Thinker. Public Intellectual. Thought Leader.


There is no dearth of droll labels that fawners apply to authors or lecturers promoting reasonable remedies for the world's ailments.


Israel is especially blessed to possess so many pundits impassioned on its behalf. Jewish or gentile, the literati of many nations turn their attention to Israel's situation, cerebrating and phrasemongering for Zion's sake. It is regrettable that so much of the clerisy's prodigious output proves bathetic, falling by the wayside.


Ideally, sages, scholars, and academics supply official authorities with the intellectual leaven for national priorities and governmental policies. Elected officials who consult the considered and learned opinions of the most highly educated and deliberative members of society profit from the phrenic activity of others and thereby appear more sophisticated and enlightened.


What the political class generally doesn't do, however, is act on it.


At issue is the reality that sidelines specialists rarely enter the arena. Plumbing the depths in their think tanks or scaling the heights of their ivory towers, intellectuals prematurely satisfy themselves with rational reflection or perhaps preternatural inspiration from their personal maggid-daimon intimating insights from beyond. In their wildest dreams, their ideation becomes the ferment for improvement, proliferating and metastasizing throughout the corridors of power until recommendations are realized.


Instead, in most cases the only result is velleity, prescriptions unfilled by the ailing. Philosopher kings and queens are notoriously hard to come by.


No matter how profound the insights, no matter how sensible the solutions, the thinker remains confined to the shrine of his ego or immobilized by her inertia, unable or unwilling to traverse the isthmus between theory and praxis.


Arguably, this is how things should be. Only those sheltered and removed from the noisome miasma of the forum can possibly contemplate ways and means of meliorating the prevailing status quo. Actants amid the dusty clamor, in contrast, can hardly be expected to rise above the fray and deliberate at optimal levels or exercise objectivity. It devolves upon elite experts securely ensconced in the private sector to furnish feasible proposals for progress.


But why should intellectuals devise then delegate? Why not shepherd plans from inception to implementation by joining the ranks of the doers? Why not challenge timid politicians and turn incumbents into ci-devants, putting unprincipled opportunists out to pasture?


The first and most obvious reason why this doesn't happen is because the lifestyle of the erudite is characterized by the quiet introspection and intellection afforded by solitude and rest, not throngs and exertion. Chronic pondering conduces to inaction. The next obvious reason is because intellectuals are famous for hating each other. They can't get their collective act together long enough to organize and execute campaigns for public office. Finally, Jews more than other peoples find agreement generally distasteful, dooming the prospect from the outset. Yet all of the above are merely stereotypes; they do not monopolize truth and therefore leave room for hopeful aspirations to upset assumptions.


Imagine for a moment if Jewish and Zionist intellectuals formed a political party in Israel whose platform harmonized disparate propositions into a single drift and thrust, then mustered public support, achieving a strong presence in the Knesset.   


Imagine, at least, if such intellectuals combined to speak with a stentorian voice whose influence engendered the critical mass necessary for paradigm shifts. Instead of one think tank or specialist advocating this or that, an association representing a majority of respected scholars and venerable institutions promoted a unified message to governments, cabinets, legislators, justices, and the public at large. Call it the power of compound intellect.


Isn't it ironic—tragic?—that historically as a community Jews have been simultaneously adept at organizing but prone to factionalism?


For thinkers to turn leaders, they must first model a better method, eschewing comfortable isolation to blaze trails through wilderness. In the State of Israel, they can do this by entering the political fray in unison or by providing those who do with a central address for decisive advice.

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