Two events recently seemed to highlight that the Jewish State has a severe case of schizophrenia. One the one hand, the annual Yom Ha’Aztmaut ceremony, complete with the heads of the political and military echelons of Israel singing, or attempting to sing, popular Zionist songs, honouring 120 exceptional soldiers at the President’s residence in Jerusalem reminded us that we have good and motivated people to proudly show us the way. Yet the same week, the President of the Ben Gurion University invited MK Haneen Zoabi, of all people, to a panel whose theme was, “Who is an Israeli?” If that would not have been so sad, it just might have been funny.
Anyone who regularly reads Haaretz or listens to some of the political statements of some leading academics at Israeli universities will have to agree with Sarah Tuttle-Singer’s recent observation that,
A lot of people have a hard time with Jewish people being in a position of power. Including ourselves, apparently.
One of the gravest challenges to contemporary Zionist pride, according to Yoram Hazony is the phenomenon of “Post-Zionism.” In his book The Jewish State: the Struggle for Israel’s Soul he states that,
Today there exists the possibility that Buber’s ideological children are on the verge of transforming Israel into precisely that which the early dreamers of Zion had fought to escape: A State devoid of any Jewish purpose or meaning, one that can neither inspire the Jews nor save them in distress.
Hazony’s scathing attack on Post-Zionism and its proponents would seem to bode ill for the future of Israel. Hazony states that the problem with this trend is the manner that “every aspect of Zionism is made to appear individuous, every ideal repugnant and every adherent loathsome” (p.19). This all contributes towards the disconnect felt by some Israelis and Jews towards Israel.
One of the leading proponents of Post-Zionism is Tom Segev. Segev in his book Elvis in Jerusalem: Post-Zionism and the Americanization of Israel claims that recently unearthed archival documents from the early years of the State showed that,
Israel’s history was less beautiful, less noble less innocent, less just and less wise than the country had always claimed.
This kind of self-doubt and reassessing the “carved in stone” educational foundations of Israel’s history is a major contributing factor to the lack of pride, clarity and direction for some in contemporary Israel.
Whilst no country is perfect, what Israel’s homegrown detractors seem to forget is just how much Israel has achieved in the first sixty-five years of its existence. We have revived our language, made the desert bloom, rebuilt our homeland, ingathered our exiles, have the ability to defend our homeland and protect Jews worldwide and we strive to make the world a better place for all of its inhabitants.
Israel is more than just a, “nation like other nations.” We strive to be a, “light unto the nations.” Daniel Gordis succinctly summed it up when he stated that, in addition to striving for the benefit our own citizens,
This country has become a country, with all of its imperfections, that sees as part of its purpose as looking out for other people.