Jewish State

Jewish State

by Rev. Frank Julian Gelli

‘I will promote a law that will define Britain as a Christian state’, PM David Cameron announces. ‘A nation state of Christians’. ‘And those who don’t like can stick it!’ he adds. Gasp!
Can you imagine the disbelief, the shock and horror, the howls of execration? Clearly the poor PM is off his rocker. Summon the men in white jackets and consign Dull Dave to the nearest loony bin. Serves him right!

Of course, canny Cameron never spoke such a foolish thing. Posturing aside, he does not give a toss about Christianity. But replace ‘David Cameron’ with ‘Benjamin Netanyahu’ and the fantasy becomes reality. Bibi is seeking a new ‘basic law’ that will make Israel de jure a Jewish state. Apparently to hit back at the wretched, long-suffering Palestinians. Because, giving up hope of getting recognition for their state, they refuse to recognise Israel as the nation state of the Jews.

Puzzle: the priest thought Israel was already de facto a Jewish state, what else? Designed by Zionists and meant as a Jewish homeland, Israel’s official emblems include the Star of David (which King David never used but heart-warming mythologies do not bother with truth) and the ancient, sacred Menorah, the seven-branched candlestick harking back to the Jerusalem Temple. The 1948 declaration of Israel’s birth invoked a UN resolution calling for ‘establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel’ (land of Israel). Thanks to the law of return Jews from all over the world have a right to settle there and…enough. If Israel is not a Jewish state then Saudi Arabia is Buddhist – have I missed something?

But what may ‘Jewish state’ mean? Judaism is a religion so a Jewish state would be a religious one. An image that fills folks under the sway of secularist dogmas with fear. (Is that why many hate the minuscule Vatican state?) Since the Reformation broke up Christendom European states have gradually discarded their faith credentials. Relics still linger: Britain is headed by a woman who is also head of the national church but that is a quaint curiosity, like a mummy in a museum. Italy’s constitution after WW2 declared Catholicism the official religion of the Italian state – something Duce Mussolini contrived in 1927 - that was knocked out later.

Actually, belonging to Judaism does not quite entail being religious. A Jewish-Israeli friend of mine was told by a rabbi that to be a Jew one need not believe in God. OK, that’s anecdotal. Not all rabbis would approve but it perhaps affords an insight. Secular or atheistic or even anti-religious Jews abound. They are still Jews – whatever that may mean. If they are also Israelis, they belong to that state. So a Jewish state has a meaning, without necessarily being a religious entity.

I have an idea. Couldn’t Jews more far-sighted and smart than Bibi Netanyahu make a counter-proposal? Israel should pass a new law, proclaiming itself not a religious state but an ethical and a Kabbalistic one. What do I mean by that? Tikkun Olam. I explored this seductive concept in Rant 565. Imagine something broken. You must fix it. Here the broken thing is the world. Too big and too valuable to be thrown away. And the world is God’s creation. His creatures have made the mess, they must repair it. That’s ethics. Good deeds. The right stuff.

Tikkun Olam sometimes comes down to doing straightforward good deeds. Give up your seat on a bus to someone unable to stand. Run a hostel for the homeless. Visit a sick, forlorn person. Volunteer to help out in the Third World. Agitate against fracking. For better schools. Fix, repair what has gone wrong. By engaging in Tikkun Olam you are improving reality.

Too good to be true? Some repairs are uncontroversial. Who’d object to helping an old person to cross the road? Much trickier when it comes to campaigning against abortion or for traditional marriage. Some spurn those causes as wicked and obscurantist. Even acting against British nuclear submarines in Scotland gets many people’s backs up. Leaving your country defenceless against Putin? Lunatic! Traitor! It is you brain that needs repairing, they shout.

Moreover, Michael Barnett has noted how many American Jews are not keen on human rights work. Reason? They believe such activities are spearheaded by folks hostile to the Jewish state. Sticks with which to bash Israel. As proved by various UN-sponsored conferences. Not genuine Tikkun Olam but anti-Semitic bosh. The thought that fixing the world might imply making a generous offer to Palestinians would horrify Israeli die-hards like Bibi.

Nonetheless, the Jewish state is at a moral crossroads. Even US Secretary of State Kerry affirms Israel risks becoming an ‘apartheid state’, like old South Africa. Strong words for a US politician, a lot regularly servile to Tel Aviv. Netanyahu seems stuck in the past, a man utterly lacking in vision, unable to take his country forward. This is the right time for bold initiatives, for daring actions, for thinking outside the box. Jews have engendered countless eminent thinkers and pioneers in all fields. Is it not the right moment a Kabbalistic, mystical Jewish mind came up and breathed new life into the dead politics of the Israeli state? And fixed the Holy Land? Will the Almighty in his mercy send a visionary man endowed with prophetic spirit, another Hosea, to bring peace to his people, to all the people of the Middle East?

Insh’allah! Bezrat Hashem! Deo Volente! With God’s help!

Rant Number 586     20 May 2014
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