Showing Decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind

May 16, 2024
Mariano Sayno/Getty Images; eurobanks/Getty Images

In the Declaration of Independence by the representatives of the United States you’ll find,

in its first paragraph, the reason why the Founders wrote it.

While they assumed the station to which laws of nature and its God entitled them,

they felt they had an obligation, proclaimed in words that are a precious gem,

explaining why to independence of their land they were devoted.

Like them Jews are required — out of decency! — to show respect for the opinions of mankind,

except for those who don’t respect the views of others.

When God told Abraham, as we are told in Genesis, to found

a state for his descendants, He told him He would bless all nations who blessed them, but curse

all nations who cursed them, towards their country’s independence indecently adverse.

The reason for this language is still, very sadly, sound.

Gen, 12:1-3 states, according to the King James Version:

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

In “Israel’s Declaration of Independence: A Biography,” Jewish Review of Books, Spring 2023, Neil Rogachevsky and Dov Zigler write:

The second aspect of Israel’s Declaration that maintains strong popular currency is its statement of political ideals together with a kind of informal bill of rights. It reads:

The State of Israel . . . will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

This admirable statement of ideals is what most Israelis think of when they say, “These are our values.” Amid war and turmoil, Israel’s founders thought to proclaim the inherent rights and freedoms of citizens and to emphasize the rights of minorities—even minorities with whom they were then at war.

Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored “Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel.” He can be reached at gershonhepner@gmail.com.

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