Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Jewish Nation

I'm not usually surprised by the things that Jews do or say, but Gil Student recently posted about a new "book" - apparently it's more of a long-form essay in which the author suggests that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict lies in abandoning the Jewish nature of the State of Israel.

Rabbi Gross, a young, Yeshiva University-trained pulpit rabbi in Omaha, proposes that Israel “abolish its Jewish character and become a full secular democracy with equal rights and opportunities for all.” There will be a single state on the land, neither Jewish nor Palestinian. It will be a secular country, a democracy of all its citizens, with no official religion that may alienate citizens of another or no religion. Over time, this will reduce ethnic strife and lead to a prosperous and just nation.

It's probably not really fair to comment on a book without reading it, but I have no intention of buying the book. I'm going on Gil's word, which I trust. Nonetheless, I just don't understand how someone educated in a religious-Zionist institution, could possibly suggest that the Jewish State abandon its Jewish character and identity. Aside from the almost unbelievable naivitee of believing that democracy would flourish here guaranteeing freedom, safety and security for all (see Gaza, Egypt, Jordan and Syria - all democratic states), such a perspective denies the very nationhood of the Jewish people.
I'm going to come out and say this just to be clear: Judaism is not a religion. It's a nationality - a peoplehood that makes demands of the members of that nation - strong demands. That nationality is defined, like all nations, by a common language, culture, history, heritage and yes, homeland.
Sadly, over two millennium of exile we have forgotten our core, and come to identify ourselves only in terms meaningful to the exile in which we reside.
The fact that an Orthodox rabbi living in Omaha cannot appreciate these basic facts about what Judaism is troubles me greatly. How someone can lead a shul in which they're going to read:
וַיֵּרָא ה', אֶל-אַבְרָם, וַיֹּאמֶר, לְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת
And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said: 'Unto thy seed will I give this land'
...and then turn around and say, "you know what? I don't think that we should have it? What about the other people living here? We should share it...or maybe give it back..."
I can just see Avraham Avinu turning over in his grave. Only, according to Rabbi Gross, I shouldn't be able to. After all, not enough Jews live near his grave to justify Jewish control of Hevron. According to his logic, what right do we have to visit his grave at all?