I remember a few months back Benjamin Netanyahu gave a striking order to his cabinet ministers: ‘First of all, the study of the Bible. This is the basis for why we are here, why we have returned here, why we stay here.’ That’s a question you’d never hear a Western politician attempt to answer, or even ask. ‘Why are we here?’
Probably that’s because Israelis have more reason to speculate than we do. Their continued existence is a daily miracle, given the past and present efforts to wipe them from the face of the earth. This never-ending fight for survival must be taxing – taxing far beyond anything we could possibly understand. If the answer to that question was, to their minds, anything short of, ‘Because God wants us to be here,’ it’d be difficult to imagine them carrying on for half as long as they have.
More recently, Bibi’s education minister Naftali Bennett made a series of controversial comments in defending his government’s decision to drop its demand that ultra-Orthodox schools teach core subjects like maths and science. Here’s RT (sorry)’s choice excerpts:
Even though [Israel] is a high-tech superpower, an exporter of knowledge and innovation to the world, we must [also] be a spiritual superpower and export spiritual knowledge to the world.
This is the next chapter of our Zionist vision. In this way we will return to be a light to the nations. ‘For out of Zion shall go forth Torah and the word of God from Jerusalem’.
We are Jews. It is not enough to be solely the nation of the start-up. We must also be the people of the Bible.
Again, such rhetoric is unimaginable in the West, even from the so-called Religious Right. Where our ‘political Christianity’ is exclusively geared toward social issues (gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, etc.), Israel’s Judaism, at least under the Netanyahu government, is its animating force.
Again again, this more comprehensive idea of a national religion is no doubt born of Israel’s short and embattled history. The West was once synonymous with Christendom. It was born when kings were crowned by the Pope or they weren’t crowned at all, when theology was ‘the queen of the sciences’, when even less-than-pious artists like Mozart worked in sacred forms, and when priests like Copernicus dominated the scientific community. Christianity was once our animating force, just as Judaism is Israel’s. It served us well.
Other right-leaning journalists make too much money cheerleading for Israel for me to go out of my way to do so for free. And I’m more than happy to call them out when they get too happy-clappy; journalists are anti-propagandists by trade, after all. But I’ve always deeply admired Israel in this regard: they know who they are, where they come from, and what God put them on this earth to do. I wish the same could be said of the West.
Now we have US Secretary of State John Kerry saying that ‘Israel can either be Jewish or democratic. It cannot be both.’ Well, if democracy means deracination, balkanization, and moral nihilism, to hell with democracy. Whatever its faults, Israel is a model of civic conservatism: a multiethnic, multiracial people united by a shared history, culture, and value-system. It should learn from the West’s mistake and refuse to sacrifice its faith – the life-giving principle of any great civilization – on the altar of rank progressivism. It should, it must, persist in being Jewish.
But of course Israelis don’t need my urging. They answer to a higher power than Michael Davis – or, for that matter, the United Nations.