The Torah offers no background of Avraham before we read the command given him: לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ, “…go for yourself from your land…”. (Gen. 12,1) What, indeed, was his greatness that Hashem selected him to give him the Land of Israel? We learn later that he is known as: הָעִבְרִי, “the Ivri”.(Gen. 14,13)
The word Ivri may have many meanings. One meaning that Chazal give us is “one who stands on the other side”. This implies that Avraham was not afraid to maintain his beliefs or his identity even among strangers who may not understand or accept his beliefs. He did not join in the practices or the culture of his environment but stood “on the other side of them”.
This trait of our forefather has been part of the Jewish people who live the life of the Torah. Withstanding the persecutions the Jews endured through many centuries and many countries, the practicing Jew did not give up his beliefs and stood “on the other side” of his surrounding cultures.
This accounts for the hatred the world had and still has against the Jews. The nations of the world cannot understand how the Jew can stand alone against the currents and the streams that the entire world accepts.