THE ISRAEL REPORTMarch/April 2000
In this article:
1. Land As A Tool 2. The Ultimate Secular Redemption 3. Exhausted Israelis 4. The Impact On Diplomacy
This is where the Land of Israel entered the practical thinking of the modern Jew. Although the goal of the secular Zionists was to liberate the Jewish people, they felt that a renewed national identity had to be related somehow to the physical, geographical cradle of the Jewish nation. For the early Zionist thinkers, however, Eretz Yisrael served only as a tool by which to help formulate a modern Jewish identity. The liberation of the land, for them, then, was not a goal in and of itself, but was merely the means to an end. For those Jews for whom the land possesses no inherent holiness, the Land of Israel could potentially be dissected, if necessary, as long as some territory - however small - remained.
His vision prompted me to reflect on the differences between the religious and secular visions of redemption. Whereas the religious Zionist believes in the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people, the redemption of the land and the coming of the Messiah - his secular counterpart has two Messiahs: Hi-tech and tourism, and "peace." For the religious Zionist, Elijah will proclaim the coming of the Messiah; for the secular Zionist, "Peace" will herald the onset of hi tech and tourism - what I call the "ultimate secular redemption."
Peres, Barak and company probably would not mind if Israel were to be reduced to the area in and around metropolitan Tel Aviv. While serving as Minister of Interior, Barak outlined his plan for the future of Israel. Barak wrote in the September 20th edition of the Jerusalem Post that Israel would eventually house 12 million people, all packed into an area characterized by far fewer land resources and less green space. If the Barak vision comes to fruition, the Israeli urban octopus will extend its tentacles to Haifa in the north and Ashkelon in the south. Put simply, our beloved homeland would be transformed into a well-planned concrete, high-rise ghetto.
Pipes calls "a delusional but widespread assumption" the Israeli belief that peace in the Middle East is ours for the making, and that Israel can "solve" the Palestinian problem by acceding to the creation of a state in the West Bank and Gaza. A similar delusion is that Israel "can eliminate anti-Zionism by helping to funnel money to the Arabs, who will use their newfound affluence to become good neighbors or - in the post Zionist scenario - it can win Arab hearts by dismantling the Jewish character of the Jewish state." Such false illusions have prompted Israelis to be willing to transfer "hard earned territory...in the hope that their troubles will thereby disappear."
Whether such troubles will indeed disappear, time will surely tell. A better bet for a more promising Jewish future, in my view, involves a reversal of the post-Zionist doctrine. Instead of viewing our land as a mere tool, let's begin to appreciate the inherent holiness of Eretz Yisrael. Let us resume the historical Jewish longing for the ultimate Messianic redemption, instead of its shallow secular counterpart. Perhaps by readjusting our perceptions, we can once again regain our composure and our sorely-lacking national-self confidence. Should we choose to follow this recipe, perhaps we will experience a fresh appreciation of our Arab neighbors, and thus an alternate understanding of their vision of a "new Middle East."