Why do we need a Jewish State? Herzl thought we need it so that we could be a normal nation, thus ending anti-Semitism: “Then no foreign law will concern us, no hatred will exist, there will be no persecution in anti-Semitic lands.” (The Return to the Homeland will Soon Begin,Theodore Herzl, Oct. 1898)
Zionism succeeded, surpassed expectations and built a glorious state. The Jews returned to their Land, emerged from the status of separate communities and once again became a nation. Jewish history was once again written from Jerusalem.
But did Zionism achieve its goal?
We can say that the operation succeeded, but the anti-Semitism disease did not exactly disappear; it simply changed its name. Instead of anti-Semitism, we now call it anti-Zionism or anti-Israel. Instead of denouncing the Jews, Israel is denounced.
Israeli frustration stems from the fact that the more ‘normal’ we are, the more we are distanced from Zionism’s goal. The more that we adopt the principles of the West, shattering in the process all identities and essence, the more we appease our enemies and give them the heartland of our Homeland on a silver platter; the more we lose the legitimacy of the new Israeli – first and foremost, in the most significant power centers of Western culture (the universities).
Israel’s Left refuses to suffice itself with existence bereft of meaning. It stubbornly clings to Zionist destiny and blames the Right for its failure. Israel’s Right has given up on meaning and destiny and wages a dead-end, meaningless war for existence that has no long-term chance.
The ultra-Orthodox choose the religion of the exile and anticipate the Mashiach.
And the Religious Zionists choose the Right and anticipate the Mashiach.
Amazingly, non-Jewish lovers of Zion did not see Zionism as a movement to normalize the Jews or as a solution for anti-Semitism. The Balfour Declaration and its supporters were certainly politically motivated, but the Declaration also had many reasoned opponents. On a lever deeper than politics, the Balfour Declaration was motivated by Biblical romance and anticipation of rectification of the world, which would come when the Eternal Nation would return to Zion. The modern development of the original culture of the children of the prophets was supposed to have created an exemplary society, herald universal liberty and renewed closeness between humanity and its Creator, Who had returned to dwell among His Nation in Jerusalem.
In a conversation with Professor Ze’ev Tzachor (President of the Sapir College) British intellectuals explained the reason for Israel’s loss of legitimacy in the world in a surprising manner: “We dreamed of a place where the new Book of Books would be written as we approach the redemption of the world. For you are, after all, a treasured nation. The world had expectations, and look what you have done.”
Loss of legitimacy is the greatest danger hovering over Israel’s existence, greater than any nuclear bomb. It turns out, then, that adherence to ‘existence’ while denying ‘destiny’ creates the greatest existential threat possible.
According to Herzl’s vision, we were supposed to be speaking German, possibly in Uganda. But the Jewish Nation insisted on returning to Zion and to its original language. Deep inside, the Jews sensed that the Nation has no existence without destiny and that the State of the Jews cannot stand without a meaningful message.
Now, when we walk in our Land and speak our language, the time has come to emerge from the Zionism of existence and embrace the Zionism of destiny. The time has come to pour content and meaning into every facet of our national affairs – meaning that will lend reason and fortitude to our sovereign existence; meaning that will vitalize Israel’s citizens (particularly the youth); meaning that will restore the feeling of solidarity and relevance to our message – the message that will transform the State of Israel into something much larger than the sum of its parts.