Very honoured to be asked to join the 2018 Festival of the Jewish Book Week in London.
A professor, an ex-MK, an ambassador, a journalist/author (and me) will discuss the question: Israel @ 70: Is the Country Facing an Identity Crisis?
Since being asked to join I have obviously been thinking about the question. I certainly see many issues on an almost daily basis that relate to the national, religious, political and cultural identity of Israel as a country, and perhaps more easily framed, the collection of multiple identities reflected by different national, religious, ethnic or even tribal groupings.
Everyone who knows Israel, knows that it is very dynamic, and indeed the questions raised by the question of identity are also dynamic.
What are the dynamics of the secular Jews of Israel? The tectonic dynamics of the Haredi communities? What happens when those identities and values collide, and is there a sensible way of managing those eruptions? What is happening to our collective religious identity – more religious, less religious or different religious? (How does this parallel trends that are sweeping the world). Where do the minority populations fit into this dynamism? Can they form part of the national identity, or simply remain locked into a separate national narrative (and of course how is this different for Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, Bedouin or Druze)?
I personally find this complexity and dynamism a cause for passion and excitement (and the occasional moments of frustration), but would not really see it is a crisis. Maybe’s it’s my optimistic or even naive nature.
Don’t get me wrong, after decades of concern over our country’s physical survival (and some would say the continuing struggle) we are only just now getting to think about the identity (collective and separate) of Israel as the sovereign state of the Jews. The dynamic relationship between democratic and Jewish values (contradiction or complementary), the tension between religion and state, the complexity of a multi-cultural society catering for anti-liberal minorities. And of course the strained relations between Israel and its biggest Diaspora in North America, itself “enjoying” the dynamics of changing societal baselines in both Israel and the Diaspora.
I am comforted by the fact that the assumption of Ben Gurion and the Chazon Ish (Israel’s founding Prime Minister and the Father of Israeli Haredism) that neither secular Zionism nor Haredi Judaism had the chance of survival was wrong (on both sides) comforts me, on the basis that if there is a crisis, it has kept us alive for 70 years, and perhaps with the perspective of Jewish history hundreds if not thousands of years.
If you have some thoughts about this question that you would like to share BEFORE the panel, please join me here to share them and debate it with others. Will certainly help me to be better prepared for Saturday night.
If you are in London and fancy joining, it’s Saturday 10th March, 8.30pm at the King’s Place (near St Pancras) and tickets are available here.