I Am a Jew

Israel's president reflects on the meaning behind journalist Daniel Pearl's last words.

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Social justice and concern for the weak are cornerstones of Judaism and of the Torah of Israel, and we see a straight line between concern for the weak and our possession of the Land of Israel. "Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may thrive and inherit the land." In other words, in order for the Jewish People to live successfully in its historical homeland, it must take care of the weak, the orphan, the widow, and the disabled, as social justice is the basis of our life in Israel and the beginning of our redemption.

In the Bible there are many references and laws dealing with social justice and concern for the weak, including the commandments of "digest" (a poor man?s share of the crop), "peah" (leaving the corner crops for the poor), forgotten sheaves, the "shmitta" year (the seventh year during which the land must be uncultivated), and the jubilee year (for the redemption of people and land). It is even stated that "charity is equal to all the commandments of the Torah." The State of Israel, as a Jewish democratic country, is also an advanced welfare state, confronting social needs.

There is no conflict between Judaism and Christianity and Islam.

After all, Christianity is based on Judaism and the Bible. The festivals and Jewish tradition were sanctified in the life of the Jewish nation before Christianity appeared, and Christianity is also based on them. During my last meeting with His Holiness the Pope in the Vatican, he quoted the Prophet Jeremiah and said to me that Jews are the elder brothers of Christians.

Likewise, regarding Islam: When the Jews were persecuted and expelled from Europe, approximately 500 years ago during the Middle Ages, the Muslim world absorbed the exiled Jews. The cooperation between Judaism and Islam resulted in a period of great cultural development for all humanity. During those times, great collections of writing, meditations, and culture--in commentaries, law, Jewish thought, and communal life--were created.

The prayer book and the Bible, on which our national and religious life are based, bound thousands of Jewish communities, cut off from each other for thousands of years and scattered throughout the world. In this way, Judaism and the Jewish People were maintained.

The prayers in synagogue are meant for religious and worship purposes, but they are also an expression of appreciation of Judaism?s magnificent past, thanks to which we survived as a nation. The synagogue is also a place where moral principles and rules of behavior are imparted to the congregants; in this way, a combination of religious prayer, honoring the past, and the acquisition of moral principles was created.

Every Jew feels a spiritual bond and an emotional attachment to Judaism even if, in the era of globalization, he hardly knows the basic concepts of Judaism; even if in his bookcase there are no books dealing with the Jewish faith, the Jewish People, or Jewish culture and history.

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President Moshe Katsav

Moshe Katsav was the president of Israel from 2000-2007.