Q. Doesn’t it invite antisemitism when Jews call themselves the chosen people?
A. Possibly, but we can’t help being ourselves. Every people has its own sense of self-worth and self-importance. Without it, few would have survived. Indeed, their varied expressions of uniqueness have vastly enriched the world. Ours certainly has.
It is ironical for HG Wells to call the Jewish “chosen people” idea a hindrance to world unity when it is we who were the pioneers of the world-unity concept. It is an insult to history for George Bernard Shaw – followed by some of the Arab demagogues of our own day – to compare the Jews to the Nazi Herrenvolk boast, when we never claimed to be superior but asserted that the righteous of all peoples have a place in the World to Come.
The Nazis hated us because we were a thorn in their flesh with our insistence on “the rearing of righteousness among the sons of man”, as Isidore Epstein phrased our historic mission. Having the role of universal moral teachers has brought us persecution, but we remain convinced that we were right. We remain committed to the task and know that thanks to our dream the world will eventually learn how to live with difference without being divided.
We are not without our internal problems, which is why Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits said as long ago as 1973 that the first period of modern Israel’s history represents “the generation of Davids, a generation of pioneers cast in an heroic mould, bravely battling against and prevailing over many a Goliath”, and now we have to develop “a generation of Solomons, blessed in peace to concentrate on rebuilding the sanctuaries of our people, uniting the ingathered tribes of Israel in the pursuit of spiritual excellence and our national vocation as a beacon of social justice, ethical rectitude, moral discipline and religious fervour”.