Isaiah Nation

Grounded in the vision of Isaiah, the State of Israel can be a mechanism that imbues life with holiness, a shining “light unto the nations.”

Masada 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Masada 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The State of Israel has many achievements to its credit. It has provided a refuge for persecuted Jews, has proverbially “made the desert bloom” and has contributed many scientific and medical breakthroughs. As authors Saul Singer and Dan Senor highlight in their best-seller, Start-up Nation, Israel is famous for its phenomenal incubation of innovative industry.
These accomplishments and successes, however, are not a sufficient raison d’être for the country today. Although impressive, they do not inspire a national ethos.
A nation connected to four millennia of Jewish history, Israel is linked to a prophetic vision, ingathering the Jewish People to their homeland. It is an open, vibrant and creative society with a relatively high standard of living, decent education by OCED standards, and a health system that works, more or less. Moreover, Israel assists countries in need and those which have suffered natural disasters. This was the vision of Isaiah, who saw the monarchy not only as a political entity, but as a moral force.
The State of Israel represents a new stage in Jewish history.
As the nation-state of the Jewish People, it is the vehicle for the third Jewish commonwealth.
Grounded in the vision of Isaiah, the State of Israel can be a mechanism that imbues life with holiness, a shining “light unto the nations.”
Many will question whether this image of an “Isaiah nation” is realistic, since modern states are concerned with mundane and sometimes offensive practices. Reconciling everyday requirements of running a state, dealing with social and economic inequalities and protecting the state from attacks are challenging.
But operating a predominantly secular state – albeit with Jewish symbols and adherence to some aspects of Jewish law – according to Jewish guidelines is what makes Israel different.
For Israel, an Isaiah-oriented approach is based on an understanding of the connection between the state as a political entity and as an instrument of God’s will. Although we can’t know what “God’s will” is or how to implement it, remembering the relationship provides a values compass of understanding.
Emphasizing our essential being not only as start-up nation, but as the Isaiah Nation – even though some might not accept that label – creates a new political and social awareness.
This is critical because the old Zionism, which was a response to the plight of the Jewish people and the need for a refuge, is no longer as relevant as it once was. We need to inspire future generations with spiritual goals. It is not enough to remember the Holocaust and remind the world of what happened and why. Our existential sources are in the Isaiah tradition.
Being the Isaiah Nation means Israel is not only proud of its technological innovations, but its spiritual renewal.
Israel’s uniqueness, its values, and national identity are rooted in our history as a people and our prophetic tradition.
The Isaiah Nation speaks to human dignity and values, to self-sacrifice and concern for others, to the nobility of the soul and awareness of a higher self, to living one’s potential and fulfilling the purpose for which we were created.
The weapons needed by the Isaiah Nation are not only those which we need for physical protection, but those we need to be inspired in our struggle against exploitation, dishonesty and moral weakness.
Isaiah Nation is about a society that encourages strength of character and the ability to distinguish right from wrong, and, for Jews, that depends on our connection to and understanding of Torah.
Isaiah Nation means that our motto is “God is Almighty and God is One” – Hashem Elokaynu Hashem Achad. This includes the obligation to redeem the world, tikkun olam, and to survive, and if necessary to fight for that survival. Self-defense is just as important as offering peace, and sometimes even more.
Isaiah’s vision of a world taught by a God-inspired nation, “Children of Jacob,” is enshrined in front of the United Nations headquarters: “the Law comes forth from Zion and the Word of God from Jerusalem: nations... will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not raise the sword against nation and they will no longer learn war anymore.”
Some argue that Israel cannot be the Isaiah Nation because it “oppresses Palestinians.” Those who raise this objection fail to note Israel’s unique legal and historical claim to Judea and Samaria, and its assistance to the Palestinian Authority. Nor do they explain how Israelis can beat swords into plowshares while those who incessantly call for Israel’s elimination sharpen their swords and openly call for Israel’s destruction.
The Jewish People seeks to fulfill its prophetic mission even as they are under attack and denied their historic homeland.
Isaiah Nation shifts the focus from unrealistic notions of a “two-state solution” to a return to the prophetic roots of Jewish national consciousness, applying the ingenuity of a start-up nation to the arduous task of ensuring the values of Judaism and the sovereignty of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.
A source of inspiration, the Book of Isaiah carries a message of hope to the world. That is the real meaning of Jewish/Israeli sovereignty and Jewish destiny.
The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.