(October 4, 2018 / JNS) The return of the Jews to their homeland raises a number of questions for Jews and non-Jews alike. Everyone is asking why and how did this happen, and if the Jews have a mission. The return of the Jews to their National Home is mentioned by the prophets. The Koran confirms the return of the Jews “en masse” to the land. Most Jews consider that they are living in prophetic times. Whatever one’s belief, Herzl opened the doors by laying the foundation stone of the house that eventually became the refuge of the Jewish nation, for many too late.
“It is something remarkable that at the time of lowest degradation of the Jewish people, at the time of the vilest anti-Semitism,” Theodor Herzl, “a poor Jewish journalist,” as he defined himself in his journal (June 1, 1901), “has transformed a flap into a flag and a degraded multitude into one nation.”
The Jews from all the nations have “a country where they can live (in peace) and are no longer hounded, hated and despised,” as stated by Herzl in his journal on Sept. 13, 1899.
What was not foreseen by Herzl is that anti-Judaism/anti-Semitism did not disappear in the world as a result, and that most Muslims want to destroy us in our land even after 70 years of independence. He did not envision that after having received a state in Jordan, some Palestinian Arabs will want another state in Judea and Samaria (a two-state solution) to pursue their planned destruction of Israel; all the while, others have a quasi-state in Gaza to launch their terror operations; and that many states still finance an international organization, UNRWA, to perpetuate the dream that the children, grandchildren and grand-grandchildren of those who left “Palestine” in a great exchange of populations (Jews/Muslims) will one day enter Israel, take it over and kill or be killed as martyrs.
This is all included in their textbooks. But Herzl was not naive. He concluded in his book The Jewish State: “The presence of an enemy is a valuable aid to develop, in its supreme efforts, a great personality. If we do not have enemies, Judaism would disappear.”
Today, we Jews have a country where in all liberty we can develop our national “personality” and “capacities.” We have (almost) discarded all the vices and defaults that several centuries of persecution and discrimination have developed within us, as Herzl perceived and envisioned. Some Jews returned because they were chased out, while others because they were attracted to it. Here we have succeeded in applying our “intellectual and moral gifts … so … (our people) will no more be the ‘dirty Jews,’ but the people of light that it can be.” In the course of several years, trees were replanted, the land became green and its ruins were rebuilt. As Herzl believed, “a generation of admirable Jews will offspring forth from the ground. The Maccabees will be resurrected.”
Israel, our national home, has given birth to several Israeli Nobel Prize winners; has helped countries in distress; made breakthroughs in medicine, science, technology, agriculture/irrigation and cyber security. It has become a top-rank “Startup Nation.” On Feb. 13, 2019, an Israeli-built unmanned spacecraft is expected to land on the moon.
In 1887, at a world congress of Zionism, Herzl even declared: “Zionism is the return to Judaism even before the return to the land of Israel.” In 1948, Judaism was saved with the rebirth of Israel. After the physical destruction of our people in Europe and the spiritual destruction of our religion, culture and traditions in the former Soviet Union, the spiritual descendants of the tribe of Zebulon are financing again the spiritual descendants of the tribe of Issachar to study the law (Thora) and help them practice the commandments.
The legal establishment of the National Home of the Jewish People in Palestine is mentioned in the Balfour Declaration (Nov. 2, 1917), the San Remo Resolution (July 25, 1920), the Treaty of Sèvres (Aug. 10, 1920), the Joint Resolution adopted by the U.S. Congress (June 30, 1922) and the British Mandate for Palestine (July 24, 1922). All these instruments mention that the state of the National Home must be open to Jewish immigration and the ingathering of the exiles—i.e., the return of the Jews.
The National Home had the choice of becoming a secular, multi-ethnic, multi-faith state, bilingual and multicultural, or a Jewish state.
Today, we Jews have a country where in all liberty we can develop our national “personality” and “capacities.”
The title of Herzl’s book published on Feb. 14, 1896 is The Jewish State. The members of the People’s Council, representatives of the Jewish Community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement, declared in the Independence Proclamation the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.
All legal references are made to a Jewish state and this goes beyond Israel being the State of the Jews. The Basic Law: The Knesset (1958 and 1987), bans parties denying that Israel is the home of the Jewish people or which incite to racism. The Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992), protects human dignity and liberty, in order to establish the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation (1994) protects freedom of occupation, in order to establish the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
What makes the Jewish state Jewish? Many consider that the flag, the state symbol and emblem must have a relation with our history, and that the calendar and holidays should be according to the Jewish tradition/religion. The Israel Nation State Law adopted recently after several years of discussions/negotiations mentions the national anthem, national flag, state emblem, the (Jewish) feasts and days of rest, the calendar, the holy sites, the national language, and refers to Jewish history, culture, traditions and values. But the state should not only preserve the “cultural, historical and religious legacy,” as mentioned in the Israel Nation State Law, but also promote Jewish history, traditions and values—values that come from the Bible (the Law and the Prophets).
