Ariel Beery
Dedicated to solving problems facing humanity with sustainable and scalable solutions

Our Two Words

An Israelite stepping out of the sea towards the promised land (generated by Gemini by Google)

How the first step towards a better Israel can begin tonight with two words

‘Free Palestine’ is all protesters need to sufficiently convey an entire vision for Israel, one where the land between the river and the sea is free of Jewish self-determination. ‘Jewish State’ was all Theodore Herzl needed to invite proto-Zionist groups to come together in Basel in 1897. ‘Peoplehood’ is what those who decided to not move to Israel yet felt loyal to a greater Jewish nation used to describe the Diaspora’s connectedness. There is no entity more powerful to mobilize humans than a vision encapsulated in two words. Two concepts intertwined, representing the future we hope for and are willing to sacrifice to attain.

Tonight will be the seventh night of Passover. We began the holiday by celebrating the release of Israel from bondage. On this night, which traditional Jews celebrate as a holiday or Yom Tov (Good Day), we can imagine ourselves having crossed the sea of reeds, setting our first foot down as a free people. A march towards a future described by two words: the Promised Land.

In recent years, however, many of us have lost the ability to envision our future. Those of us who believe Israel must remain liberal and democratic, resilient and integrated into the Developed World, are caught in the narrow straits. Between the Anti-Zionists of Free Palestine on one side, and the Anti-Zionists of the Judean Kingdom on the other. For us in the middle, we need our Two Words. Two concepts that rest on generally accepted assumptions and understandings.

For example, a Jewish State, when Herzl proposed it, meant a Nation State that would represent the culture and history and society of the Jews. The Judean Kingdom furthered by the National Zionist party – sometimes using the same words in Hebrew, Medina Yehudit – is a messianic vision to transform Israel into a theocratic entity ruling all of the lands ancient Israel conquered. Each of these Two Words can, of course, be further described: the Promised Land (two words describing to slaves a vision of ownership and self-determination) was described by Moses by the concept of a Land Flowing with Milk and Honey. Milk and honey, to agriculturalist ears, being products created through stewardship of the land, the result of consistent, productive work that reflect a pride of ownership and a stability of place.

Unfortunately, our political leadership is unable to recognize the two words that brought us this far – Jewish State – no longer mean what they meant, what they were intended to mean, when our ancestors sacrificed to build the State of Israel. As we experienced since January 4, 2023, attempts to define Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State have failed to unite, the tension between the two concepts tearing our people in half. As the terrors of October 7 recede, that same tear is emerging without Two Words to heal it. As Oded Adomi-Leshem notes this weekend, this lack of vision is a function of the type of political campaign Benjamin Netanyahu has waged for decades: a politics of skepticism, of practicality, a politics where the everyday is used to divide and conquer and no larger vision unites us. A politics bereft of hope.

Political leaders in the opposition are, at best, a better alternative than Netanyahu. We have no Moses to guide us between these narrow straits. Between the anti-Zionist cliffs, between the Jewish and Democratic faults. We have yet to hear a clarion call for a new vision, a new hope, from anyone with current standing. We have yet to hear two words that can bring us together around a vision for Israel that reflects our values. One in which we all join together to safeguard our communities from those who would harm us. One in which our commitment to returning our loved ones from bondage is paramount. One in which we all ensure that no child lives in hunger, that the widow and orphan and wounded in battle are cared for. One in which there is one law for all of us, including the resident non-Jew who lives among us, since we were strangers in an unjust land and do not wish that fate on anyone.

When we sat for the Seder we were all Hebrews, seeing ourselves as if we were about to come out of Egypt. As we sit for the Seventh Night, may we all place ourselves in the shoes of Moses. Seekers of the Two Words. What are the two words you would use to describe the future you would like to inhabit? How could you describe your vision for the world your or your friends’ children could raise their children in? And most importantly, which two words do you believe can have the heft, the gravity, to direct those of us who remain inspired by the Zionist vision and seek to live in peace and prosperity to make the necessary sacrifices to arrive at that promised land?

Wishing you a liberating end to the holiday, and a purposeful first step on the long march towards a better future.

* * *

Looking for an activity for your holiday table on this Seventh of Passover? Here is what we are going to do: take a set of index cards and write on them words that have been used to encapsulate visions throughout history. One word per card. Mix and shuffle the deck, and set out before the table a collection of eight cards at a time. Circling the table clockwise, each person identifies a pairing of the words, what they believe is behind the concept they create together, what the implications are for the present, and describes the potential future that would result if those two words were the Two Words (or, if you want to get really fancy, pair two concepts against one another as in ‘Jewish State’ vs ‘Free Palestine’).

You will notice that some of the ‘words’ are actually conceptual blocks described with more than one ‘word.’ That’s intentional, and reflects that some ‘words’ are compounds in some languages, and described more verbosely in others.

Here are the pairs of Two Words we will be using for our cards:

1 (a) Jewish (b) State

2 (a) Free (b) Palestine

3 (a) Halakha/Theocratic (b) Medinat/Kingdom

4 (a) Or/Light (b) La’Goyim/To the Nations

5 (a) We (b) the People

6 (a) Greater (b) Israel

7 (a) Medinat/State (b) Kol Ezrakheia/of All its Peoples

8 (a) Medinot/States (b) Israel/of Israel

9 (a) Promised (b) Land

10 (a) Hebrew (b) Republic

11 (a) Hofshi/Free (b) B’Artzeinu/in our Land

12 (a) Spiritual (b) Center

Have other sets of two words you would suggest? Please add them in the comments!

About the Author
Ariel Beery is a strategist and institution builder dedicated to building a better future for Israel, the Jewish People, and humanity. His geopolitical writings - with deeper dives into the topics addressed in singular columns - can be found on his substack, A Lighthouse.
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