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Guest Column

US Exceptionalism and the Moses Legacy
By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Apr 20, 2014 - 12:12:38 AM

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3,400 years ago, the Moses legacy was shaped during the first clash of civilizations (Passover) between faith and responsibility-driven liberty (Moses) on the one hand, and paganism and subjugation-driven repression (Pharaoh) on the other hand. The victory of the Moses legacy established a dramatically new world order for millennia.

In 1623 and 1630, the mindset of the "Mayflower" and "Arabella" Pilgrims was: a departure from modern day Egypt (England), the parting the modern day Red Sea (the Atlantic Ocean), culminating with the landing in modern day Promised Land (USA). They laid the foundations for the morally, industrially, scientifically and militarily exceptional Judeo-Christian American culture, based upon the Moses legacy.

In 1776, the USA Founding Fathers fulfilled the vision of the Pilgrims, establishing a unique political system, naming it "Federalism" -- a derivative of the Latin word "foedus" -- the Covenant. They were inspired by British and French political scientists, as well as by the Moses legacy of disciplined-liberty, justice and the separation of powers. They viewed themselves as "the people of the modern day Covenant" and overcame "the modern day British Pharaoh" in a clash of civilizations, which jolted the prevailing world order.

In 2014, US exceptionalism -- which saved the Free World in two world wars against Germany and the cold war against the USSR -- is now challenged by the proliferation of tectonic clashes of civilizations, involving Iran's pursuit of nuclear capabilities, the accelerated Islamic penetration of Europe, the proliferation of Islamic terrorism sleeper cells on the US mainland, Russian and Chinese imperialism as well as the Arab Tsunami.

In 2014, in the face of such challenges, the Judeo-Christian USA has only one effective, unconditional, reliable, democratic, strategic ally, possessing the capabilities and the will to unleash them: the Jewish State, Israel. The US and Israel are the only countries in the world, which derive their vision and culture from the Moses legacy.

The widespread impact of the Moses legacy upon the American culture is gleaned through Biblical citations from liberal and conservative leaders alike. During the 18th century, the Bible was cited much more often -- by the Rebels -- than John Locke or Montesquieu. More recently, following the 2000 presidential election, then President-elect, G.W. Bush, asked his pastor, Mark Craig, to repeat a Moses-based sermon -- originally delivered in 1999, which convinced Bush to run for the presidency. Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, branded pessimists as the "Back to Egypt Committee," which wanted to return to servitude in Egypt, rather than enter the Promised Land. President Barack Obama identified himself as "the Joshua of our time," following in the footsteps of the "Moses Generation." Tom Harkin, a very liberal Democratic Senator, congratulated the Majority Leader for displaying "the patience of Job, endurance of Samson and wisdom of Solomon." And, former President Reagan said: "I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the US Congress...."

In 2014, a reference to Moses and his legacy is well-received by the American public, since the US is the most religious Western democracy: over 40% frequent churches on Sunday; 80%-90% believe in God; 80% believe in Judeo-Christian values; 15 million copies of the Holy Bible -- which can be found in most US hotel rooms - are sold annually; "In God We Trust" is the US national motto; "One Nation Under God" is in the Pledge of Allegiance; a morning prayer launches daily deliberations in the US House of Representatives; some 300 Christian TV stations operate in the US; Moses statue faces the Speaker of the House of Representatives and is fixed above the Supreme Court Justices; the Liberty Bell displays an inscription on the Jubilee - Leviticus, Chapter 25, Verse 10; Ten Commandment monuments stand on the grounds of the Texas and Oklahoma State Capitols.

In fact, one does not have to be religious to appreciate Judeo-Christian values in the US. On December 24, 1968 - during the first manned mission to the moon, aboard Apollo 8 -- Commander Frank Borman, Lunar Module Pilot William Anders and Module Pilot Jim Lovell, recited to the American people the first ten verses of Genesis, Chapter 1: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth... and God saw that it was good."

According to Bruce Feiler's America's Prophet -- How the Story of Moses Shaped America, HarperCollins Publishers, 2010: "For four hundred years... one person has inspired more Americans than any other. One man is America's true founding father. His name is Moses." Feiler added that in June 1788, former President of Harvard University, Samuel Langdon, stated: "The three branch structure of government of God's New Israel (USA) was identical to that of God's Old Israel." The Exodus became "the covenant of Black America.... the single greatest motif of slave spirituals: "Go down Moses; Let my people go -- the Negro Marseillaise." "In The Making of the President, 1964, Theodore White wrote: 'It was as if Kennedy, a younger Moses, had led an elder Joshua [Lyndon Johnson] to the height of Mount Nebo, and there shown him the Promised Land which he himself would never enter."

Feiler opined that "the idea that one biblical story [the Exodus] has inspired such radically different leaders as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, G.W. Bush and Barack Obama, suggests that the story has transcended time and political party to become a leitmotif of the American presidency.... No single thinker has had more sustained influence on American history, over a longer period, than Moses."

The Moses legacy has played a key role in shaping the American story, the special attitude of the American constituent towards the Jewish State, the special win-win US-Israel ties, and the exceptional capabilities of the US in the face of intensifying world disorder.

Shabbat Shalom, Happy Passover and Easter Holiday

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
The Ettinger Report
"Second Thought: A US-Israel Initiative"
First published in "Israel Hayom" newsletter, April 18, 2014


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