Steven Horowitz
Steven Horowitz

Israel’s Future and the Rabbinic Civil War

Zionism has always been a revolt against rabbinic authority. Messianic Zionism is a movement essentially outside the purview of any one group of rabbis or any one theological interpretation. In order to accomplish Messianic unity, the Ethiopian Jewish community will play a crucial role in challenging the central tenet of Orthodox oral law belief. That is, that the various Talmudic interpretations of Halacha were never given to the whole of the Jewish people as exemplified by the lack of such oral precepts by an entire tribe (Dan). To the Ethiopian Jews, what was received by Moses at Mt. Sinai was the Torah, and not the Talmud.

One could further imagine that the Messianic task will be to unite all the Jewish people behind a G-d-centered program of peace and global justice during an uncertain era of nuclear weapons and geopolitical danger. This will also happen within a backdrop of dire economic uncertainty caused by unparalleled ecological dread. If G-d wills, it could happen; it is our choice to obey, or not to obey.

Over a century ago, G-d had willed Zionism as the political-military ingathering of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. This was accomplished over the harsh objections of the Orthodox rabbinical establishment. To this very day, many in the Orthodox community reject Zionism as the essential precursor to the Messianic Age. In vain, the ultra-Orthodox still await an ahistorical and purely spiritual redemption from the Diaspora to the Promised Land. This places them in the same theological category as Christianity, the purely spiritual return of Jesus to cleanse the earth of all sin. Messianic Zionism rejects the concept of a Messianic Age outside, and separate from, human free will working within a historical-material context, albeit with a Divine partnership. The Messianic Age could last for millennia before final judgement takes place.

The G-d of History will change history within a material-historical context. If we choose the Divine Plan, the five-thousand-year global history of unending war will eventually become the peaceful Messianic Age. This might happen in a lifetime or in a series of lifetimes. However, the choice of peace is all of ours to make. Jews and Muslims and all the nations of the world must participate.

Messianic Zionists must forcefully reject Jewish theological bickering. Until the reconstruction of the institution of the Sanhedrin (as chosen without discrimination from the entire Jewish people) Zionist authorities must not choose between disparate Torah interpretations. Messianic Zionism means that Israel is a bridge between eras. When the very confirmation of the material-historic Messianic Age arrives, only then can the Sanhedrin reconvene. Until such time, it is paramount that the Zionist political parties in Israel — using only the non-religious institutions of the Israeli state — unite within the context of a new peace paradigm. Religious Zionist political parties, who believe that the Messianic Age can only be established through conquest (of the Palestinians) and orthodoxy alone, dramatically work AGAINST such an age.

Zionist political parties must unite within a broad coalition. This can only be accomplished when both the center-left and the center-right of the political spectrum can agree on an alternative approach to both regional and local peace. The so-called two-state solution is the stumbling block to achieving a political revolution of the vast political center (without the ultra-Orthodox political parties) in Israel.

This two-state solution has now reached a dead end. It is rejected by a majority of the Palestinian population, including a vast majority of its youth. It was originally conceived of by the PLO as a vehicle — in a long-term, step-by-step manner — for the very destruction of the Zionist enterprise. The two-state solution is now rejected by young Palestinians because the Israeli government has placed too high a price on the security of the state to allow such devious machinations to be successful.

Democracy, shared-rule for the disputed territories, the sovereignty of G-d over Jerusalem (as a symbol of the Messianic Age), and the political linkage of the West Bank Palestinian population with their East Bank compatriots, can serve as an alternative model for peace. Centrist Zionist unity will depend on this model. Jewish conquest of the West Bank will NEVER usher in a Messianic Age. The same is true for Orthodox theological authoritarianism. Thus, Zionist political parties must unite outside both of these frameworks. They must be extremely careful to maintain their strategic security by not alienating the US Jewish Diaspora (Conservative and Reform), and thereby the US government. Someday a leftist Democratic Party will be in power in Washington. In such a scenario, religious liberal and politically progressive US Jews must know that Israel is united, under an umbrella of religious liberty, with a fair and equitable peace plan.

Personally, I don’t understand why any Jewish person should be treated any differently than any other. All should be welcomed at the Western Wall without discrimination. No one sect of the Jewish nation speaks exclusively for G-d. If I want to pray with my wife or my daughter or my mother or my sister at my side, at the Western Wall, the government of the State of Israel should establish a time and a place for that to happen.

Who is a Jew? None of us Jewish human beings have a universally definitive answer to that question. Ethiopians and Karaite Jews have one answer, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews have another, as do Conservatives and the Orthodox. Who can be a rabbi? It depends on your specific interpretation of Torah. The concept of a rabbi isn’t even in the Torah. In the Messianic Age, the Sanhedrin will decide all ethical, moral and theological questions. Until then, it is the responsibility of all the Jewish people to maintain the integrity and security of the State of Israel. To call for any one interpretation of Judaism as the only correct interpretation separates Jew from Jew, men from women, black from white, and the Diaspora from Jerusalem. This plays directly into all our enemies’ hands.

Let us, all, rise to the occasion through our support for a super-majority, Zionist National Unity government. A government which embraces Jewish unity, theological liberty and peace with all Israel’s neighbors. Only such a government can secure a bright Jewish future. True Messianic Zionism requires that the current Israel-Diaspora rabbinic civil war be taken out of the Knesset and rendered mute within all the halls of government. Unless such a political unification happens, our current war of the rabbis can only end very badly. For both Israel and its Diaspora and people all over the world who cherish the Jewish State, the future depends on political Zionist unity.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).