Michael Jackson

God and Israel    

On September 12th, 2001, Pat Robertson knew that God had punished New York City for its tolerance of homosexuality.  On September 10th, he may have thought God would punish some locale in the US because of homosexuality, but on 9/12/2001, he knew where, when, how, and why God inflicted his punishment.  It may be gratifying to some that such an illustrious person as Pat Robertson knows the mind of God.  But he is not alone among religious leaders or lay believers in this hubristic belief.

On the TOI blogs in a response to a post of mine, David wrote “Hashem gave this land to the Jewish people so there are NO OCCUPIED TERRITORIES & NO ILLEGAL SETTLEMENTS!”  (his capitalization).  David also knows God’s mind, deeds, and intentions, although I doubt he and the late Pat Robertson would have agreed about what God wanted.  David claims his belief is grounded in a God-given scripture, whereas Pat Robertson’s beliefs are idle speculation and groundless wish fulfillment.  The biblical narrative does write of God’s promises of the Land of Israel to the Israelites.  It also writes of horrible punishments conditioned on their behavior or, rather, misbehavior.

If one accepts the biblical writings as God-given, one can, plausibly, extract David’s political beliefs from biblical statements.  But many other sincere Jewish believers in God’s word do not extract such political beliefs.  Of greater relevance is that the majority of Israelis do not accept this political interpretation.  Overwhelmingly, globally, most people do not.  Assumed theological inevitability does not translate to political inevitability.

The problem is that such beliefs are transmitted from generation to generation.  Their adherents cannot be disabused from their beliefs; their relinquishment can only come from within.  From this Wikipedia summary of political beliefs in Israel it seems that religious beliefs have been fairly stable across almost 30 years:  “Concerning the existence of a deity, the results of four major polls, conducted between 2009 and 2019, imply that some 20% of Jewish Israelis do not believe in God: 11% ‘sometimes think God exists’ and 9% are convinced atheists Regarding other supernatural notions, 28% of respondents to the Guttman 2009 survey denied efficacy to prayer, 33% did not believe that the Jews are a chosen people, 35% did not affirm that the Law and the precepts are God-given, 44% rejected the notions of a World to Come and afterlife, and 49% did not believe in a future coming of a Messiah. These findings largely commensurate with the 1991 and 1999 surveys.”

Israel’s parliamentary system based on proportional representation means that religiously based political parties usually have inordinate power compared to their share of the vote.  The growth of religious nationalism embedded in the settler movement means that God’s purported plans for Israel may be attempted through Knesset legislation.  For example, some Knesset members seem to believe that God is an opponent of Israel’s Supreme Court.

Some yeshiva rabbis have argued that yeshiva talmudic and Torah studies protect Israel in a different, perhaps superior way, from the IDF. It would appear that God was unimpressed by their October 7th Simchat Torah prayers, study, and dancing.  They should all be drafted.

God is always a dangerous concept in the political sphere.  God only speaks through the voice of his various adherents with their contradictory viewpoints.  The movements that bring God into politics, for example, American Christian evangelicals, settler-based rabbis, Islamic jihadist imams, and Taliban rulers are uncompromising and utterly hate the “OTHER”.  Such political beliefs usually lead to disasters and carnage.   “God, guns, Gaza, and greenhouses” could be an alliterative slogan for Ben-Gvir (in English at least, i.e., God tells us to use guns to take over Gaza and build greenhouses.

I wish God would depart from Israeli politics but “GOD” is not leaving anytime soon.

About the Author
Born in London in 1949. Studied Maths at Warwick University. Came to Israel (WUJS program at Arad) in 1971. I became a citizen and served in the army in 1973. Returned to the UK in 1974. Worked in Information Systems. Married an American Orthodox woman in 1977 and moved to America. For a few years I have led a retiree philosophy class.
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