The State of Israel: Good or Bad?
There are plenty of Jews who will argue that the State of Israel is a horrible thing. Many will go a step further and claim that we had no right to create an independent state of our own. These people are wrong. So long as they’re not Neturei Karta they aren’t bad people and I wouldn’t go as far as claiming they are making a “hillul Hashem”–a desecration of the name of G-d. They are misguided and uneducated. Narrow-minded, I’d argue.
Of course, these Jews will call me all kinds of names and tell me I’m completely wrong, or as one individual on Youtube claimed once, “deserve to be hanged.” The key in these kinds of situations (when a fellow Jew begins lamenting your birth) is to pretend like you’re not there; to ignore this person outright. This fits in with the theme of unity.
What are my claims concerning the State of Israel? Notice: I’m not alluding to the “Land of Israel.” This, everyone, besides Neturei Karta followers agree, belongs to the Jewish People and has been given to us by G-d for posterity. The State, however, is an area of contention. To me it’s fairly simple. Yehuda Ha’levi wrote about it in his “Kuzari.” It’s alluded to in some siddurim–prayer books. Some congregations invoke our leaders during Shabbat services, asking the Almighty to provide them with good counsel. We pray for the safety of our soldiers standing on guard on “water and land.” Whenever trouble is brewing in Israel, we ask G-d to be merciful to His Land and People AND to counsel its leaders.
In fact, it could be said that Moses was the first Zionist. The term “Zionism” itself has been misinterpreted (with good reason) by many. They like to confuse “Zionism”, or the Jewish People’s desire to return to the Land of Israel with all kinds of beliefs foreign to Judaism such as Marxism and Liberalism but this is a separate topic to be discussed in a later piece.
I’ve sat and listened as my brethren seek to destroy the individuals who made the State of Israel a reality. I know. I’ve heard the propaganda. Hertzel didn’t circumcise his son. He sought to forcibly convert European Jews to Christianity. Only after the Dreyfus Trial, did he finally realize that the Gentiles would never allow us to peacefully live amongst them. And Zhabotinsky!? Well he was a secular journalist who was closer in spirit to Tolstoy than he was to a religious Jew. He supported Ben-Gurion’s campaign to cut off Sephardic Jews from their spiritual past. And what if hadn’t been for these men? Would there be a State of Israel today? Would this state have allowed thousands, if not millions of Sephardi and Russian Jews to have returned to Israel? Would there be yeshivas sponsored by the State?
Hertzl, Zhabotinsky, Aba-Achimeir, Trumpeldor, Stern, the Irgun and Lehi fighters hanged by the British: these were the prophets we have been seeking for two thousand years. Israel? This is the land we face while praying. The “Occupied Territories”? These are the holiest places in Israel; places depicted in the Tanach.
One might think I’m coming from an entirely secular perspective while writing this. I’m not. Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I do my utmost to pray three times daily, observe koshrut and Shabbat. It’s not that. The only thing that separates me from my fellow Orthodox Jews is my ability to remain open-minded all the while enclosed within a cubicle. This cubicle is a lifestyle which doesn’t allow for many of the exercises of modern hedonism. I prefer to live in this cubicle and hope my children will grow up covered by an aura of purity. I do, however, remain committed to certain ideas associated with the liberal camp. One of these things is my belief that the State of Israel is mostly positive.
Notice I say: “mostly positive.” Our government and the way it governs isn’t beyond reproach. Nowhere close in fact. A lot of the things it does is not only against Halacha, but also against its own best interests. Whether it’s risking the lives of Jewish soldiers to board a ship carrying “activists” to Gaza or allowing a plane packed with terrorist supporters to land in Ben-Gurion, the Israeli government is constantly making mistakes genuinely believing that it’s serving the best interests of the Jewish People. And what about the decisions it makes that are not meant to serve our best interests? There are those as well.
When I write of loving the State of Israel, I am not referring to loving the decisions it makes. Rather, we must focus on its history and the positive influence it has on the world. The love of the Land of Israel is a component common to almost all Jews. Let’s try and make the love of the State another reason to unite.