Daniel Gordis writes in “Saving Israel – How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End” that Israel faces two threats besides the obvious physical threats from the enemies that call for its annihilation.
The first is from the Jews who are so obsessed with peace that they will pursue it even at the threat to Israel’s existence. Centuries of oppression in Europe and Russia made the Jews into a people of Talmudic hairsplitters. But Israel changed the character of the Jewish people into a nation of proud if not reluctant warriors. Gordis noted “there is something “un-Jewish” about being a warrior only if there is something “un-Jewish” about surviving.”
Yet there are those among the Israelis and Jews throughout the world who still detest what the Israelis must do to fight for their own survival. He faces the reality that Israel may never win the wars it faces and must accept that reality. The must also face the reality that the nations of the world seem relatively unsympathetic.
The 1967 Six Day War restored a sense of pride to the Jews of the world that they were no longer victims. Given their own nation they were able to defend themselves. To give up their Zionist dream would be to return to the days when Jews were vulnerable guests in the house of other nations. The image of the Jewish warrior replaced the image of the Jewish victim.
Like the American warrior the Israeli warrior fights not to gain power but to protect it. To fight for ones nation one must believe in the moral imperative for its existence. The second threat the Israelis face in Gordis’s judgment is the lapse in the Israeli culture of those rituals and history of the Israeli nation.
Jerusalem is a city of orthodox Jews with rituals embedded in the daily life. The Sabbath is strictly adhered to. Even in the hotels there are shabbes elevators that stop either on every floor or on every other floor to avoid the act of pushing a button to select a floor on the Sabbath. The rooms are equipped with dimmer switches to avoid turning a light on or off. To a secular Jew like me this seems ridiculous, but it shows how serious the observant are.
But most Israelis are far more secular like many of the American cousins. Tel Aviv is a secular city with a young affluent very chic night life. Many Israelis have learned very little about the founding fathers of Israel like Weizman and Hertzl; they participate in few Jewish rituals. It would be like Americans that know very little of the early American history and the founding fathers, and the principles that guided them. When asked to defend their country; do they really know what they are defending?
Gordis points out that it is not enough to have gained the courage and ability to defend themselves with an army; the Israelis must retain the visionary dream that the founding fathers like Ben Gurion and others felt so strongly when they built the Jewish nation against such overwhelming odds. Such an accomplishment took far more than military might.