Eyebrows were raised. Diplomats looked at each other in disbelief. Were they really hearing Israel’s top diplomat suggest that they start quoting the Bible in defense of Israel?
Likud lawmaker Tzipi Hatovely had just cited 11th century Bible commentator Rashi’s first commentary on the first verse in the Torah to incoming Foreign Ministry emloyees.
“In the beginning, Hashem created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1
Rashi (paraphrased) asks in the name of Rabbi Isaac: Why does the Torah begin with the creation of the world? Shouldn’t it have started with the very first commandment of counting the months? After all Torah, as its name suggests, is about hora’ah – instruction. The Torah is foremost a book of laws, an instruction manual on how to live our lives, not a book of stories or history. So why then begin with creation of the world?
Rashi answers: For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],” they will reply, “The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper. When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us.
“Of course the world understands Israel’s security needs, but arguments of ethics and justice will trump security arguments,” Hatovely said, urging Israeli diplomats serving abroad to reiterate the Jewish people’s right to the entire land of Israel.
“The time has come to tell the world that we’re right – not only smart.”
The diplomats were shocked. And for good reason.
“It’s the first time anyone has asked us to use verses from the Torah for public diplomacy abroad,” one diplomat was quoted as saying. ...
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United." Affiliated with Georgetown University for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."