With his departure from the political scene imminent, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has apparently decided to slam the door on his way out. Like a boorish guest storming out of a gathering at which he is no longer welcome, the premier used this past Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting - possibly his last - to hurl invective at those who remain faithful to the land of Israel.
In his parting shot, Olmert declared that "the notion of a Greater Israel no longer exists, and anyone who still believes in it is deluding himself."
"Deluding himself"? Frankly, I'm insulted. I don't think I'm deluding myself because I share the dream that Jews have nurtured for 2000 years to return to all parts of our homeland. Nor do I think it is a flight of fancy to believe in the promises that God made to our biblical forebears - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - that this land would be ours and no one else's.
Indeed, it says a great deal about the state of our leadership, and our political culture in general, that the head of government would so breezily belittle the heartfelt beliefs of a large part of the nation.
The prime minister can choose to think differently, of course. But why must he resort to insults to make his point? Needless to say, this is not the first time that Olmert has used such disparaging terminology.
In a May appearance before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, he branded those who believe in Greater Israel as "delusional fantasists." "Only fantasists," he said, "can believe that in this day and age, and in the current situation, it is still possible to cling to the vision of 'Greater Israel.'"
Not content that he had gotten his message across in May, Olmert evidently felt the need to add insult to injury once again. But this time, however, he went a step further. Because in addition to bad-mouthing the people of Israel, he also ridiculed the land itself.
Hinting at media reports that he had offered 98.1 percent of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians, Olmert told the cabinet that "we have to ask ourselves if losing a hill here or there is worth forfeiting the chance to achieve something."
THAT SENTENCE alone embodies all that is wrong - not only with Olmert himself, but with the entire leadership of this country. To demean Judea and Samaria, to reduce the heartland of the Jewish people to just "a hill here or there," is to denigrate the very cradle of our existence.
It reveals the underlying weakness behind Israel's position in the 15 years since the start of the Oslo process: The Palestinians seem to want this land more than our own leaders do. Hence, the ease with which Olmert and his colleagues are so willing to part with it.
Such sentiments reflect a sorry state of ideological fatigue, weariness of spirit and loss of resolve. More importantly, though, they indicate a failure to dream.
Every person, every nation, has its dreams. Take that away, and what is left? As the great French writer Anatole France noted a century ago, "To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan but also believe." Sadly, however, many Israelis no longer seem to understand this.
WHAT, THEN, can be done to reverse this trend? Is it still possible to reenergize and reinvigorate the public and instill within it a basic love of land and country? Sure thing, though it will of course take time, and lots of education, to reverse the process of "de-patriotization" that has set in.
But here is a simple idea that could go a long way toward reconnecting us all with our ancestral patrimony: Let's launch an annual "Land of Israel Day." The holiday would be devoted to celebrating the land and our eternal bond with it, and should include a range of educational, social and cultural activities stressing the Jewish people's attachment to this holy soil.
I suggest the 10th day of Nisan. Why? Because according to the Book of Joshua (4:19) it was on that day that the Jewish people miraculously crossed over the Jordan River and entered the land as a nation for the first time.
What could possibly be better than utilizing the anniversary of this momentous historical event to underline our renewed commitment to this land so many thousands of years later? Inaugurating such a day would also serve as a potent reminder to us all that the notion of Greater Israel was around long before Olmert and his sort, and it will outlast them well into the future too.
For, as Menachem Begin once put it so well, "Yet faith is perhaps stronger than reality, for faith itself creates reality."