Tribalism is a human tendency. It offers individuals a community that can support them in their life struggles and uncertainties, as well as provide protection from hostile tribes. Loyalty to the tribe inspires altruistic behavior and self-sacrifice, countering the natural inclination toward selfishness.  

Tribes compete and collaborate for protection and gain. Historically, human warfare has been about tribal conflict. In modern times, warfare has mostly been replaced by politics, tribal political competition for power and influence. 

Leadership is the ability of an individual to lead, inspire, and guide members of the tribe in a way that ensures their safety and well-being. A successful leader has a vision and can inspire people to actualize that vision. A leader has to be loyal to the people he or she represents.  A successful leader demonstrates six major virtues: courage, intelligence, trustworthiness, moral clarity, discipline, empathy. In addition, a true leader will always sacrifice any personal interests for the sake of the group.

The most lethal anti-Semitism results from tribal politics. Today in America, tribal conflict is labeled “identity politics.” Christian pogroms, Islamic Jihad, and Nazi extermination camps all made the role of Jewish leadership a near- impossible task of mostly minimizing the casualties. Even so, despite their perennially beleaguered condition, the Jewish people have produced some amazingly strong leaders. 

Avi Goldwasser

Theodor Herzl (1860 – 1904) 

The Jews who will it, shall achieve their State. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our own homes peacefully die. The world will be liberated by our freedom, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind.

Born in Hungary, Herzl was a visionary leader who saw that Jewish nationalism (Zionism) was the only realistic way to protect Jews from anti-Semitism. The father of modern political Zionism, Herzl formed the Zionist Organization and promoted Jewish immigration to Palestine in an effort to form a Jewish state.

Henrietta Szold (1860 – 1945) 

Dare to dream… and when you dream, dream big.

Born in the United States, Szold was a visionary leader who founded Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. Under her direction, Hadassah became the largest and most powerful Zionist group in the United States, fundraising and setting up hospitals, food banks, nursing schools, and social work programs.

Ze’ev Jabotinsky (1880 – 1940) 

We were not created in order to teach morals and manners to our enemies. Let them learn these things for themselves. We want to hit back at anybody who harms us. Whoever does not repay a blow by a blow is also incapable of repaying a good deed in kind.

Born in Ukraine, Jabotinsky founded the Jewish Self-Defense Organization in Odessa. During World War I, he co-founded the Jewish Legion of the British army. He also established several Jewish organizations in Palestine, including BetarHatzohar, and the Irgun. As the Holocaust loomed, he demanded that Jews be armed, believing that strong Jews are the only viable guarantors of Jewish survival.

David Ben-Gurion (1886 – 1973)

It doesn’t matter what the world says about Israel; it doesn’t matter what they say about us anywhere else. The only thing that matters is that we can exist here on the land of our forefathers. And unless we show the Arabs that there is a high price to pay for murdering Jews, we won’t survive.

Born in Poland, Ben-Gurion was the head of the Jewish Agency in 1935, and later president of the Jewish Agency Executive. He was the de facto leader of the Jewish community in Palestine, and largely led its struggle for an independent Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine. On May 14, 1948, he declared Israel’s independence as five Arab armies were waiting to destroy Israel before it was born. He was Israel’s first prime minister. 

Golda Meir (1898 – 1978) 

You’ll never find a better sparring partner than adversity.

Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never allow himself.

Born in Ukraine, Meir was a pioneer, visionary, risk-taker, indefatigable fundraiser, and eloquent advocate. An activist of the first order, she was one of the founders of the Jewish state, and was the Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974. 

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902 – 1994)

Intolerance lies at the core of evil. Not the intolerance that results from any threat or danger. But intolerance of another being who dares to exist. Intolerance without cause. It is so deep within us, because every human being secretly desires the entire universe to himself. Our only way out is to learn compassion without cause. To care for each other simply because that ‘other’ exists.

Born in Ukraine, Rabbi Schneerson led the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. He took an insular Hasidic group that almost came to an end with the Holocaust and transformed it into one of the most influential movements in religious Jewry, with an international network of over 5,000 educational and social centers. He helped save Jewish children in France in World War II, and also ran underground missions to save Soviet Jews.  

