The Leadership Is Spent, Not the Nation

David Ignatius is an influential publicist as well as a former editor-in-chief of the International Herald Tribune and is now a Washington Post columnist. From talks he had in Tel Aviv with friends, members of academia and journalists, he concluded that Israel is despondent and spent.

The Herzliya Conference, which focused on the national resilience, comes to an end today. But the statements voiced there by the politicians - on Tuesday, Ehud Olmert reiterated the unilateral escape initiative; and today, the prime minister will put forward a position that, in principle, does not appear to differ much from that of his deputy - do not actually testify to resilience.

In contrast, the results of studies presented at the conference by economists, security experts and even social affairs specialists, prove that there is a high degree of optimism among the public with regard to the future. In other words, the national resilience is a lot higher than depicted by the leadership, the media or a fair number of Israelis who belong to the despondent elites. From the point of view of many among the latter, Israel is a hard-pressed and exhausted country without morals and without a future. It is no wonder that many of their offspring are leaving the country.

David Ignatius is an influential publicist as well as a former editor-in-chief of the International Herald Tribune whose articles have appeared in Haaretz. He is now a Washington Post columnist. From talks he had in Tel Aviv with friends, members of academia and journalists, he concluded that Israel is despondent and spent. The daughter of a well-connected Israeli friend who has lived in this country all her life, for example, "doesn't see any future here... The violence has affected everything in our lives... and the values based on which we live. We are very, very tired."

This man, who is well-versed in how to gather material for a representative article, chose to speak to people who reflect only one side of the coin - the tired side - which dedicates whatever energy it has left to slandering the evil land. All the people he mentioned and on whom he based his mistaken conclusions are from that side of the coin.

Because of his professional standing, and the influential status of his newspaper in particular, he should know that such a list, which offers an essentially flawed description of a country downtrodden and exhausted by terror whose sons do not want to live in it, hardens the hearts of the Arabs and encourages - even if the writer didn't intend to do so - a continuation of the terror, meaning the death and injury of more Jews, and Arabs.

Had he wanted, Ignatius could have interviewed optimistic Israelis. Alternatively, he could have spoken to researchers, who would have shown him studies - such as the one conducted by a team from the National Security Council headed by Dr. Reuven Gal that was presented at the Herzliya Conference but didn't, for some reason, get much play in the media - with essentially different findings: "About two-thirds report that they are in good spirits and better. The vast majority, 82 percent, are optimistic about the future. Some 74 percent are proud of their country."

And since the aforementioned survey also included Arabs, one can assume that the percentage of Jews who are proud of their country is a lot higher.

And when, in addition to the sentiments expressed in The Washington Post, Arafat and his ilk report that the children of the elite - together with those of other leaders who lead the despair and self-flagellation - have left Israel, can there be any better encouragement for those who plan the terror attacks not to let up until Israeli society folds completely?

The following Jewish folk tale will perhaps teach the the decision-makers, like Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, as well as the media, that the measure of the spirit must be taken from the public at large and not, as it has been, from a social, media and "professional" environment that conveys - in the case of the latter, under the guise of "strategic thinking" - the same kind of feebleness and despair that the selective interviewees conveyed to Ignatius.

In a small town in Lithuania, a young genius served as a yeshiva head and the town's rabbi. One day, he received an offer to serve as the head of a yeshiva in Vilna, where the most important yeshivas at the time were located. The town's residents were very disappointed, but he allayed their concerns: We will send two delegations to check whether it would be worth my while to take up the offer, he told them.

If the rabbi decided on two delegations, the town's residents thought, he must have a hidden and important reason for doing so.

A few days later, the first sled returned to the town and made its way straight to the synagogue, where, with almost the entire town listening on tenterhooks, the delegation said: Rabbi, with all the sorrow and pain it entails, we have no right to stop you. The yeshiva that has invited you has many hundreds of students, and all study Torah day and night. Your future lies there; and from there, you will lead the world of the Torah.

Two days later, the second sled returned, with the faces of its occupants reflecting satisfaction. You are staying here, they told their rabbi in front of the entire congregation. We may be a small town, but here at least you are respected by everyone, and the sins of the community are few. In the big city of Vilna, we found brothels that are frequented, spare us, by Jews as well - including students from the yeshiva that has invited you. Vilna is also filled with thieves and loansharks, many poor people, and bitter conflicts; and the pupils of one rabbi boycott the pupils of another; and there are curses and abuse. Why would you want to get mixed up in all that?

Everyone turned to face the rabbi. True, he said; both delegations have reported the truth. Each delegation chose to go to the place that suited the nature of its members; and as is the way of man, to project what it saw and experienced onto Vilna in its entirety.