If we are to start a conversation about how Israel can step across the threshold of greatness—and become her destiny-- perhaps we should not begin with action recommendations; perhaps we should begin with some questions.
The backround: the Torah is the lifeblood of the Jewish people. It contains the essential code through which our Jewishness is expressed and transmitted generation to generation. This code is our spiritual DNA. Just as our biological DNA tells us we are human, so, too, our Torah DNA tells us we are Jewish; without Torah, we are not Jewish. You might want to remember that. You might not like the Torah. You might be afraid of it. You might prefer Jewish-without-Torah. But history has been clear: without Torah, we lose our spiritual identity. Ultimately, without Torah, we always lose our ‘Jewish’.
For our purposes here, DNA has three forms and functions. Our human DNA determines what type of individual we become—male or female, tall or short. Our spiritual DNA determines what religion we become—the nature of our spirituality. Our national DNA determines what kind of nation we become.
In general, DNA is the basic building block of life. It stores the instructions necessary for biological life to develop. Our Torah performs the same function for our soul, and our religious identification performs the same function for our nationhood. But unlike biological DNA, which is automatic and ‘not conscious’, our spiritual DNA and our nationhood DNA actuate only through conscious decision-making: we have to choose it and we have to act on it—it’s a case of, use it or lose it.
The problem is, Torah (our spiritual DNA) and Jewish identification (our national DNA) take effort. They require commitment. It is not easy. Many believe that Torah and Jewish identification are not important. But that may not be true. In fact, Torah and ‘Jewishness’ are not simply the key to our personal or communal spiritual life—which they certainly are—they are also the key to Israel’s place in the Middle East. Torah and Jewish identity are key to our national future. They affect the chemistry of the entire Middle East because they are connected to a real issue-- Arab refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish State.
For several months now, we have seen an increasing numbers of references to this refusal. The Arab will not even discuss the matter; he simply refuses to acknowledge our Jewishness. He will not say the words, ‘Israel is a Jewish State.’ We scoff at this refusal. We take insult at it--but I wonder, isn’t the Arab correct? It is a singular question. In fact, it is the first question we need to ask if we are to move forward, towards our national destiny.
Since making aliyah, I see a lot of Jews (obviously). I believe that, based on my observations, I can often see who among us looks ‘Jewish’ and who does not. I have also seen many Arabs among us. I have watched them. I have interacted with them. I have stood in line and watched as they speak to and work with all kinds of Israelis. I see what they see: Jews who are religious and Jews who are not religious; Jews who appear to know about Judaism and Jews who do not. I have concluded that Arabs recognize us: they understand who looks “Jewish” and who looks “not Jewish”.
So when Israeli politicians or TV commentators who do not look or act “Jewish” say they want the Arab to call us the ‘Jewish’ State, I can understand how the Arab would say, ‘Why? You don’t look Jewish or act Jewish. Why should I call you something you obviously are not? It’s a fair question. Perhaps our Arab neighbors are telling us something about ourselves. Perhaps if we were “Jewish”, the world would be more willing to agree with us that these denials are laughable.
Our Torah teaches us how to deal with this problem. Our Torah inspires because it operates on multiple levels. It multi-tasks--successfully. It is not only the key to our personal spiritual life. It is the catalyst that energizes the connection between our spiritual identity and our national identity. Biological DNA affects fish, flies and humans; our spiritual DNA affects both our spirituality and the very land we stand on. It affects who we are and shapes how we relate to the land. If you read the Torah you will see how ‘Israel’ and ‘Torah’ go hand-in-hand. If the Torah did not exist, there would not be close to six million Jews in Israel today. We are here for a reason and that reason is our Torah. Jews come here because this is our Homeland; and remember, this is not our Homeland because of the Holocaust, which ended 66 years ago; it is our Homeland because of a 3,300 year-old document we call our Torah. When we live on this land we know that the Torah exists. Indeed, our future depends on the link between Torah and land because it is part of the Promise: we need the land to fulfil our national and spiritual destiny. Like the traditional American song about ‘love and marriage’, we cannot have one without the other—Torah and land.
The Left calls us to reject our Jewishness. They call for us to reject our Torah. But to those who seek to renew Zion—to build a new-Zion to replace post-Zion—we keep this Land only when we understand Heritage and Homeland, Torah and Israel, our spiritual and national DNA. Haven’t you noticed? The more completely a politician removes himself or herself from our religion, the more eagerly they seek to give away our land—and the quicker they are to give away our land, the easier it becomes for the Arab to separate the Jew from this land.
It’s that simple. Like it or not, Judaism is the glue that keeps us on this land and the rejection of Judaism will unglue us from this land. This is the mission of the Left: unglue Judaism. It is their ultimate goal—unglue Judaism so Israel can be free! But they are wrong for when you unglue Judaism, you lose the land; and when you lose your land you will lose your freedom.The next time you see a call for a two-state solution ask yourself two questions: (1) Are you Jewish? (2) If yes, do you want your future national destiny to be determined by someone who rejects Judaism? Let’s be honest here: you cannot have it both ways. You cannot claim to defend Israel by throwing away Judaism, and you cannot claim to defend Judaism while you give away land that our Torah says does not belong to you—it belongs to G-d. Judaism and the land: they always go together. Break the link and you destroy it all.
The Arab knows this. His message to us is clear: if we ignore the link between Torah and Land, so will he. If we ignore our Jewishness, so will he. If we ignore our spiritual and national DNA, so will he. The Arab likes this because he knows the truth: the more we reject our DNA, the closer he comes to getting our land. Torah and land; they cannot be separated. If we wish to step across the threshold to greatness—and discover triumph in today’s negative headlines-- perhaps we might begin with three questions:
- If we do not act ‘Jewish’, why should the Arab call us Jewish?
- If we reject Judaism, do we have any historic right to this land?
- Finally, if we throw away our spiritual DNA, will Jews really have a future on this land?
You may not like Torah. You might be afraid of it. But the truth is, Torah is the secret to our survival. It is the source of our strength. It is why you can still say you are ‘Jewish’. It is also the answer to the Arab denial—but only if you have the courage to act. You see, if you change how you act you will change what you hear—and when you do that, you will be the one who brings us to our singular destiny.