Spy versus spy: Israel, Jews and progressives (1)

22 Sivan 5770

Why were the followers of the spies (Numbers 13-14) punished so severely, and why, in rabbinic tradition, did their sin cause yet-unborn generations to lose the First and Second Temples?  I would like to suggest that the generation of the spies lacked the faith to believe that right would ultimately prevail, and that the generations that lost the Temples suffered from the same inability to imagine a better reality.

The first Temple was destroyed by idolatry and hypocritical religiosity. This reflected the understandable belief that the God or gods responsible for the creation of the universe were unconcerned with morality and justice.  The second Temple, based on various rabbinic traditions, was destroyed by senseless hatred, insensitivity between people, rabbinic toleration for mistreatment of others, or misuse of religious law — all evincing cynicism that life could actually be lived in a way that found divine favor.

Thankfully, in our generation, it is no challenge to have confidence in Israel’s military strength.   Today, the faith we must have is the confidence that a secure Israel will be an integral part of a better world.  Renewing this confidence is not a luxury that can await a quieter time, but an urgent necessity.  We have seen once again that Israel’s military capability, as vital as it is, cannot solve every crisis and can even be exploited to Israel’s harm.  Israel had every right to board the Mavi Marmara and force it to Ashdod for inspection of its cargo.  But beyond the apparent failure to plan for confronting protestors known to be hostile, Israel’s larger failure has been to forget, for the last several years, that dialogue with other countries is a strategic asset every nation needs.

Israel’s disappointment in diplomacy is easily understandable.  The United States and the rest of the West have never identified threats to Israel’s existence as a threat to the world, or demanded that such threats be ended.  If they had, they could justly have made valid demands on Israel as well.  Nevertheless, Israel cannot afford to lose hope of improving relations and creating enduring friendships with its neighbors and with the West.

Israel’s challenge is to imagine what it wants to achieve in the future, and remind itself and the world what Israel is capable of contributing to humanity.  Zionists dared to dream of a bright future when Tel Aviv was a few huts on a sand dune and the Huleh Valley was a malarial swamp, and when Israel had nothing to export but oranges and bottles of sand.  Surely now, with an economy large enough for the OECD, and miltary strength to induce its negotiating partners to take their promises seriously, Israel can dare to dream of a peaceful future and work toward it.

I am writing this not just out of concern for the present, but faith in the future.  Israel has many flaws  that are increasingly adding to its current risks and must be addressed now.  But the creation of Israel is an incredible story of courage, determination, vision and creativity.  It still has all of those resources, which all of us must rediscover as well.  Let us never lose hope of a secure Israel as a spiritual center of a just world.


One Response to “Spy versus spy: Israel, Jews and progressives (1)”

  1. yaakov atik Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and I hope you continue writing your wise words.

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