God.
I found a chair and looked on. They don’t plead with God, they speak with Him. They wave, clap, show the Torah, address Him, discuss with Him. In my mind, I visited again the Christian, Buddhist and Moslem holy places. Everyone in them was calling on their own God, and everyone was on their knees. The Jews retain their dignity when communicating with God; they either stand or sit. I never saw one single Jew on his knees. Then I realized why it is that God has His fingers crossed for them more than for the others. In His great and perfect love, he loves equally Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Moslems, Hindus and even atheists. He loves people – good people – and in particular the self-confident. He treasures those who do not leave their fate in His hands, but attempt to hold it firmly in their own. These are the people he loves to help.
At the Wailing Wall I understood why, despite the adversity of fate, the state of Israel prospers and why the Jews are the Chosen Nation. They don’t steal, they bargain; they don’t plead, they discuss. Only a self-confident, and therefore a free, man can debate with God, a man who thinks for himself and does not leave the thinking to others. God gave mankind a mind so he could think, not so he could stop thinking. The one who does not think is in a sense sneering at God, saying to Him: ‘I don’t need Your reason, let the others do the thinking for me and tell me what and how I am to think – it’s more comfortable’. The Jews don’t have intermediaries like priests, Lamas or Mufti to explain God’s word to them. They attempt to understand it for themselves. They depend primarily on themselves, and only then on God.
Although Jerusalem’s holy place is paradoxically called the ‘Wailing Wall’, nobody there was wailing; they were standing proudly before God. It was in the nearby Christian Sacred Tomb temple that everyone was wailing. On their knees.