The contentious line, “To be a free people in our land”, has been interpreted by some as being racist. Let me explain why it is far from that.
The line states that we Jews yearn to be free in our own land – it says nothing about anyone else not being free. It says nothing about oppressing anyone else or discriminating against them. Anyone who reads such thoughts into that line needs to ask themselves why they do.
Here is how I understand that line: Finally, we are free to decide what kind of nation we want to build. We are free to determine our own destiny and to design a future that is consistent with our values. Our Zionist nation will be discriminatory, racist and exclusionary only if that is the kind of nation we want to build. On the other hand, our Zionist nation can be a model of democracy, a model of inclusiveness, a model of respect and accountability if THAT is what we want to build.
For the first time in modern history, we have within our grasp the opportunity to build a Jewish home to which we invite our minority citizens to partake and contribute according to the highest principles of democracy and freedom. There are no dhimmis here.
I wonder if those who see racism in our national anthem are being overly influenced by the unceasing criticism leveled against us for our chutzpah in thinking we can build a just society and be a sovereign Jewish nation all at the same time.
We need to ask ourselves – are we ready yet for being a free people in our land? Are we ready to take pride in our accomplishments and hold our heads up high? Are we ready to work peacefully and respectfully at resolving the differences among us so that all of us together get to contribute to our self-definition? Are we ready to confront our own misgivings, our own sense of lack of entitlement, our own fear of our unknown future, our own lack of confidence given that we are such a young modern nation?
And just how do we define a nation as Jewish and include the non-Jews among us in building that very definition without giving up on the Jewish part? Now that is a challenge! And if we are up to it then we will truly have come home, a free people in our land.