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.
From a comment on— Jewschool thread, I thought I’d harvest this thought I have whenever I’m talking to advocates of a one-state solution:
A one-state solution would still be a two-state solution: the Jewish Israelis have all the wealth and representation in every national governing body. The Palestinians would continue as second-class citizens facing entrenched discrimination. Both peoples, deeply married to the concept of self-determination, would have to do an about face on a hundred years or more of nationalism.
The entire legal codes and national symbols of the country would have to be rewritten and voted into effect, which I can only imagine as problematic as what is happening in Iraq now. Violence would continue as terrorists and settler extremists continue to espouse ethnic domination and revenge. Riots between Jews and Arabs would be commonplace over each ill-executed (or resisted) attempt at integration of two peoples into one government, military, police force, education system, et al.
With open borders to the Arab world, I can only assume that fear of terrorism from abroad would result in the Jewish sector retreating into private security enclaves. Parts of the elite of both groups would leave the country, meaning Jews who fear their safety and Palestinians seeking better opportunities than minimum wage labor.
The Jews would find themselves as top dogs in a country still killing along ethnic lines; Palestinians would find themselves still fighting tooth and nail for equality. The journey to “peace” would be another 60 years in the making and quite possibly a retreat back into nationalism and a renewed two-state solution.
For the sake of preserving lives instead of intellectual consistency, I don’t think a one-state solution brings us closer to peace. In fact, I think it puts us further from it.