Israel’s Purpose

What Happened?

On Friday, January 25, a dam collapsed in southeast Brazil, causing a devastating flood of mud and mining waste. At least 115 people were killed and another 248 are reported missing.

As the country mourns this tragedy, rescuers have been searching for bodies and possible survivors. On Sunday, January 27th,  Israel sent a rescue team to assist in the efforts – the only country to do so. The team was comprised of 130 soldiers, divers, doctors, engineers, firefighters, and search-and-rescue experts. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro thanked Israel warmly for its services.

Why Does This Matter?

Israel’s very purpose – As stated above, there are three primary ways of viewing the State of Israel’s purpose that inspired early Zionist thought.

  1. Safe haven – After more than a thousand years of exile, oppression, homelessness, wandering, pogroms, persecution and even the Holocaust, Israel was established to be a safe haven for Jews. Israel absorbed Jews from Europe before and after the Holocaust, from Yemen in Operation Magic Carpet, from Ethiopia in Operations Moses and Solomon, and from the former USSR after its collapse, to name a few.
  2. Nation among nationsTheodor Herzl believed that once Jews had a place of their own, and functioned as a country like any other, the “Jewish Problem” would disappear and anti-Semitism would be a thing of the past. While this hasn’t quite proved to be true, this idea was a major motivator in the founding of the State.
  3. Exceptional nation – This approach, which can be seen here, in the response to the disaster in Brazil, goes a step further: Israel is not only here to be a nation like any other; it is capable of the extraordinary. Built on Jewish values, Israel seeks to contribute to and improve the world. It leads the way in technology, health, security and other fields. Indeed, Israel has measured up in the world arena in many areas, impressive for such a young nation. In the area of disaster relief, it has joined other countries in several relief missions, such as after the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Michael in 2018. The UN ranked the IDF’s emergency unit number one in the world in 2016. In Brazil, it was the only country to send a search-and-rescue team. It has even provided humanitarian aid to citizens of its less-than-friendly neighbor, Syria. As Israeli political leader Shimon Peres has said in the past:

“Whatever exists we believe can be changed for the better… However small a nation we may be, we are the flag-bearers of revolution. The State of Israel is part of that revolution, part of an ancient ethos that demands that we be a ‘treasured people’ and a ‘light unto the nations.’”