P.S. Why I Am a Zionist

I wrote earlier that the existence of Israel is freeing for the Jewish people both politically and spiritually, allowing, among other things, the freedom to explore the Christian faith without threat to one’s fundamental sense of identity. I wanted to note that Israel is freeing not only for the Jew who has historically clung to Judaism as both his religion and the “foothold” of his national identity, but also, and perhaps even more so, for the secular Jew, and specifically the post-Soviet Jew (which, let’s face it, is a lot of us!). The latter’s sense of being a Jew derives chiefly, in practice, from a shared history of persecution.

Diana brought to my attention this powerful article by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, in which he argues that a major difference between Christianity and Judaism is the fact that the latter embraces hatred for wicked or evil men, and especially enemies of the Jewish people, while the former rejects it in the name of Christ. Soloveichik points out that the value of hatred is that it keeps us on our guard against the unrighteous. To have one’s sense of identity defined primarily through hatred and fear of evildoers, much as they may deserve it, is to live perpetually on one’s guard – which is a deprivation of both peace and freedom, if not necessarily of a sense of justice.

So Israel is freeing because there a post-Soviet Jew, such as yours truly, can relax: he can be a Jew for a reason, and in a way, other than standing his guard against anti-Semites. Even when the anti-Semites are up to no good, he can be a Jew not because they hate him but just because he lives on Jewish land. It’s unlikely, I think, that God will give the Jewish people a long respite – the worldwide opposition to Israel is growing, which may threaten its very existence or it may redefine the persecution dynamic to put Israel, rather than Jews in the diaspora, in the middle of it. But for as long as Jews can have the untroubled identity, not rooted in hate and fear, of being residents of their own land – let them make the most of it.


About The Groom's Family

I was born in Soviet Russia and grew up in Israel. I was baptized Orthodox Christian in 2006. Today my husband and I live in Northern Virginia. I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment!
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8 Responses to P.S. Why I Am a Zionist

  1. Bill Burdick says:

    That article was interesting, but I disagree with a few points. Actually, I disagree with what he says about Judaism and I’m pretty sure I know some Jews who will agree with me on this, er, disagreement. What I’m talking about, here, is what the Bible has to say vs. what this Rabbi is saying. Of course, my orthodox friends don’t always agree with me on these points, but enough of them agree with me enough of the time for me to have a reasonable amount of confidence that I won’t get 100% disagreement on these points :). Maybe they’ll read my comments and comment back. I should probably put my comments on the Rabbi’s article, but I’ll put them here, instead, because I want to see how this crowd responds :).

    1) “the concept of reward and punishment in the afterlife is not mentioned once” during Yom Kippur

    I disagree with this because The Book of Life is mentioned several times during Yom Kippur services. There is even a special part of the service about the closing of the Book of Life for that year. The Rabbi also mentions the phrase “may his name be erased.” i.e. from The Book of Life. My understanding from scripture is that The Book of Life is not merely a record of the people CURRENTLY living on earth.

    2) ‘For Jews deny that there ever was a “divine labor” to redeem the world; rather, God gave humanity the means for its own redemption, and its members will be judged by the choices they make.’

    Please check out Isa 45:25, “In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” There are other verses that talk about the universal salivation of Israel. There’s even one in the New Testament, Rom 11:26: “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” — there’s no merit or earning attached to these verses. They’re really about G-d’s faithfulness to His people Israel.

    3) “The rabbis saw the afterlife as a function of one’s spiritual savings account, in which the extent of one’s experience of the divine presence is determined by the value of the good deeds that he or she has accumulated in life.”

    I don’t think Christians are (or should be) in disagreement on this. 2 Cor 5:10 says “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things [done] in [his] body, according to that he hath done, whether [it be] good or bad.” We receive things “according to” what we have done.

    4) About the souls of the wicked: “after death, they just . . . disappear”

    Dan 12:2 says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame [and] everlasting contempt.” If the souls of the wicked disappear, who is awakening to everlasting contempt? Also note the term “everlasting”. No, I think the Rambam made an error in this (even Maimonides was human) — people who just disappear can’t awaken to everlasting contempt.

  2. Bill Burdick says:

    My above points really don’t have to do with your central point about hatred, but I thought they were important.

    About hatred, I think this is a point on which BOTH religions show a difference in talk vs. action — at least in this generation. The examples of Christian hate, today, are too numerous to mention. On the flip side, the compassion and forgiveness we saw in Israel just blew us away. I’ve never seen a people more EAGER to forgive than the Jewish people. More than 8,000 rockets later, Israel is still trying to negotiate with Hamas — look at how Goldstone contarasts Israel’s response to the Goldstone report with Hamas’ response: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/reconsidering-the-goldstone-report-on-israel-and-war-crimes/2011/04/01/AFg111JC_story.html

    What this Rabbi is talking about, really, is trust, not hate. In my experience, Jews WISH they could hate — it would be so much easier for them, but they can’t hate. But when it gets down to it, they are too easily moved with empathy for the hateful people. Here’s an example…

    Our friend, and mentor, Bart Repko leads Christians in walks on the walls of the Old City in Jerusalem. There was this old Jewish lady, a holocaust survivor, who was intrigued with what he was doing and told him that one day she would walk with him. That day happened to come when 30 Germans were walking with him. The old lady joined on the spur of the moment them just as Bart started to read Isaiah 60:14, “The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet” Bart introduced them to the lady and told them who she was and they immediately prostrated themselves to her and apologized for how their parents treated her and the Jewish people.

    The lady wept with joy, saying that she would never have imagined that such a thing could happen. She forgave them, and said she would remember that moment for the rest of her life.

    To me, this is TYPICAL of how Jews respond to contrition. Hate-shmate! When the rubber meets the road, Jews can’t help being compassionate — it’s woven into their bones!

    • Genia Lukin says:

      Bill! What are you doing here?

      Wow. Small world.

      Er… Sorry. I’ll try and reply to the comments (sometime in the next lifetime or two) but hey!

    • Bill, that’s an incredibly story and an incredible observation. Do you have more where that came from? Can you guest-blog? 🙂

      • Bill Burdick says:

        My wife, Shirley, and I lived in Israel for about 3 years (well, 3 for her and only about 2 for me). We have other stories to tell ;). We’re not Jewish, though, so here I’d prefer just to do some goyishe kibbitzing and hear what you have to say :).

        To me, by the way, Jewish compassion is a side effect of Torah-living. G-d is compassionate and it shows through when people live out His laws. I don’t think it has to be “1st generation” Torah-living, either — I think compassion has been absorbed into the Jewish psyche over thousands of years of association with Torah.

  3. Pingback: Hating Your Enemies | The Groom's Family

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