Could a Secular, Liberal, “Non-believer” Jew, Truly Support Israel?

One of the biggest philosophical questions I’ve been dabbling with, is whether or not a truly secular, liberal, “non believer” Jew such as myself, could really support, and even advocate the State of Israel.


I’ve always been a seeker. From the time I can remember myself as a little kid, I was drawn to the theological questions of God, faith and the purpose of life and our existence.

Growing up in a Moroccan-Jewish house in Israel, my immediate family were all traditional.

I’ve got few cousins who are rabbis from the Chabad and Breslov sect, and as a teenager, I myself even went through a phase of being “Shomer Shabbat” / religious for a short period of time.

Spirituality was always part of our faith at home, yet for me, the more I grew up and started exploring and asking the real tough questions about religion (a place where I feel my mom and many other religious people stop, fearing of what they might reveal), I got further and further away from the Jewish faith, and resided more comfortably, in the ancient Chinese Taoism and Indian Hinduism and Buddhism philosophies.

שיחות עם אמא – פרק שניבפרק זה, אמא ואני מדברים על הקשר שבן זוגיות לגורל, ההבדלים שבן רוחניות מצד אחד לדתות מאורגנות מצד שני, למה אני לא עושה את המסע הזה כחלק מארגון מסודר, והאם באמת מישהו בעל תפיסות עולם ״בודהיסטיות״, יכול להצליח במסע הסברה למען ישראל

Posted by Lior Vaknin on Sunday, 15 October 2017

These facts were no stranger to those who knew me personally, but I never spoke about it publicly or shared my religious views on social media and such.

Then this journey happened. And not only did it help me feel more liberated and open as to who I am and what I believe and stand for, but it also introduced me to so many different types of faiths and religions surrounding and within the Judaism that I grew up knowing as the only “true” one, that my basic assumptions of what Judaism really is were shattered, and things I once thought for a fact, suddenly resurfaced with a huge question mark next to them.

And there I was, 30 years of age, in the midst of this 50 State journey I took on myself to promote Israel, trying to understand what the basic of my identity, my Jewishness, even means!

So What Is Judaism?

For many people around the world and even in Israel, being Jewish means that a person follows the monotheistic religion of the Jews – the Torah.

However, close to 50% of the population in Israel identify itself as secular and half of all Jews in the United States don’t even belong to any synagogue.

But Judaism isn’t just a religion.

Judaism, unlike Christianity and Islam, was very strict on religious conversions and accepting converts, into its faith. What’s also unique about Judaism, is that unlike the Islamic faith, it choses to determine a person’s denomination, based on their mother’s religion and not their father’s.

The fact that these 2 elements were kept for thousands of years, made not just a cultural distinction, but also a genealogy one, between Jews and other groups.

Which means that Judaism not only a matter of faith and religion, but an ethnic and cultural group in its core!

2 Studies conducted in 2010 by by Gil Atzmon of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Harry Ostrer of New York University and Doron M. Behar of the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa and Richard Villems of the University of Tartu in Estonia, shows that Jewish communities from both Europe and Middle East (Ashkenazi and Sephardi) share many genes inherited from the ancestral Jewish population that lived in the levant some 3,000 years ago.

Why Does It Matter?

First, we just witnessed an historical event, where President Trump and the United States, recognized for the first time ever, Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the undisputed connection between the Jewish people and its land and Temple Mount.

Second (and more importantly for me), as a Jew and an Israeli, I feel like I am heavily involved and subjective in the legitimation question surrounding the very existence of the state of Israel.

This fact, didn’t stop me from trying to have a clear and neutral answer, as to whether I can actually continue my mission to support and promote Israel in all 50 States.

This might sound trivial but detaching my personal story and experience, being sincere with myself as much as I can without knowing what realization I may end up with, is a super scary task! This post has been in the making for months, and only now I feel like I finally found the courage to say what I think and feel, and share it with the world.

My conclusion

In an ideal, utopian world, we would all be living without any religious or borders!

We would be connected to nature and mother earth, and would see all living things as different expressions of ourselves, the universe!

We, humans, would understand that the reality we see in front of our eyes, the reality that is full of conflicts, wars, suffering and horrors we are causing one another, is nothing but an act, a divine play, a cosmic game (in the Hindu “Leela” sense of it).

But until that happens, the “I” which presents itself in front of you today, would want to make sure that he does his best in spreading goodness, love, and kindness in the world.

And so, the same way that I think the Armenian people should feel safe to live their lives and practice their faith freely on this earth, the same way the Tibetan people should feel safe to live their lives and practice their faith freely on this earth, so I believe the Jewish people, a group that’s been persecuted and have been targeted for thousands of years, and has been tried to be exterminated more than any other ethnic group in the history of the world; from the egyptians and romans to the babylonians and the nazis.

This people, my people, should feel safe to live their lives and practice their faith freely on this earth.

And there is no other place for us to do so, than our homeland – The State of Israel.

P.S. I’ve recently started a Patreon page, where people can contribute (as little as $1 per month) to my 50 States Journey. This will help me cover the different costs of living on the road.  Click To Support!


About the Author
Lior Vaknin, is an Israeli entrepreneur, and is currently on a mission to promote Israel's Startup Nation in all 50 States, and share with local communities how Israeli tech can help turn anyone to an Hasbara expert and a mini ambassador of the state of Israel. He's a former paratrooper with the IDF and the founder of the largest Israeli-American tech community in New York - Israeli Startups NYC.
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