Menachem Begin (1913 – 1992)

I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.

Born in Belarus (Russia).  At the University of Warsaw, he organized a self-defense group of Jewish students to counter harassment by anti-Semites on campus. He became a disciple of Jabotinsky and after arriving in Palestine, he became the leader of the Irgun (an underground Zionist paramilitary organization). On February 1, 1944, he proclaimed a revolt against the British mandatory government in Palestine seeking an independent Jewish state. He became Israel’s prime minister in 1977, and in 1979 signed a historic peace treaty with Egypt, for which he and Anwar Sadat shared the Nobel Prize for Peace. In 1981 he ordered the successful destruction of the Iraqi nuclear facility. 

Peter H. Bergson/Hillel Kook (1915 – 2001) 

Why did we respond the way we did? The question should be, why didn’t the others? 

We responded as a human and as a Jew should.

 Born in Lithuania, Bergson was a leader in the effort to promote Zionism to save the abandoned Jews of Europe during the Holocaust;  while the American Jewish establishment was mostly silent and critical of his efforts. He established the Emergency Committee for the Rescue of European Jewry, which worked to educate the general public and also lobbied the President and Congress. His efforts were vigorously opposed by many American Jewish leaders, including the American Jewish Committee and other political opponents who sought to discredit him and even have him deported.  

Moshe Dayan (1915-1981)

Let us not be afraid to see the hatred that consumes the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs who sit around us and wait for the moment when their hands will be able to reach our blood.

Born in Palestine, Dayan was an Israeli military leader, leading the Jewish State to many victories. He fought for his nation’s survival while knowing no fear. He was also a politician who became a crusader for peace.

Mordechai Anielewicz (1919 – 1943)

The most difficult struggle of all is the one within ourselves. Let us not get accustomed and adjusted to these conditions. The one who adjusts ceases to discriminate between good and evil. He becomes a slave in body and soul. Whatever may happen to you, remember always: Don’t adjust! Revolt against the reality!

Born in Poland, Anielewicz was an underground activist fighting the Germans during World War II. As a leader of his youth movement, he organized cells and youth groups. When the Nazis ordered the deportation of the Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to the extermination camps, he was the commander of the Warsaw ghetto  uprising.   He battled the Nazis hand-to-hand, knowing that he and those he led had nothing to lose.

Hannah Szenes (1921 – 1944)

There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.

Born in Hungary, Szenes was a poet and a Special Operations Executive (SOE) member. She was one of 37 Jewish SOE recruits from Mandate Palestine parachuted by the British into Yugoslavia during the World War II to assist anti-Nazi forces and ultimately in the rescue of Hungarian Jews about to be deported to the German death camp at Auschwitz.

Ariel Sharon (1928 – 2014)

As a Jew, it is my historic responsibility to defend the Jewish people. I feel this responsibility for the survival of the Jewish people. We’re not going to accept any decision by anybody else about security of the State of Israel. It is our role and only our role.

Born in Palestine, Sharon was an Israeli general and politician who also served as the Prime Minister of Israel. He was considered the greatest field commander in Israel’s history, and one of the country’s greatest ever military strategists. 

Natan Sharansky (1948 –)

When we are unwilling to draw clear moral lines between free societies and fear societies, when we are unwilling to call the former good and the latter evil, we will not be able to advance the cause of peace because peace cannot be disconnected from freedom.                                                             

Born in Ukraine, Sharansky is a human rights activist and author. As a refusenik in the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s, he spent nine years in Soviet prisons. He served as Chairman of the Executive for the Jewish Agency from June 2009 to August 2018. Sharansky currently serves as chairman for the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy.

Benjamin Netanyahu (1949-)

Peace is purchased from strength. It’s not purchased from weakness or unilateral retreats.

The only peace that can endure is a peace that can be defended.
Born in Israel, Netanyahu, as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance, initiated major reforms of the Israeli economy that were credited in making Israel a technological powerhouse. He became Israel’s youngest Prime Minister in 1996. He expanded Israel’s relations with Africa and the Gulf States and changed Israel’s global image from a “conflict zone” to “innovation nation.”