Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Religious Zionism Must Lead

One of the dangers any movement faces is becoming complacent.  In the beginning a group of people set out with a goal and a plan to achieve it.  With good fortune and the help of Heaven they do that but what happens after success?  How many revolutions ended with the upstarts become the government they replaced?  How many advocates drift along mouthing slogans without any sense of further achievement?
It is the same with countries.  Many countries simply exist.  England, Russia, China, these countries aren't moving towards any meaningful accomplishment, they have no sense of purpose, they are simply there because they always have been. On the other hand the United States, until only a couple of decades ago was filled with a sense of purpose.  They were a beacon of democracy, the wellspring of true capitalism and the world's policeman, guaranteeing freedom from the autocracies that threatened civlized peoples.
What about Israel?  Does it serve a purpose?  Did it ever?
The second question is quite easy to answer.  The founding and maintaining of the State served a different purpose depending on which group you asked.  For Labour Zionism Israel's purpose was to show the world that Jews could create a European-style socialist state and be just as good as the Gentiles were at it.  For Religious Zionists it was about God turning history and helping us rebuild our national home in our Holy Land.
The problem with these visions is their success.  Labour Zionism did create a European-style socialist state on the eastern Mediterranean coast.  Jewish life did flower and prosper within it.  Sixty five years later Israel isn't simply a place on the map but an important member in the family of nations, a world leader in many areas and home to the largest Jewish community on Earth. 
So now what?
Eight years ago Ehud Olmert gave a speech which captured the ennui that had enveloped Labour Zionism and turned it into an apathetic post-Zionist movement.
"We are tired of fighting; we are tired of being courageous; we are tired of winning; we are tired of defeating our enemies."
Like a World Series champion that barely makes .500 the next season with almost the same line-up because the players no longer care as much, Olmert's vision of Israel was a simple one: We built a state, we survived every attempt to destroy us.  We'v proved ourselves.  There's nothing left.
It's no surprise that post-Zionism has turned Labour Zionism into a self-defeating movement.  One hundred and twenty years ago Theordore Herzl and the first Zionists announced they would take a patch of desert land under Ottoman rule and turn it into a modern state run for Jews by Jews.  Few world leaders and people of influence took them seriously at the time.  Today it seems almost inconceivable to recall a world in which Israel did not exist. 
But success has been the movement's undoing.  For us Israel is the rebirth of our ancient commonwealth.  The rest of the world sees it as a post-World War 2 upstart state (at best).  No one questions the right of France to exist (although if you ask me...) or whether or not the world needs a Nigeria.  Israel is the only country in the world that has to constantly justify its right to be on the map in any form, the only country whose borders are contested on an ongoing basis. 
The old answers don't cut it anymore either.  Is there a need for a European-style socialist state in the Middle East?  In these days of economic turbulence one could ask if there's a need for European-style socialist states in Europe, never mind the Levant. 
Do Jews need a life raft, a place to flee?  Well Israel certainly still fills that roll but the current overt danger to large Jewish communities outside of Israel is currently at a historic low.  That's not to say things can't or won't change, I won't be that presumptious, but at the moment the more dangerous place to be a Jew in the world is in Yesha, not Moscow.
Simply put, if someone were to ask what the net effect on the world would be from the forcible migration of Israel's Jews to Europe and North America what would the answer be?  Would Israel be missed?
This is where Religious Zionism comes in.  Unlike secular Zionism, the Dati Leumi do not see the founding and maintaining of the State as the end-all and be-all.  Certainly the existence of a Jewish state not run al pi halacha is not the goal of history or something desirable for observant Jews.
In contrast to the goal-fulfilled secular Zionists, Religious Zionism has to still sense a sense of purpose to the State.  No, the world would not be essentially the same if all Israeli Jews moved to Thornhill or Skokie.  God has moved history, manipulated events and changed the hearts of great leaders in order to bring us home to rebuild His land.  A lack of Israel would be a frustration of those plans, an affront to the Ribono shel Olam
Our purpose in the world isn't simply to keep black hat milliners in business.  Our purpose in the world isn't to supply international newspapers with tales of pedophiles and theft.  Our purpose in the world is to move history forward to its natural conclusion where God reappears in the midst of all civilization and makes known His will to all, where we return to our land, rebuild our Holy Temple and restore true Divine worship in the eyes of the nations of the world.
We aren't here simply because we are here.  Many of us have forgotten this.  Our non-religious brethren have transformed their identity into an ethnic designation.  Jews, Italians, Argentians, half a dozen of one and six of the other.  Our Chareidi brothers have, through their desire to ignore the will of God and His involvement in hisory, degenerated into a reactionary cult in which decisions are made based on what's good for "the oylam" without regard to ethics, decency or Torah.  The secular don't see a way forward.  The Chareidim are trying to drag things backward.
What needs to interpose between both is a group that can accomodate the needs of both without compromising the essential vision of the State of Israel as aschalta d'geula.  It needs to be a group that both values the learning and practice of Torah as central and primal to Judaism while using that Torah to interact with the modern world to create a functioning society.
That leaves only Religious Zionism as a movement with such a comprehensive view of a Jewish future.  On the secular side Religious Zionism is well aware that halacha must encounter, examine and legislate for modern economic, legal and political systems to create an environment in which Torah behaviour is mandated but Torah repression is avoided.  On the religious side it offers both chasidic (Rav Kook, ztk"l) and Yeshivish philosophies (the Rav, zt"l) for those for whom everything is seen through the lens of the Torah.  Through its vision of creating a modern state run al pi halacha as a prelude to the arrival of Moshiach it provides an underlying point of unity for these groups. 
This is why, following the moderate success of Bait Yehudi the movement must develop itself into a strong alternative both for secular Jewish nationalists looking for depth and meaning and for Chareidim looking for genuine religious practice within God's plans for This World.  Only in this way can Israel have a proud, strong and historically meaningful future.


RAM said...

Can you name current religious and political leaders of the DL movement capable of doing what you propose?

Garnel Ironheart said...

I can name some - Rav Schechter on the American side. Rav Aviner, Rav Liechtenstein in Israel. Other suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Regardless of one's opinion of RAK, he was anything but a Chasidishe, He was a Litvishe Rav who . Yes he used all sort of Cabala and Machshava in his writings , but he not at all Chasidish.