Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Secular Zionism and Despair

On a tape of one of his shiurim, I heard Rabbi Yisroel Reisman explain that the Yesod, the fundamental principle, of Zionism is Yei'ush: Despair.

He offers this explanation in the context of the policies followed by the Israeli government, saying that politicians such as Shimon Peres do not advocate the policies they do because they are stupid, but rather because of the sense or principal of despair that is part of what Zionism is and where it historically comes from. Theodore Herzl's Zionism originated as a reaction--a reaction to Anti-Semitism, to a threat to Jews--seeing the only hope for Jewish survival in the creation of a Jewish State.

But today such a Zionism remains reactive instead of proactive, basing itself on the need to respond to threats in order to preserve the Jewish existence. That kind of worldview has developed into a readiness to compromise--to return land, to disengage populations, and to redefine boundaries ever more narrowly.

And just maybe, because such a Zionism sees present-day Israel as the creation of a Jewish state, rather than the re-creaction or re-estatablishment it has risked weakening itself not just geographically and politically, but philosophically as well, with the advent of the New Zionists who have turned modern Israeli history upside down and undemined Israel's moral standing--not only in her own eyes but in the eyes of the world at large.

Religious Zionists--who see Israel today as a continuation and a link of historical Israel and face the future with a sense of Emunah and the will to stand their ground...literally--cannot afford to gloat, feel superior, or separate themselves from the rest of Israelis. The need for all Israelis--and all Jews--to pull together becomes increasingly clear as the danger becomes more apparent and more outspoken, wearing increasingly sophisticated guises in order isolate and destroy both Israel and the Jews.

It is nothing new to say that at times Israel has been its own worst enemy or that the media in Israel has been a veritable wellspring of anti-Israel material for those who wish to attack her. But with Israel facing once again a critical juncture in what appears to be an endless line of critical moments in her history, Israel has the opportunity with elections coming up of changing direction and moving forward.

Jews all over the world wait to see the results of the Israeli elections and, more importantly, in the aftermath of those elections what Israelis will do in response to the expected policies.

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