Sunday, January 13, 2008

COMMENT: why a Jewish State?

ISRAEL, THE ONLY “JEWISH STATE “, is not a theocracy.


I am cynical about such groups who try to bring both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs together in a middle-way for peace. They usually attract people with one-sided agendas, not the even-handed ones they are supposed to attract, - but there seem to be a number of such groups on the web and maybe,- just maybe, more from the Arab side will take courage and join up. Usually they are instigated by Israelis and well-meaning Jews with a few Moslems from democratic countries, while Moslems from the Islamic Theocracies and Palestinians are afraid to participate, except those who push their own side's agenda.

Inevitably, these groups face the question of what kind of State Israel should end-up being, when eventually (Please God!)peace will come to their region.
For Diaspora Jewry, Israel is not just a haven for the dispossessed and endangered Jews from all parts of the world. It is our spiritual homeland, not simply another secular, democratic state like any other in the world! We expect it to have the Jewish ethos and spring from the well of Jewish traditions, while following modern democratic principles of human rights. This kind of Jewish nation is not a form of Theocracy as practised in some Islamic States. The Israeli citizens, while very ethnically mixed and multicultural, agree to these basic principles, whether they are religious or secular.

Thus most Diaspora Jews visiting Israel love the idea of being able to experience life in a total Jewish environment. This means observing the Sabbath and the Jewish Holy Days, - not the Sundays and Christian Holy Days of the West,- or no Holy days at all!It also means walking in the footsteps of the Sages of the Torah-scriptures, not only of those of the New Testament or the Koran. It means being able to buy, eat and drink Kosher foods whenever and wherever one wants to. They want to experience the country where primarily Jewish History is taught to the young throughout their school years, alongside all other world histories,- while living in a total Jewish environment which needs to be saved and preserved for future gnerations.

It does not mean however, that Diaspora Jewry expects Israel to be a Theocracy, no matter how much the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) communities would wish it to be. No one wants to have ancient religious edicts imposed on them, nor religion in general rammed down their throats.

In "The Australian" (January (9/1/08), an article described USA Jews who were polled and found to be less and less committed to Israel as a "Jewish State",- or to any "ethno-centric" State! Tzipi Livni, Israeli FM, is apparently very concerned about that and has taken steps to address this problem. But how and why is it so?

I blame the Israeli Jews themselves, first and foremost, who instead of being ambassadors for their sole Jewish nation in the world, flock abroad to live and work or simply as tourists en-masse,- with their "Jewish" part seemingly of little outward concern. We find that they often keep away from us Diaspora Jews (when we would love to embrace them!)and even when we do make contact they don't want further interaction! They rarely participate in traditional rituals with other Jews in the Diaspora communities.

Perhaps it is understandable. Israeli Jews probably look at us Diaspora Jews living our lives unconcerned by daily war, terrorism, or hostile Arab neighbours,- our kids don't have to continuously go and put their lives at risk in the IDF,- and probably feel alienated from us. We discovered quite a few Israelis locally by accident, who don't see or feel anti-Semitism, except anti-Israel hostility because it is "the Jewish State", - so they may not believe in the need to safeguard their totally 'Jewish' nation, but simply their homeland. Who for?- The Haredim (ultra-orthodox) whom they view more as a burden than an asset? For the Diaspora who push them to "fight to the last Israeli"? Surely they will tire of it eventually?

If there won't be an educational change, particularly from the religious modern-Orthodox and Progressive Zionists,- I am afraid the next generations will not care to fight for Israel to remain predominantly Jewish.

I hope I am wrong, but if there won't be a change in the Israeli people’s attitude to us Diaspora Jews, -who are after all their only reliable allies and supporters,- I fear for the future of Israel as a "Jewish" State. I am hopeful that the academics and politicians like Tzipi Livni who care about this issue and are becoming aware of this problem, are paying attention to it and addressing it in their research and applying it in their educational institutions.

I have heard an Israeli academic present his research data on the attitudes of Israelis towards the Diaspora,- it wasn’t very optimistic. But at least it showed an awareness that it is a topic which needs to be addressed.
A Synagogue's Custom

A young scholar from New York was invited to become Rabbi in a small old community in Chicago. On his very first Shabbat, a hot debate erupted as to whether one should or should not stand during the reading of the Ten Commandments.

The next day, the rabbi visited 98 year-old Mr. Katz in the nursing home. "Mr. Katz, I'm asking you, as the oldest member of the community," said the rabbi, "what is our synagogue's custom during the reading of the Ten Commandments?"

"Why do you ask?" asked Mr. Katz. "Yesterday we read the Ten Commandments. Some people stood, some people sat. The ones standing started screaming at the ones sitting, telling them to stand up. The ones sitting started screaming at the ones standing, telling them to sit down... "

"That," said the old man, "is our custom."

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