On living in the Jewish state

23 Jul

by Ilan Bloch

Image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org

An all-encompassing Jewish existence can best take place within a sovereign Jewish State. Only within Israel are Jews confronted with the need to tackle issues through Jewish lenses. In Australia, the “Jewish issues” in elections are often things like the relationship of the parties to Israel, funding for Jewish schools and the awarding of tax-deductibility status to the Community Security Group. Only within Israel can Judaism come to mean something more than parochial issues such as these. It is only in Israel that the environment, refugee policy, women’s and minority rights, and military ethics can be dealt with by applying Jewish values as a state, thereby bringing Judaism alive in the public sphere. It is a thriving Jewish political sovereignty that allows for the development of a living Jewish culture.

However, Jewish self-rule only allows for a meaningful Jewish culture to develop in a way that is less possible in Diaspora communities. “For out of Zion shall go forth the teaching” is prescriptive and not descriptive. In Israel, children suffer from poverty, the rights of women are not protected as they should be, guest [foreign] workers are treated with little hospitality, and violent crime is on the rise. Israel is no better than any other country! This is a serious problem but the fact that the potential for the creation of a higher Jewish plane of existence is largely wasted should not detract from the notion that such potential still exists only in Israel.

This does not mean that Diaspora Jews have a national obligation to make Aliyah. We live in a world today in which such a statement is meaningless. Moreover, Aliyah is not necessarily the most appropriate personal Jewish choice for all Jews; individuals may well find a more rewarding Jewish life outside Israel. (As an example, committed Reform or Conservative Jews may feel this way.) Also, it should be stressed that it is Jewish political sovereignty that offers Israelis the potential for a richer Jewish life, not any ‘mystical’ attributes of the Land. Finally, the popular idea that it is better to be an assimilated Israeli Jew than an assimilated Diaspora Jew is folly; an Israeli whose Jewish identity is based on shallow folkways, and lacking high culture, is no better off than a non-practicing Diaspora Jew.

Ilan Bloch is the Director of Teaching Israel.


2 Responses to “On living in the Jewish state”

  1. northernsong July 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    If Diaspora Jews don’t have an obligation to make Aliyah, then what you are affirming is that Israel should continue to be a country that advocates for the rights of Jews first, in Israel and all over the world. The state has more obligations towards a Jew living in New York than an Arab-Israeli who has lived there in peace since ’48. Judaism is a religion, not a culture or nationality, and the more Israel works to distort this fact the greater a historical disaster it will be for the Jewish religion.

  2. northernsong July 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    The only coherent account of Jews as a “nationality” is to say they all must move to Palestine, and all non-Jews must be stripped of citizenship. Only by that position can you fuse the values of democracy (republicanism) with Judaism and make a “jewish people”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: