The mistaken concept that Israel will become a country like all others has
already had a long shelf-life in parts of Zionist history. One tiny but typical
example was when Jewish prostitutes in pre-Israel Palestine began their
profession, there were ambiguous feelings in society. Some were primarily
ashamed, others emphasized that it was another sign of Jewish “normalcy” on the
way to statehood.
Israel’s independence established many institutions,
similar to other countries. This includes a government, Parliament, Supreme
Court, an army, security forces, a central bank and so on. Another normalization
of the Jewish people’s reality has been the ingathering of close to half of the
world’s Jewish population into Israel.
Further contributions to making
Israel “normal” may come in the future, including internationally recognized
If the peace negotiations progress somewhat, the idea that
Israel will become a “normal” country is likely to become more prominent again.
This notion means that Israel will become fairly similar to Western
Many Israelis admire the relative quiet as well as the
hedonism of the West, and wish they could live that way too.
such “normalization” has its limits. One is that all nations are intrinsically
unique. To this one should add that some are more unique than
That is the case with Israel. It is one of only a few countries
comprised mostly of immigrants. This is largely true for the United States,
Australia, Canada, Argentina and so on, yet the main influx of people in those
countries came much earlier. A far larger difference is that Israel’s immigrants
have ancestors who prayed long ago for a return to Zion, where Jewish
generations had lived far more than a millennium before.
derives from internal and external factors.
A crucial element in Israel’s
uniqueness is that its history is radically different from that of any other
country. The Jewish people’s long sojourn in the Diaspora represents a
development without precedent. In recent history, the same is true for the
Holocaust. This strongly enhances Israel’s uniqueness not only today, but also
for the foreseeable future.
Interrelated with this is Israel’s current
reality. The Jewish people’s past has far more bearing on the present than
through a few historical remnants. The Jewish tradition, much of which consists
of religious elements, also influences the state. So does the centuries- long
Jew-hatred in many parts of the world. Historical anti-Semitism – religious or
ethnic – has primarily mutated into anti-Israelism. No other nation faces
similar delegitimization. Even beyond this, there are genocidal threats coming
out of parts of the Muslim world.
There are other factors which
contribute to Israel’s uniqueness. They derive from the combination of both a
language and a religion not shared by anyone else.
Many nations have a
language which is not spoken by others. Greece, for example. However, the
dominant Orthodox religion of Greece is not unique. This expressed itself
clearly during the Yugoslav war when the Greeks – contrary to most European
Union citizens –identified largely with the Serbs who are also
Related to the desire for unachievable major “normalization” is
the promotion by some of an absurdity: Israel should “assimilate into the Middle
East.” This superficial concept raises many questions and hardly any valid
What should Israel do to “blend into” the Middle East? Should it
glorify the few Israelis who intentionally murdered Palestinian civilians, as
the Palestinian Authority lionized the many murderers of Israeli civilians?
Should Israel indiscriminately bomb Palestinian villages after terror attacks?
Should it deal with Arab parties’ demonstrations like the Egyptian military does
with the Muslim Brotherhood? Should Israel develop chemical weapons like Syria?
Should it execute common criminals like so many Arab states do? Many essential
characteristics of the countries surrounding Israel are so incompatible with
Israel’s basic norms and values that this “blending into the Middle East” is yet
one more pipe dream.
In recent decades, a new role for Israel has
It is increasingly becoming an indicator of the state of mind of
the Western world and its widespread dubious morality. Issues concerning Israel
and its interactions with the West are so numerous that one can understand
“where the West is at” from them in many fields. A similar reality concerned
Jews in previous centuries. This is also still the case in various
Finally, the idea that Jews should adopt the dominant culture of
their surroundings is an ancient one.
It goes back way beyond the desires
and behavior of Europe’s many assimilated Jews during the
Already two millennia ago in the last independent Jewish
state, that of the Maccabees and in the period immediately thereafter, there
were Jews who revered and imitated Roman culture. The contributions by these
Hellenists to Jewish history are minimal, if any. The same may also happen with
the legacy of those who dream about a “normal” State of Israel.
author is emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has
published more than 20 books. Recently, his book Israel’s New Future has been
republished with a new introduction as Israel’s New Future Revisited.