Some Jews opposed the entire idea and project of the Jewish people returning to the homeland and independence. Some said: "wait for the Messiah!" Some didn't believe in a Messiah. Both believed that the resurrection of independent Jewish national life would degrade Jewish spiritualty and morality. Each advocated, in their own way, that the Jewish community in the land of Israel become a spiritual, cultural center – not an actual state. Some were sure that the endeavor to reconstitute Jewish sovereignty would fail, because of it's being inimical to their understanding of Jewish identity.

Today we know that history and divine providence have proven the naysayers wrong. The once large, vibrant Jewish communities in Russia, Poland, Germany, Iraq and North Africa, have all been uprooted and replanted in the ancient Jewish homeland. The movement to reconstitute Jewish sovereignty in the ancient and revived Jewish homeland succeeded; the resurrection of the land, the language and the state has been accomplished. The largest cultural, spiritual center of the Jewish people is today located in the Jewish state of Israel.

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Those familiar with the breadth and depth of Judaism always knew that our spiritual essence – as expounded in the written Bible and Oral law, from the first message to Abraham to the yearning for Messiah – is intrinsically connected to the establishment of an independent "holy kingdom" here in this world, in this Holy Land. As G-d told Moses to tell Israel: "I will take you from under the sufferings of Egypt… I will take you to Me for a nation… bring you to the land… and give it to you as a birthright".

Judaism teaches that the individual spiritual soul, the Divine essence of life, "wears" a material body upon entering this physical world – with all its pitfalls and challenges, as well as opportunities – in order to live goodness and holiness in the complicated life of this complex world. Judaism teaches that the same is true for the national spiritual soul: it, too, comes into the even more complicated world of national existence, with its attending politics, economics, security and social challenges, and everything that's part of a nation's life – in order to live a holy, moral life as a nation.

Perhaps the soul would prefer to forgo the challenge of physical being and stay in a spiritual world. Perhaps some Jews would care to decline the call to be a "priestly state and holy nation", preferring to live as otherworldly individuals without a collective-national responsibility. Perhaps, but that is idle escapism. It is shirking the duty to live the challenges entrusted to us that are our national, historical and spiritual essence of being.

Has the business of state-building degraded the moral and spiritual character of the Jewish people? I think not. By objective standards our nationalism – while far from perfection – is a far, far better world, than the murky world of self-centered nationalism; a far, far better morality pervades our thinking, our security forces, and our relationship to the minorities amongst us between the sea and the Jordan River, even with those who do not always seek our well-being (to put it in an understatement).

Just as some Jews opposed the idea of a Jewish state, fearing it would somehow degrade the morality and spirituality of the Jews, so too, some oppose Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria as somehow degrading our morality. In this they're similar to the opponents of Jewish sovereignty – anywhere – because of supposed moral reasons. They'd prefer fleeing Judea and Samaria, but their reasoning logically leads to fleeing any national being, preferring not to "dirty their hands" with the reality of sovereignty. Perhaps they desire an idyllic utopia, a "good place" which is actually "no place", where goodness and morality don't have to fight evil in order to triumph.

In contrast – Judaism teaches us to face moral challenges head on with perseverance. If you think that Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria presents moral challenges – then the solution is not to leave, but rather to reinforce morality, through education to instill Jewish values and ethical ideals in a people "called back to life" who will not go backwards to exile, but only forwards to redemption, light and life.

 
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