Off the top, I should note that it seems absurd that over 60 years after declaring its independence, the world seems to remain obsessed with Israel's long-term chances for survival. True, in the first few years of the state there was serious reason for concern, given the poor economic situation and plethora of hostile enemies. Sixty years later however, Israel is a given fact in the world, even if millions of Muslims and assorted others can't seem to get their heads around that. No one asks - will India survive? Or what about Communist China? After all, they're about the same age, aren't they?
But there's something different about Israel, isn't there. It's a three-way divide between what people see as the purpose of the State, what Jews themselves see the State being and what it actually is.
Thus MacLean's lead article which had the optimistic title: Why Israel Can't Survive. Well, at least they're being honest about where they stand on the issue.
In short, the article noted that Israel has a choice to make in the next few years. It can remain a democratic state and, as demography shifts the majority from the Jewish to the Arab population, lose its existence and become at least a bi-national state wihtout anything distinctly Jewish about it. Or it can become an apartheid state, reducing its Arab population to second class status in order to preserve the Jewish nature of the country. But remain democratic and Jewish? Well, it can't have both.
Now, there are obvious holes in this thesis, enough to drive a truck through. One is that the so-called Palestinian population of Yehudah and Shomron are not citizens of the state. They do not vote, they have no say in the future direction of the country. And at last check, most of them were not lining up to take out citizenship either, if only because they'd get lynched by the criminals who run the Palestinian Authority. The Arabs to be concerned about are the ones who are Israeli citizens and, at this time, they are still very much a minority.
The second consideration is that almost all the numbers supplied by the Arabs in terms of population are at best suspect, and more likely horribly inflated lies. Given their track record on everything else they lie about, it isn't hard to be convinced that when they talk about over one million Arabs living in Aza and three million in the West Bank that one can safely reduce that number by at least 50% and still be overestimating the true total.
The third is that, were Israel subject to the normal course of events that occur to nations, it would long ago have been demographically swamped by the Arabs. Yet every time that the "time bomb" has come close to exploding, something has happened to adjust the Jewish population upwards, enabling it to keep its lead in the population race. When I lived in Israel back in the mid 80's, people were talking about the imminent loss of the Jewish majority. At that time the Arabs were 20% of the citizenship. Today, with all the same talk, they're still 20%.
So what is it that infuriates people about Israel? Why all the need to celebrate its 60th birthday with prognistications of doom and gloom?
Chris Hitchens gives one clue. He is profoundly disappointed that Israel has not fulfilled the arbitrary destinies that he has decided it was founded for:
Has Zionism made Jews more safe or less safe? Has it cured the age-old problem of anti-Semitism or not? Is it part of the tikkun olam—the mandate for the healing and repair of the human world—or is it another rent and tear in the fabric?
On the first two questions, the answer is "no" and "no". In truth, this is a tremendous disappointment for the original Zionist dream. One must remember that Theodore Herzl never had any intention of creating a Jewish State. His reaction to the l'affaire Dreyfuss was not to seek out God, Torah or his Jewish roots. Seeing that even the most assimilated Jews were still seen as "the other" by main-society Europe, he concluded that in order to show the world we were really just the same as them, we would need a state of our own in which we could be perfectly assimilated Europeans and produce a society just as great as the ones in Europe. I don't know if the contrary thought: that we are different, and that we need to return to our origins, our Torah and our God in order to fuifill our Jewish destiny ever occured to him.
That's why he had no difficulty with accepting the British offer to create a state in Uganda. He wasn't interested in the prayer believing Jews say thrice a day: Gather us from the four corners of the Earth to our Land.
And as the fulfillment of his dream, to create a country where Jews could live in safety and also prove to the world that we could be just as "goyish" as them, thereby curing anti-Semitism by crushing it with respect, Israel has been a tremendous disappointment.
And thank God for that!
Because, in truth, if Israel had been founded on those ideals and lived up to them, then every single Arab claim that we are simply colonial occupiers in a land not our own would be perfectly true. Isn't that what they claim now? Why us? they whinge. If you want to have a secular state, why on holy Muslim land? Why couldn't you have just bought the southern half of Florida? After all, you control all the banks so getting the money to do it wouldn't have been a problem. Why here, davka?
As for Hitchens' third objection, it's a crock to being with. Tikun olam is a term which has suffered much abuse at the hands of the non-observant Jewish community. It really means "making society work", such as filling in pot holes and making sure there's enough rest stops on the freeways. It does not mean ecological awareness, not littering or opposing global warming, despite Reform claims to the contrary. So Israel's founding really has nothing to do with the true meaning of tikun olam.
On the other hand, there is another use for the phrase in rabbinic literature. As most people who daven every day know, we end all our prayers with the Aleinu in which the phrase l'taken olam b'malchus sha-ai is written. "To rectify the world into the Kingdom of God". Ah, is the State of Israel part of that kind of tikun olam?
As believing Jews, we know that God has a plan for history. Our Sages of blessed memory make it clear in the Talmud that we can, through positive actions, speed up the final redemption but that this event will happen eventually nonetheless even if we fail. Could it be that the establishment of the State of Israel is part of that plan? Could it be that we are witnessing the first signs of the end of days as predicted by our holy sources?
I wouldn't expect MaClean's or Hitchens to know that or even care. But their ignorance is irrelevant to that in any case. In his masterpiece, Derishat Tzion, Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer clearly shows, using the words of our Prophets, that there will be two ingatherings of the exiles, the first to help prepare the land which will be desolate at the start, and the second the final ingathering when God Himself reveals His presence to the world.
If our Torah and our Bible are true, and we wholeheartedly believe they are, then it is not inconceivable that we are witnessing the first fulfillments of those ancient prophecies. The State of Israel is not an accident of history. It is not a punishment to the Arabs foisted upon them by Western states filled with guilt for their lack of action during the Shoah. It is not the result of a vote at the UN filled with political plotting. It is part and parcel of God's desire to bring our final redemption. It is the first flowering of that redemption and the fulfillment of promises made so long ago. And that, despite all the ill wishes to the contrary, is why Israel will survive.