Identity, Liberty and Meaning
If it wants to survive and thrive, Israel must base itself upon three key concepts:
Identity means asking ourselves who we are. Jews? Israelis? Just partners in a large insurance firm called the State of Israel? What is our shared narrative? Do we have a shared founding ethos? What is the significance of the fact that we are a Jewish State? Do we even have a common identity? Is it right to search for it and to attempt to shape it?
For some, it is enough that we all speak Hebrew. For others, that is not even the beginning of a common identity. As I see it, there is no such thing as a Jewish State without a clear and solid Jewish identity; not a religious identity, but a cultural identity.
We oppose religious legislation and prefer to allow our Jewish cultural common denominator to develop freely. There is no Israeli law that requires new parents to circumcise their child according to Jewish law, but the vast majority of Israelis do so, nevertheless. It follows that we do not need other religious legislation, either. Ultimately, it is the community that must decide on its religious character – not the state. If the community chooses, it will have privately owned public transportation within its parameters on Shabbat. If it does not want it, the buses will not run. If the community chooses to open businesses on Shabbat, they will open. If not, they will remain closed. I trust the Jews, over 80% of who are deeply connected and committed to their Jewish identity. I also know that coercion will boomerang. In short, I would like to emphasize and empower our Jewish identity by removing the fear and coercion, allowing the true will of the public to emerge as the guiding force behind our Jewish national identity.
The second point is meaning.
Does our state have a goal? Or is it solely interested in ensuring that there will not be another Holocaust? Do we have a Holy Temple somewhere out there on the horizon? Or is our Holy Temple the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial? And if we understand that we need a positive destiny and that the world is already tired of our self-pity and that Gunther Gras’ grandchildren are no longer willing to stand embarrassed at the side while absolving us of any hard questions – then what really is our purpose here? What gives us the right to live in Sheikh Munis (Ramat Aviv in northern Tel Aviv), in Haifa, Acco, Yaffo and Tiberias – on the lands of expelled Arabs?
A Jewish state cannot exist without establishing a clear purpose for the younger generation; it is only from our positive destiny that we draw our right to exist as a nation. As I see it, the destiny of a Jewish state can be no other than our historical Jewish destiny.
‘We gave you a country because we thought that when the people of the prophets returns to its land, a new bible or a new ethical code will be written in the land of Israel for the world as a whole. We had expectations – and look what you have done.’
This is how a group of British intellectuals described their disappointment with Israel and the reason that they no longer see Israel as legitimate in a conversation with the President of the Sapir College, Professor Ze’ev Tzachor. (Interview with Meir Uziel in Makor Rishon, Adar 5768)
I can buy into the definition used by the British intellectuals. In our sources we call it “perfecting the world in the Kingdom of the Almighty.”
The third point is liberty.
Liberty means fighting against coercion of all kinds; religious, anti-religious, economic, cultural, educational and more. Liberty means allocating state land to the citizen. It means privatization of government firms to the public and not to core shareholders. Liberty means liberalized communication – broadcasting license and not broadcast franchise. You want to open up a television or radio station? Buy a wavelength and broadcast as you please within the framework of the law. Liberty means restoring the responsibility for education to the parents, using the education coupon method. It means a gradual transfer to a professional volunteer army. Liberty means prohibiting biometric data bases or any other type of human designation. There is no difference in principle between sophisticated biological marking and tattooing an ID number; both turn our identities into the property of a third party. In both, we lose our freedom. Simply put: We have one G-d above us and we should not be enslaved to another person or mechanism. The state is ours and under no circumstance is the opposite true.
Identity, meaning and liberty are the keys to making Israel the Jewish state that we have always dreamed of. Let’s make that dream come true!