religious zionists 298.8.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
An old hassidic story sums it up best: Walking for hours, lost in the forest, a man was on the verge of total collapse. Then, as if by a miracle, he spied another man some distance away. Running until he caught up with him, he fell at his feet and said desperately, "Can you help me? Do you know the way out of this place?"
The second man nodded, "Yes, I think I can help! I, too, have been wandering in this forest for some time. And while I don't yet know the way out, I do know the paths that are definitely not the route we seek. Together we can eliminate the wrong paths and find a road that leads us to freedom."
In our own increasingly anxious efforts to identify wise and visionary leaders who can lead us out of the current funk that has fallen over the nation, we have exhausted any number of avenues. In the recent past we have chosen generals who excelled in leading their troops - but, alas, not the nation. We elected career politicians who swore they would uphold our security, but spent most of their time eluding prison sentences and dodging scandals. We have run through the list of city dwellers and kibbutzniks, populists and intellectuals, olim and sabras and yet can't seem to find suitable candidates.
But there is one option we still have not exercised, one road yet untraveled: I believe it is time that the State of Israel elected a prime minister who is fully Torah-observant.
While we have certainly had our share of biblical scholars and traditionalists - David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin come to mind - we have never had at our helm an unabashed, kippa-wearing, Shabbat-observing, pray-three-times-a-day religious Jew.
NOW THE knee-jerk reaction to such an idea will certainly be negative: "How can a predominantly secular electorate follow an Orthodox Jew? Won't such a move exacerbate the secular-religious rift that already exists in this country?"
But that is precisely the point. Just as only a member of the right wing - like Begin - could finally make peace with an Arab neighbor, so, too, only a religious Jew has the ability to positively impact upon the image of the observant in the wider community.
To overcome the automatic bias that would attach to such an individual, he - though it could certainly be a "she" as well - must be a person of impeccable character, representing the highest ethical and moral values espoused by the Torah.
He will say what he means and mean what he says, committed to the principles of fair government and transparency, because honesty in word and deed is not just "a good thing," but a sacred, binding mitzva, while corruption and greed are a grievous sin against God. This will go a long way in promoting the cause of social justice and restoring the sense of faith and respect for our elected leaders that is in such short supply.
He will draw upon the strength of a Orthodox community that already excels in charitable organizations of every type and elevate the concept of hesed - whereby each citizen looks out for the welfare of his fellow citizen - to a national level. This will help redirect Israel back to being a nation that cares, that reaches out from the top down to the alienated and have-nots in our society: the poor, the hungry, the disabled, the non-Jew, the elderly - all those who feel they have been left behind by a hi-tech, upwardly mobile, affluent Israel.
HE WILL also have a stellar military record, having been part of the observant community that distinguishes itself in producing courageous soldiers and officers in the most elite IDF combat units. He will resolutely lead the fight for a safe and secure Israel because he believes with all his heart and soul, as a true Zionist, that this country of ours is not just another piece of real estate that we happen to be currently inhabiting, but rather our God-given, eternal homeland and the fulfillment of a Divine promise. As such, he will have a profound effect on those segments of the religious world that are conflicted over Israel's meaning.
By reinforcing the spiritual nature of this country, he will dispel the odious, all-too-prevalent sentiment in some quarters that Israel is merely the "Galut with a Kotel" - the Diaspora with a Western Wall.
Most of all, this special person - and I truly believe he is out there, somewhere - will have the skills and strengths to engender an overwhelming sense of pride in an Israel that is wholly unique. An Israel that is at once prepared to coexist with the family of nations, but yet determined to maintain its special character. He will do this by openly professing his religiosity, with no shame or embarrassment, by glorifying a Torah and tradition that is respected far and wide in the world at large, but all too often disparaged within our own borders.
With integrity, class and compassion he will put the "Jewish" back in the Jewish state.
The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana. firstname.lastname@example.org