Machlokes / Controversy

Jewish World Review June 27, 2001 / 6 Tamuz, 5761

Israel can learn a valuable lesson from the Seattle Mariners

By Jonathan Rosenblum -- "THE Seattle Who?’’ most Israelis will ask. The Mariners are not exactly a household word like the Michael-led Chicago Bulls. Yet with little more than a third of the baseball season gone, the Mariners are an unbelievable 17 games ahead of their division and off to the best start of any baseball team in ninety years.

The Mariners dominate the league despite having lost over the past three years Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, and Alex Rodriquez -- three likely Hall of Famers. Until a recent rash of injuries, Griffey was considered the player most likely to challenge Hank Aaron’s lifetime homerun record. Johnson is the most intimidating pitcher since Nolan Ryan. And with a new $250,000,000 contract, A-Rod is the highest paid professional athlete in history.

Yet with all three superstars, the Mariners never made it past the divisional playoffs. Led this year by a player with the unlikely moniker of Ichiro they are almost invincible.

The Mariners’ success is yet another reminder that one cannot predict the outcome of a baseball season by just looking at the lifetime statistics of a team’s roster. Even in a sport whose central action pits two individuals -- batter and pitcher -- against one another in a confrontation dependent on no one but themselves, such intangibles as team spirit and unity often prove decisive.

How much more so does morale figure in the life of nations. In warfare, as in baseball, the firepower and manpower of the respective sides has often proven a poor predictor of success on the battlefield. "Again and again, the record of history shows, victory goes not to the side wth greater fire power, but to the side with greater determination,’’ writes JWR's Daniel Pipes.

Those words have special force with respect to our current situation. Israel’s military might is not in question. What is in question is our will power.

Our leaders must factor into every decision the impact on our national morale and that of our enemies. Too often in the recent past that has not been done.

The withdrawal from Lebanon is but the most glaring example. We failed to consider the message of our inability to absorb casualties that would be conveyed to our adversaries by a precipitous withdrawal. Since October, the Palestinian media has drummed that message home relentlessly as a means of sustaining the intifada.

Prime Minister Sharon has shown himself far more mindful than his predecessor of the importance of national morale. He is right that Israelis must not panic in the face of terror attacks and that refraining from an immediate response can be a sign of calm as well as indecision..

But there are limits to how long Israelis, whether they live beyond the Green Line or in Tel Aviv, can go on feeling like sitting ducks in a shooting arcade. Similarly, fears grow that the government may pursue the strategy of winning through losing, as proclaimed recently by Sharon’s press spokesman Ra’anan Gissin, until we have nothing left to lose.

The fleeting sympathy of the world after each terrorist attack will not compensate for the feeling of helplessness that grows among Israelis with each drive-by murder, with every infant killed by stonethrowers, with every terrorist attack that passes without response.

Suicide bombers and those who lie in ambush on isolated highways may not pose an "existential’’ threat to Israel’s existence. It is sufficient to demoralize an entire population that they threaten the existence of many Jews.

The so-called leaders of world Jewry also ought to contemplate the consequences of their words on the spirit of Israelis. No one blames American parents who fear to send their children for summer tours to Israel. But why did the Reform movement have to publicly announce that it was cancelling all its summer youth programs in Israel?

Just shut up and bring those kids whose parents still want them to have an Israel experience. By making public announcements of cancellations, the Reform movement caused Israeli Jews to feel abandoned by their brethren abroad, provided foreign air carriers further justification for cancelling flights due to the security situation, and convinced our foes that their terrorist tactics are exerting pressure on Israel that will net them tangible gains.

Sports team know how crucial motivation is. Phil Jackson is not paid millions for tactical genius alone. Let’s hope our leaders realize it as well.

JWR contributor Jonathan Rosenblum is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and Israeli director of Am Echad. He can be reached by clicking here.


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© 2001, Jonathan Rosenblum Distributed by Am Eachad Resources<