WSI's guest is a man who has devoted his life to God. I had the honour of speaking to the spiritual leader of the Jewish community Bet Israel in Croatia, Rabi Dr Kotel Da-Don. There are many challenges in today's world, which is precisely the reason for this interview with our guest about life in Israel and Croatia, faith and religion. Since man's existence, religion has offered sanctuary from many vices and evils; moreover, it has been a source of inspiration for many artists, having enriched this world and all of us. Unfortunately though, religion has also often been a source of conflict and war. In The Countdown Trilogy, which I promoted in our holy city of Jerusalem, I touched upon the three monotheistic faiths, which all have a common, equal God. Judaism is one of the three monotheistic religions and so I started with that.
Rabi Da-Don fondly speaks of growing up and life in his birthplace of Israel. He spent his childhood in a small Southern town called Netivot, near Gaza. At 13 he left his home to continue his high school education. He later studied law and in parallel studied to be a Rabi. It was his mother's wish for him to become a Rabi. Dr Da-Don mentions that modern Israeli law adopted some of the legal framework of countries and kingdoms that governed the region of today's Israel, like the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain. Upon completion of military service, which in Israel lasts three years for men, Rabi Da-Don worked in a law office, after which, in the early 90's, he moved to Budapest where he was professor of Judaism at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Following the advice of his Rabi in Israel, Dr Da-Don came to Zagreb, Croatia, where he lives and works today. When asked how he feels in Croatia, the Rabi answered: "It's nice here. Two (out of four) of my children were born here. I have lived here for the last eighteen years".
Rabi Da-Don drew a comparison between Israel and Croatia. "Both are Mediterranean countries; throughout their history both Croats and Israelis have fought for their Independence, both have a large number of emigrants all over the world and are classified as countries with small territories". Rabi Kotel Da-Don likes to say that Israel is his home, and Croatia is his house. It is interesting to listen to the Rabi when he speaks of being Jewish, a term which merges nations and faiths. We touched upon extremism in the world; Rabi Da-Don condemns every attempt to use faith as a means of propagating hate and conflict of any kind. I will not soon forget his statement that, "No one in the world has the right to use violence in the name of God and it has brought no one in history any good". When we discussed the Middle Eastern crisis and Israel's position amongst Arab states today, Dr Da-Don sees dialogue as the primary way to solve this crisis: "Israelis and Palestinians have to create a mutual trust which is the condition for reconciliation".
When we talk about true faith in God, based on the Ten Commandments, the Rabi adds, "People make up this world, God only created it. God is the one who monitors and decides when and how to intervene, while through history, man is the one who chose evil". The Rabi reflected on the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve. "They were given the fruits of the Heavenly garden, but at the same time were also give the responsibility to take care of that garden". This is a message for all of us today when we talk about environmental protection; the earth was given to us to be cultivated, but at the same time we need to take responsibility and preserve it. There is simply no one to correct the damage we do to the planet.
At the end of our conversation, Rabi Da-Don advised that we all take care of each other, that a sheltered life is simply not possible, which is why we need to act responsibly, respecting one another and respecting our differences, for this is the only way for us to get to know each other and become true friends, which in turn, pleases God himself.
God bless you all.