The idea of being God's Chosen People has been as much of a burden as a blessing. Thanks to the prominence of the Hebrew Bible, the doctrine has not been something for us to cherish quietly. It has fueled the animosity and ridicule of adversaries as well as inspiring those who would admire and support our achievements.
"I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you" (Genesis 12:2-3)
"you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth." (Deuteronomy 14:2)
In God's own language
בך בחר יהוה להיות לו לעם סגלה מכל העמים אשר על פני האדמה.
Michael Chabon joins the criticism of Israel's action against the Turkish flotilla. His headline is, "Chosen, but Not Special." http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/opinion/06chabon.html?emc=eta1
Chabon ridicules Jewish claims of abnormal intelligence and craftiness (seichel). In contrast to his claims, the article reads as self-directed Jewish humor, with Chabon as a schlemiel.
Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union is worth the effort for those who will not take it any more seriously than some of the stories our ancestors put into the Bible. In this article, which he does not present as spoof, Chabon calls the Gaza operation "botched," and Israel's efforts to explain itself "blockheaded." He ridicules claims of unusual achievement. He overlooks the growing indications of this operation's success, as well as the evidence of abnormal achievement amassed by individual Jews. All those Nobels are worth something. Israel's survival and accomplishments are even more noteworthy alongside the calumny and heavier stuff directed at it.
We need no more evidence of Israel's Choseness than what Chabon writes in his article, as well as the other efforts of commentators, politicians, and mobs to make an issue of the Freedom Flotilla.
Does anyone know--or care--how many Iraqis, Afghans, or Pakistanis died from violence on the same day that the IDF killed nine Turks who were intent on mayhem?
What other country has attracted the chronic concern of the United Nations and international NGOs, including the personal attention of the UN General Secretary, the President of the United States, and who knows how many other heads of states, journalists, clerics, and commentators. Chaos, death, and cruelty of much greater magnitude occur in other places without anything more than an occasional clucking of someone's tongue.
If I am exaggerating the animosity directed at Israel, it may reveal the paranoia that is a side effect of being Chosen. We can never achieve enough to meet our own expectations, those of our parents, or God.
Some may argue that our forebears erred in creating the God described in our Bible. Perhaps they should not have written so well as to provide the basis of Christianity and Islam as well as Judaism. "We've been Chosen long enough," goes the comic's routine. "Please choose someone else."
Others take the stories of Exodus and Mt Sinai as fact, and assign responsibility to the Almighty for keeping us at the center of attention.
Whether the result of chutzpah or reality, here we are, doing better than most, but said by many to be the worst of the lot.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem