Kingdom of Priests


Tomorrow is Israel’s 61st birthday, Yom Ha’atzmaut. I love the country and only wish I could go more often. I can’t wait to bring my children there for their first visit. The culture of Judaism in Israel is healthier than here in the U.S., far less haunted by neurosis. I was reminded of that on a trip last year to meet with intelligent design supporters. The openness, not only among the Orthodox either, was gratifying.

I love the Israeli army. I remember once coming across a pair of young men guarding an intersection of narrow lanes in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City — a dark-skinned Ethiopian and a fair-skinned Ashkenazi Jew. For me, the visual image summarized the truth that Judaism is not a race. It’s an idea, or it is nothing.
Having said all that, I persist in the unfashionable non-Zionism that you’ll still find in some parts of the Orthodox Jewish community. Yet as I’ve written over at Jewcy, there are strong grounds for Christian Zionism.
Religious Zionism refers to the belief that God positively wished the Jews to return en masse to Israel and create a Jewish state there. My reason for doubting this to be true is the same reason given by the rabbi who more than any other inspired Modern Orthodox Judaism — Rav S.R. Hirsch. When the first rumblings of religious Zionist sentiment were being heard in Europe, he reminded fellow Jews that the Talmud teaches about the return to Israel that it mustn’t be accomplished by force before its time.

Why? Because Jews posses “a God-given destiny which…overshadows the existence of a state.” We went into exile not simply to punish us for sin but for a positive reason — to serve as a catalyst for spiritual enlightenment among the non-Jewish nations, in relationship to which Hirsch reminds us we have a religious obligation, no less than that, to be strong patriots.
Living in Israel, if you can do so, is a great merit. However, building a secular state there, while it serves practical Jewish and non-Jewish interests and while the land undoubtedly was given to us in perpetuity, is a different matter. One does not entail the other.
While I don’t see how Jews can view our mission in the wide world as having been already completed, allowing us to return all together to our land, seeing the Jewish mission as finished and complete makes perfect sense from a certain Christian viewpoint. In that view, our chief purpose on earth, providing the person of Jesus as humanity’s savior, was actually accomplished 2,000 years ago. It’s arguable that Christians invented modern Zionism.
So, job well done, Jews! Why not all go back and live in Israel? Or course, I can’t go along with that, precisely because I am Jew.
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