The Jewish State We Argue About

Having a Jewish state is the greatest thing ever.

And the hardest.

Israel has turned into the main center of vibrant Jewish culture, life, thought and innovation, not to mention self-determination, protection and security for any and all Jews who want to call Israel their home. In some ways, it far exceeds the visions of its founders and its early pioneers.

But in other ways, it has created a level of tension and strife between Jews that maybe hasn’t existed in 2000 years. 

In the Diaspora, different kinds of Jews rarely, if ever, have to speak to each other or even recognize one another as belonging to the same tribe. Growing up secular in America, I saw many religious Jews, but never spoke to a single one of them. Not a single one.

In Israel, we don’t have that “luxury”. Jews of all kinds are forced to drive on the same highways, stand on the same lines, fight over the same parking spots and vote in the same elections in an attempt to create a country that comes somewhat close to their vision of what a Jewish state should look like.

So should mini markets be allowed to be open on Shabbat in Israel?

Of course not.

And of course yes.

It’s so not simple.

And it makes me wonder how much more this issue will splinter Israeli society. How much more it will push people apart. And much more splintering and pushing apart we can take before the whole thing falls apart.

But then I think that at least these are the kinds of things we argue about. These are the issues we debate.

Together. Even if from our own separate and stubborn sides.

After 2000 years, we get to create a country, a society that we can call our own. We get to create a Jewish state.

It might not be easy. And it might not always seem fair.

But at least it’s ours. And it’s Jewish.

In this sovereign nation of ours, all kinds of Jews from all over the religious and societal and political spectrum care deeply about what their country looks like and what their country stands for. Religious, secular, Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Tel-Avivin, kibbutznik. Doesn’t matter. Most feel pride in this place. Most feel obliged to give something of themselves to the safety and security and betterment of this place. 

And maybe that commonality will be what truly unites us in the end.

About the Author
Akiva Gersh moved to Israel from New York in 2004 and has been working in the field of Jewish and Israel Education for over 20 years. In 2020 he founded @Israel to share his love and passion for Israel with students, schools and communities around the world through his online classes, courses and virtual tours of Israel. Akiva is also the editor of the book "Becoming Israeli" (, a compilation of essays that gives an inside look at the unique experience of making aliyah and the journey of acclimating to life in Israel. He also created a social media platform called "Vegan Rabbi" through which he teaches about Jewish teachings related to health, animal welfare and environmental stewardship. Akiva lives in Pardes Hanna with his wife Tamar and their four kids.