Monday, August 22, 2005

The Jewish Dream & The Israeli Nightmare

In Today's Yediot Achronot, ultra-secularist Israel Prize laureate Amos Oz clearly expresses the difference between the Jewish and Israeli vision for the State of Israel.
They (religious Jews) have their own dream. The first stage is the "whole land of Israel," filled wall-to-wall with Jews-only towns.

The second stage is to transform Israel into a halachic state', a country ruled by Jewish religious law.

But we non-religious Israelis also have a dream. We want to live in an enlightened, open and just country, not in some messianic, rabbinic monarchy, and not in the whole land of Israel. We came here to be a free people in our own land.

To be a free people means each person is entitled to choose which parts of Jewish tradition are important to him, and which to leave behind. It means to have the freedom to run our country according to our free will, rather than rabbinic dictates.

Putting aside for a moment Oz's description of the Jewish "dream" for the State of Israel, what Oz recognizes is that the present struggle in the Land of Israel is not over the fate of Gush Katif or any of the other settlements. The present struggle in Israel has nothing to do with the "Palestinians". The struggle that the Jewish People are facing in the Land / State of Israel today is over the fundamental issue that affects all others challenges that the Jewish people face in israel today:

Who are we? & Why are we here?

Who are we? : Are we Jews or are we Israelis?

Why are we here in Israel?: Are we here, as Jews, to fulfill the collective Jewish destiny, of creating a truly Jewish State (which means significantly more than simply having a Jewish majority) that will serve as a light unto the nations, and as a result, sanctify the name of G-d? Are we here, as Jews, as another link in the continuous chain that is the history of the Jewish People, where for for the last 2,000 years each and every Jew passed on to his children the eternal hope, dream and prayer of the Jew: "Next Year in Jerusalem"! - Not so that we could be the "Only democracy in the Middle East", but so that we could live as proud and committed Jews in out eternal Homeland?

Or, are we here in Israel as Israelis, as Amos Oz would have us be, and not Jews (or, at the very least, "New Jews")? Are we here in Israel simply because we discovered that we couldn't live anywhere else, where even the option of mass conversion and assimilation failed us? Are we here in Israel, simply to build a society and state based on western, secular and pluralistic values, where one of the only things Jewish about the State is that a majority of its citizens happen to be Jewish? Are we here in Israel as a refuge, not merely a physical one, but a spiritual one, where we can be free of the Judaism of exile - of subservience to the G-d of Israel and His Law (both Written and Oral)? Are we merely to be a "free nation in our Land" and nothing more?

How we, the Jewish People, and in particular, the ("New") Jews of Israel answer these questions will ultimately determine the fate of the State of Israel, as well as the fate of the Jewish People remaining a single nation. What Amos Oz makes perfectly clear is that the Jewish dream (as he understands it) is his - the Israeli's - nightmare, and that is a thought that should keep us all awake at night.


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