Yehuda Avner (z''l) is one of the most important of Israel's unsung heroes for Jewish youth today. Avner's impact in establishing the course of the Jewish state is immeasurable as he served as an advisor to Israeli Prime Minister's Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, a speechwriter to Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Levi Eshkol, and as an Israeli Ambassador to Australia and the United Kingdom. Avner was a key player in the Israeli narrative as he catalyzed the words and ideas which shaped Israel into what it is today. He passed away from cancer on March 24, 2015. We will never truly understand the gravity of the footprints he left on the planes of the history of the Jewish people, but we can try:
During his political career as an advisor and speechwriter, Avner was instrumental in some of the most influential moments of Israel's history, including Operation Entebbe, Operation Opera and the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.
Avner will undoubtedly be remembered for his book, The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, in which he retells his experiences as the right-hand man to some of Israel's greatest leaders. "The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers," the documentary adaptation of Anver's book was released in 2013.
And yet, in my eyes, that is not Avner's greatest legacy.
Instead, I direct us toward a speech Avner shared at the StandWithUS Ambassador's Club at IDC Herzilya on Jan. 6, 2014, originally shared by one of my role models, Michael Dickson, in his fantastic Times of Israel blog post titled, Feeling Weary about Israel?.
At a time when Israel's friends find themselves at odds, at a time when we are struggling to find the right way to criticize the country we all love, at a time when it is becoming increasingly dangerous and ominous to be openly pro-Israel on college campuses, Avner's words ring more real and more true:
"I am aware that there are many fellow Jews and committed Zionists who are getting fed up of us; of their constant need to stand up and defend us, often in the face of a hostile public and not least on your campuses. I wish to confess to you that I sometimes get weary too."
I currently find myself on a college campus with an overwhelmingly united, strong, vocal pro-Israel community. As Bruins, we are proud to be pro-Israel. We are proud to be Jewish. We are proud to serve as Jewish representatives for the Jewish state. We wouldn't have it any other way.
However, with the current state of campus discourse and the incessant attacks by the BDS movement and groups hell-bent on Israel's destruction, it's easy to become disillusioned. To be quite honest, it is exhausting to constantly have to defend Israel against the lies, the slander and the misperceptions the anti-Israel community throws our way.
Unfortunately, this year, it took a turn for the worst: not only do we have to defend our pro-Israel identities, we are now forced to defend our Jewish identities, as was the case with the Judicial Board appointment at UCLA.
"I get weary sometimes because, as you heard, my wife's sister, Esther, was killed defending Jews in 1948 - she was 22. Our son, Danny was injured in the Yom Kippur 1973 War, our daughter Yael, suffered severe burn injuries when a car bomb blew up our Embassy in Buenos Aries, where she was working, in 1992.
And now we have three grandchildren in the army. So yes, I confess, I sometimes get weary because I could not keep the promise to my children that the last war that I had to fight would be the last war of all our wars. And now they, my children, want to protect theirs but they can't. In fact, their children, namely my grandchildren, are protecting us all."
As pro-Israel students, we, too, have picked up the torch of Isreal's defenders. We have become soldiers on two fronts: on our campuses and in the media. While our Israeli counterparts defend Israel on the ground, we step up to defend her in our own communities.
The truth is our Iron Dome, protecting us from all the hate which is fired in our direction. And while we defend Israel, no matter what it takes, we silently pray that this will be the last one-sided resolution, the last slanderous op-ed, the last malicious Facebook post we will have to face. Like Avner, we pray that someday our children will not have to face the reality we face, but part of us knows it is wishful thinking.
"So I believe that the real question is not whether we are weary but rather: what do we do with our weariness?
For surely, there is a distinction between weariness and love. One can be weary without losing love. Israel has many flaws; so does my family. And so does yours. But we love them nonetheless.
Is loving exhausting? Of course it can be.
Does it require lots of equivocation? Of course it does.
Loving Israel is not an affair; it is a deep and abiding relationship.
Who among us can imagine a world without Israel? We have but one Jewish State. It is worthwhile discussing at an appropriate time, why is there just one Jewish State in the world? The only country in the world whose language is Hebrew? Why? It's worthwhile analyzing sometime.
And God forbid if we were to lose it. All of us would enter into a dark and uncharted territory that I don't think any of us can possibly begin to imagine."
And when the going gets tough, what do we do?
We work harder. We stand up taller. We speak a little louder because we know deep down inside that this is what we are meant to do. We know Israel is not perfect, but we love her anyways. It's even more than that though.
We love Israel because inspite of her imperfections, she is constantly striving to be better. We love her for her unwavering commitment to defending all who call her home. We love her for being the manifestation of our hopes and dreams. We love her because she is the only one we've got. We love her because she is family. And yes, the relationship gets tough at times, but we wouldn't have it any other way.
"So under these circumstances, if you ask me - as everybody asks me - as I am sure you ask yourselves on occasion, the way things are going: where is all this going to lead to? What's the future? Ma Yehihe?
Essentially, I would have to tell you in all honesty, I don't know. And you know what? We've never known. In a sense, the essence of all of Judaism is the capacity of a people to live with the unknown. People who have a measure of certainty about their future assuredly will find this rather hard to understand. But when you think about it, the entire venture of Israel has been achieved only by jumping into the unknown."
Avner puts it perfectly, where do we go from here?
To be honest, we will never know. What we do know is that we are the new wave of Israeli pioneers, the next generation of chalootzim. Before us, we have the most honorable task of determining the future of the Jewish state and subsequently, the future of the Jewish people. The task is great, but the potential of our generation is even greater.
So what is the legacy which this great man leaves to us?
The greatest gift of all: the ability to reconcile the weariness with the love, the reminder that we are links in the chain of leaders leaving footprints on the history of the Jewish people, and the responsibility to take yesterdays dreams and make them tomorrows realities.
And we will.
May the memory of Yehuda Avner be blessed.
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