October 27, 2017, Frogner, Norway
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וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם֮ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם֒ כִּ֣י הִ֤וא חׇכְמַתְכֶם֙ וּבִ֣ינַתְכֶ֔ם לְעֵינֵ֖י הָעַמִּ֑ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִשְׁמְע֗וּן אֵ֚ת כׇּל־הַחֻקִּ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה וְאָמְר֗וּ רַ֚ק עַם־חָכָ֣ם וְנָב֔וֹן הַגּ֥וֹי הַגָּד֖וֹל הַזֶּֽה
Observe these laws and keep them for these demonstrate your wisdom and profound understanding in the eyes of the nations that they shall hear about these decrees and say 'Surely this great nation is wise and clever'. (Deuteronomy chapter 4, verse 6)
הֶן עָם לְבָדָד יִשְׁכֹּן וּבַגּוֹיִם לֹא יִתְחַשָּׁב
For it is a nation that dwells alone and among the nations shall not be considered. (Numbers chapter 23, verse 9)
These verses were written more than 3,500 years ago and are still true. Today's' news is focused on Israeli Judo players who won gold medal championship at the international Judo competition in Abu Dhabi, an Arab country.
When the Israeli athletes were presented with their medals, unlike all other athletes, their national anthem, the anthem of the State of Israel, was not played. Instead they played the anthem of the international Judo association.
This was seen as a grave to insult to the Israeli athletes, the state of Israel and the Jewish nation worldwide. And yet, all this was foretold. "A nation that dwells alone and among the nations is not counted" 3,500 years ago! So why are we surprised or upset?
For a Jew to be allowed to live in freedom outside the land of Israel is already a great achievement, one that our forefathers did not have for the most part. We lived by the grace and permission of the current ruler and all that could change at a moments notice.
But I want to look at a deeper question. I am a Krav Maga instructor and a "Right wing" Zionist/militarist. I believe in the absolute necessity for Jews to learn to defend themselves, as individuals and as a nation. I follow the tradition of the great Jewish leader Ze'ev Valdimir Jabotinsky of Odessa who wrote in the 1920's "Jews Learn to Shoot". And yet I do not see competition in international sports as a necessity for Jewish power and identity.
It does not matter to me if the Israeli team competes or wins the European basketball championship or if Israeli athletes win a match in Abu Dhabi. This is not the validation of Jewish strength and independence. We live in freedom in our own land, we defend our borders as well as our people far beyond our borders, we do not need a medal or trophy from a tournament. I believe in real strength and real self defense, in the real world where there are no rules and no judges and no ribbons and no songs.
But what is our true national honor, if not a basketball or Judo trophy? Well that too has been written many years ago. Our glory is in our wisdom and our understanding. For that is our glory among the nations, that they should say...what a wise and understanding people. Our wisdom comes from the study of the Torah/Bible and our connection with our roots. My great uncle Max Kinsbrunner was a great basketball player and was inducted into the New York basketball hall of fame, and we are all certainly proud of him, but our true legacy is in the wisdom of our people, our rabbis, our scholars.
But even the success of Max and his teammates on the "Wonder Five" was based on skill, wisdom and strategy, and less on physical strength. Max stood 5 foot 8.
Our system of self defense, IKI Krav Maga, is based on the wisdom of the sages, the understanding of life and human nature. It is an intelligent system not dependent on brutality or muscle.
And of course true wisdom is in being able to resolve our conflicts without resorting to violence, for our true strength is in our wisdom. Violence is always a last resort.
So instead of being upset over a plastic image of a man on a marble base (as Mr, Miyagi called it), let us focus on our real contribution to the world; wisdom and understand.
Over 300 pages, the history of Israel and the Jewish people as a fighting nation from the days of Abraham to our own times. The book covers the history and roots of Krav Maga and the modern Israeli Defense Forces. The book analyzes what makes Israeli security the best in the world.
(cover by Arie Katz)