Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Should Israel Be Special?

Hillel Halkin argues in an interesting article about David Ben Gurion, in the Jerusalem Post, that Zionism demands no standards of the Jewish State, and that this in fact came to be the position of the Ben Gurion we know as Israel's first Prime Minister.

My reaction is that in fact, Halkin (to his horror I would assume) makes the post-Zionist argument, and retroactively (and incorrectly) ascribes it to Ben Gurion.

Ben Gurion never claimed that Israel was a State like all others. He insisted that it was the only venue where Judaism could survive. He proclaimed the 1956 Sinai Campaign the beginning of "Bayit Shlishi" (the Third Temple era.) He always saw Israel as the embodiment of essentialist Judaism, though the content of that essence got vaguer and vaguer as he "matured".

Furthermore, while detaching Israel's existence from its "purpose for existance" may be healthy psychologically for Israelis, and help in fending off criticism that holds Israel to a higher standard, it provides no justification for Diaspora Jews to move to Israel, or support it with their money and efforts. And it provides no justification for Israelis contemplating moving to New York or New Zealand to stay.

The contradiction of a Zionism that insists on the need for, and special status, of a Jewish State, is that it demands a "higher" standard based on a Jewish "essence". Otherwise why bother (and for many Jews it is a bother.) Certainly, by Halkin's post Zionist standard, Israel has a right to exist, but does it have the same claim on Jews both in Israel and around the world?


Anonymous Shmuel said...

I happened to stumble across a Zionist students' website today, and they were conducting a poll that went something like this: Do you think Israel should be a light unto the nations, or a state like any other state?

Like the "proud to be Jewish because ..." statments you posted, such questions require a serious reality check. Light unto the nations? What planet are these people living on? Eliminate legal and institutional discrimination against non-Jews in Israel, stop collective punishment, administrative detention, closures, incursions, assassinations, attacks against non-combatants, enforced economic hardship, land expropriation, etc. etc. and we'll talk about "light".

This year, how about aiming for just a little less darkness?

5:46 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


your remarks are in tune with this electronic Rosh Hashana card sent to me by an Israeli friend

click here

But one shouldn't lose perspective. Israel is no worse then the soem other countries - China in Tibet, Russia in Chechnia, ...

5:37 pm  
Anonymous Shmuel said...

Absolutely true, but I haven't heard the Chinese or the Russians discuss their being "a light unto the nations" (at least not lately). It is the dissonance between reality and perceived self image that throws me for a loop, and is one of the great ills of Israeli/Jewish society, in my opinion. The first stage of teshuvah is "hakarat hahet" - recognising one's wrongdoing. If one believes that one is always in the right and even a paragon of virtue, self-improvement becomes an impossibility.

4:28 am  
Blogger Sydney Nestel said...


Shana Tova !! :>)

So what were the poll results - light or normal ?

For myself, I would hope for light but I would settle for normal given the current state of affairs.

And you are completely correct re your comments on "hakarat hara" and Tshuva.

10:43 am  
Anonymous Shmuel said...

Shanah tovah :------)
I couldn't find the results of the poll anywhere. Here's the link - a great source for Zionist thought of all kinds, by the way:

12:32 pm  

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