After all, we have been told that we were twice exiled because we did not respect these values. The Jewish state should help promote the knowledge of Hebrew in foreign countries and Judaism, i.e., of the Laws of Moses, the commandments (mitzvot), the oral law and their interpretations in Israel and in the Diaspora. Muslims states are promoting Arabic and Islam in Europe, and the Vatican promotes Catholicism in the world. Every Jewish child in the Diaspora should be able to receive a Jewish education, and learn about the history and values of Judaism in order to strengthen their identity and connection to Israel as it is proposed by the Yisrael Beytenu Party.
In his journal, Herzl states, “With the establishment of our State, we will be able to educate our people for its future tasks. Since God would not have preserved us if we did not have a role to play in the history of humanity.” (Nov. 25, 1885).
Was Herzl alluding to the “redemption” or referring to the “people of light that it can be”? What role should the nation play? After the Shoah, non-Jews might know this better than Jews. Jews are still confused.
Several years after the Balfour Declaration, the Right Hon. W. Ormsby-Gore, asked, “What has from the first been the real aim of the Jews?” And he answered: “To establish in Palestine a Jewish civilization, using their own words, as Jewish as England is English. … Our original advocacy of Zionism had, no doubt, other causes. It was not conceived as a refugee problem; it was conceived as a spiritual problem. In the mind of Balfour, his adherence to Zionism was due to his belief that if the Jews were enabled to build up their civilization in Palestine once again, it had something of real constructive value to the world, and that the Jews in their old home would again produce, as they did in the past, and release great spiritual forces. That is what has attracted the British people to that side of it.”
For Pierre Boutang, a French Philosopher, who held the Chair of Metaphysics at the College de France, “The creation of the State of Israel was the sole positive creation responding to the infinite horror of the Second World War. … The Jewish people’s role and mission in the land, is to continue to fulfil its original mission, since Christianity failed with the First and Second World Wars.”… “The final failure of Christianity in Europe, and its “mission” on other continents, has made the Diaspora (the dispersion of the Jewish people) useless, allowing modern empires to pretend that the Cross itself had been in vain. This failure restored necessarily to the Jews their original mission, the idea of this mission, transformed by the adventure of 20 centuries” (The Six-Day War: La Guerre de Six Jours).”
By extension, we could conclude that the Jews were expelled from Muslim countries since their exile there had become also unnecessary.
For our role in exile, according to Denis MacEoin, “Without the Jews, a major force for good and a barometer for moral concern would be taken from civilization entirely. Indeed, no religion has developed in so well-structured a fashion as Judaism; its impact on Christian and Islamic ethics is well attested.”
Twenty centuries of slavery, wars, colonization, genocides, exploitation of human beings by other humans have made us forget that the Almighty has created us, and that we are all brothers. The world has become a hell. With mass killings in Syria, the jihadi expansion, nuclear-arms race by rogue states, the end is not yet in sight.
Christianity and Islam have failed to stop such hatred and bring peace. Christians promoted “love” in the world through Jesus’ teaching and took advantage of his message to subdue nations. Muslims promoted the unity of God, and took advantage of this message to ransack idol worshippers and subdue Jews and Christians.
The prophets gave us some insight about our civilization and its mission. Jeremiah (9:22-3) reads, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, nor the strong man boast of his strength, nor the rich man boast of his wealth. But let him that boasts exult in this, that he understands and knows me, for I am the Lord Who practices kindness (chesed), justice (mishpat) and righteousness (tzedek) on the earth; for in these things I delight.”
How can we do that?
For kindness, we could decide that a chosen day will be a day of kindness, as it was done several years ago in Israeli religious and non-religious schools. The Israeli Ministry of Education has all the documentation in its archives, which was developed by professors, psychologists and sociologists. We could extend this day of kindness to whole sectors of the society, beginning with the administration, and then take several days, to change our habits. The Israeli Ministry of Education has a task to perform.
For justice, every lawyer could write a book on this. The Israeli Bar Association and the Justice Minister could work together.
For righteousness, we can ask our present chief rabbis.
Are you ready? Are we ready? Are they ready?