Mechon Hadar offered this three-part series “Redemptive Dreams, Stubborn Realities: The Past and Future of Religious Zionism” by Rabbi Shai Held, a thoughtful and progressive thinker that I greatly admire. I wish I could have attended this lecture. It is odd that my own approach to Israel is outwardly secular and inwardly religious, yet I am not nor ever could be a religious Zionist. I am not a nationalist by nature and I don’t believe that God entitles us to possession of the land of Israel. But I believe intensely that my spiritual encounter in Israel commanded me to work for peace and equality in the region. That means I stand outside the nationalist and messianic conversations about Israel in present-day Judaism.
And that makes these lectures by Rabbi Held fascinating and important for me to understand. Hat tip to chillul Who for reminding me all Mechon Hadar lectures are posted online.
n this series, we will explore the theological ideas that animate religious Zionism, examine their political consequences, and encounter religious Zionist thinkers in all their broad ideological and political diversity. We’ll try to understand where religious Zionism has been, and offer a vision of how it might move forward into the twenty-first century.
We will consider questions such as: What is the religious significance of having a Jewish State after centuries without one? Is the State of Israel a fulfillment of messianic dreams or a purely this-worldly reality? Is having an army after being powerless for so long somehow holy, or merely necessary? Does Judaism have to change to make statehood viable? Is democracy a Jewish idea? What should the status of Arabs in the Jewish state be?
Please note: this is not a class in Israeli history or in the Arab-Israeli conflict.