Secular Assimilation or Messianic Zionism?

Since 1948 Jewish history has been torn asunder. The return of the Jews to the ancient Land of Israel (as sovereigns) was not supposed to be achieved by atheist Marxists. On the contrary, for over two millennia, a people who had lost their homeland through revolt against a world empire had relied on a supernatural force to initiate a miraculous and redemptive return of the people to their land. However in Jewish rabbinic thought and interpretation, the narrative of Divine re-unification of a particular people with a particular land was never paramount. Jewish redemption was also envisioned within a world unification, as a precursor to a global community of nations living in peace. This Messianic vision was always perceived (by the Jews) as the long-awaited dramatic bifurcation within human history.

But G-d works in mysterious and novel ways. Leftist Zionism was a direct revolt against rabbinic Judaism. And it succeeded in a short half century! This was accomplished without the blessing of the rabbis of the Orthodoxy. The religious establishment, almost universally, stood opposed to such an extreme deviation from their conception of the “correct course” of Jewish history. Even to this day, rabbinic Orthodoxy has yet to embrace secular or religious Zionism. But unlike the Orthodox spiritual narrative of two millennia, the Marxist Zionists — who in 1948 militarily defeated the Arab nations and the British-led imperial forces from Jordan — were supplied by other Marxists. And they achieved victory with many casualties, totaling one percent of the entire Jewish population of the new UN-approved State of Israel.

The events of 1948 (and over the course of the next seven decades) can only be characterized as brutal warfare. It was definitely not some miraculous redemption. Secular liberal Zionism eventually replaced the old Jewish Marxist leadership, but only because the Middle East had become a proxy testing-ground between the US and the USSR. For the most part, the liberal Zionists of both the left and the right remained essentially atheist. The Jews from Arab lands — who were expelled from across the region by their Muslim hereditary rulers — were not Zionists. They were traditional Orthodox Jews with no place to go other than Israel. To this day, very few vote for the secular left. These “Eastern Jews” remain traditionally Orthodox and generally vote either for their own Orthodox party or for the secular liberal right (Likud).

Traditional Orthodox rabbinic Judaism remains essentially indifferent to Zionism. The vast majority of these rabbis never attempted to reconcile with the modern history of their own people. So how does Jewish religious thought reconcile with Zionism?

The secular Zionists emphasized a national assimilation of a sovereign Jewish nation into the family of nations. In other words, the Jews were to become normalized, a people like everyone else. They aspired to a flag and an army and a currency. After two thousand years as a demilitarized minority — whose only shield from oppression was prayer and devotion to G-d — secular Zionism broke with tradition by urging human agency instead of Divine intervention. But there was an alternative religious conception. Messianic Zionism was a lone seed planted in Israel as a reinterpretation of events, that had neither the consent of the Orthodox establishment nor the respect of the secular Zionist rebellion against those very same rabbis.

A Jewish state, as defined by the Messianic Zionists, must never become a normal state. It was to be the beginning of a process of history leading to humanity’s eventual Redemption. Zionism was not to be a phenomenon leading to a kind of secular assimilation whereupon the Jewish people would become citizens of an unredeemed world in a perpetual state of conflict. For Messianic Zionists, G-d was not dead but an active force within a specific partnership between the Divine and humanity in order to achieve an eventual end to global conflict.

Israel was never be a “normal” country, but a country situated at the very center of the Muslim world to foster a special mission. Israel was created by atheists in order to serve a Divine purpose. If Israel and Islam could become reconciled, the Divine spark would emanate from the Middle East outward to the entire world.

Messianic Zionism isn’t about conquest; it’s about historical redemption and reconciliation. Its goal is not Holy War but Holy Peace. Judaism is a religion of peace, and so is Islam. The sovereign Jewish presence within the Land of Israel is sanctioned through both Torah and Koran. All true Muslims know this to be a fact. Israel’s presence as a Jewish state is a Divine injunction.

But a war of conquest — a Holy War — cannot become a conduit into a Messianic Age. War is an anathema to historical Redemption. More importantly, it is an affront to the Divine Spirit. War is against the Ten Commandments. Islam and Judaism both recognize the events at Mt. Sinai. So why is it that they cannot recognize the truth in their historic potential? Messianic Zionism must find its voice through its outreach to Israel’s neighbors. Without an intense outreach, Messianic Zionism becomes mere pretense, the hollow inaction of those pretending aspirations toward the Divine.

Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis all live within the boundaries of the ancient Land of Israel. The very gates of Redemption reside within their grasp. If there is to be peace, Israel within the 1949 armistice lines and an Arab state east of the Jordan River must seek to integrate the disputed territories of Judea-Samaria (the West Bank) and Jerusalem into a living symbol of peace and reconciliation. This plan is in direct opposition to either the goal of total conquest (Holy War) or the separation fence being offered by the so-called “two-state solution”.

The Palestinians conceive of the “two-state solution” as a stepping stone toward total conquest. That is why such a plan is even acknowledged by the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas) as a mere temporary understanding. The plan was originally conceived by the PLO, when that organization realized that Israel could only be defeated in “stages”. The total liberation of Palestine has always been the goal of the PLO and Hamas.

Left-liberal, secular Zionists want to abandon Judaism’s Holy lands in order to assimilate into a European world of atheism. The goal of the Israeli liberal-left is not a Holy Redemption between Judaism and Islam, but rather a diplomatic initiative directed toward Washington, London, Paris and Berlin. In their worldview, politics trumps Divine purpose, and history can never be redeemed. Zionism, as secular assimilation, is a complete break from Jewish history. As such, its narrative lacks any kind of specific Jewish coherence, causing innumerable divisions within its national fabric. Meanwhile, the Israeli left refuses to understand that the goal of the Palestinians has always been conquest and Holy War.

The world’s powers situated on the UN Security Council are once again at each others’ throats. The only issue they seem to agree upon is that the Jews should not be allowed to live in Judea and Samaria. Messianic Zionism must offer the Palestinians, and all Muslims, a regional peace initiative in conjunction with a durable plan to integrate Jerusalem and the disputed territories of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Anything less would not be Messianic Zionism. To attempt to conquer all the land would mean perpetual Holy War.

The Jewish settlements within Judea and Samaria are religiously justified within Koran and Torah. They must be perceived as stepping-stones to an eventual shared rule of the territories and Jerusalem, through human goodwill in accordance with a Divine partnership. Messianic Judaism must have a plan for the Messianic Age. This plan must include Islam. Until the day arrives when Jews and Muslims can look upon each other as brothers and sisters, both religions will have failed.

The final goal of Jewish history cannot be mere survival, as secular Zionist assimilation would ascribe. Jewish history must seek a higher calling. In such an endeavor, Islam would become its natural partner. Anything less could never call itself messianic. A Judaism that seeks conquest above reconciliation is neither rabbinic nor Messianic. It is simply — pure nationalism. The same is true for Islam. The Religion of Peace must truly be a religion at peace. Its leadership must emphasize and teach peace as its highest ideal.

The roof of Zion resides in the hands of its inhabitants. It is yet to be built. But it will never be built by atheists’ walls of separation. Peace can only be achieved through a vision of Divine authorship and a devotion to the souls of all who have been created in the image of the Creator. This is the end-goal of Messianic Zionism.

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).