The status of nuclear weapons in Israel bears some tantalizing resemblance to the status of the Almighty in Judaism.
Those concerned with the history and role of God can click here, and continue further for as many years as the interest or life continues.
It is risky in the extreme to summarize the Judaic view of God, given the variety of movements under the tent, and the greater range of personal views and practices. However, it is fair to describe Judaism as the most purely monotheistic of the major faiths, without the Muslims'' reliance on a single prophet, and Christians'' mixture of god and man in the person of a Jew whose preachings may have been stretched by disciples years after his death.
Prominent in the Jewish view of the Almighty is distance and abstraction. Jews do not describe God''s face, they do not hear God''s voice, and they do not speak God''s name. There are many words used to refer to the Almighty, but the true name is never mentioned. Religious Jews conversing in Hebrew tend to use השם (the name) to refer to God, or alter אלוהים to אלוקים (elohim to elokim) in order not to approach saying one of the prominent labels. Tradition is that only the High Priest pronounced the true name only in the most sacred room of the Temple and only on Yom Kippur. Since there hasn''t been a Temple for two millennia, scholars no longer are sure about the sound of the true name. Religious English speakers seek to replicate the Hebrew practice by avoiding to write the conventional English name of the almighty, and do it as G-d.
Scholars who deal with the history and creation of the Jewish people see significance in several terms for God in the Hebrew Bible. Among the speculations is that each may be the name of a god worshiped by the various tribes or clusters of families that somehow came together, perhaps somewhere in the Judean mountains, most likely more than 3,000 years ago, and--using the terminology of the Hebrew Bible--described themselves as Hebrews, then Israelites, Judeans, and finally Jews.
What''s the point of this for Israel''s ultimate weapon, whose existence (like God''s name) is not officially and publicly discussed in Israel, and has never been acknowledged?
Just as the most religious of Jews refer to themselves as God-fearing (Haredim) without daring to mention God''s name, so there is an awe, fear, or ultimate respect for what is sometimes referred to as Israel''s weapon in the basement.
As best as one can fathom, the weapon, if it exists, is meant to provide Israel with an ultimate protection against an enemy''s final solution. It is not to be used casually. It is not even discussed by people likely to know of its existence, its numbers, the nature of its strength, location(s), how it may be sent to a target, or which units are responsible for guarding, maintaining, or activating it. Authorities have been very tough with the one individual who worked in the industry and went public with his knowledge.
Silence or ambiguity marks official policy. Israel does not want to use nuclear weapons, likely to signal its own catastrophe as well as others'', and certainly does not want to be identified as the first country since World War II to use such a weapon, and thereby open a door to its further proliferation, more frequent use, and horrendous consequences.
Among the costs of silence and ambiguity, Israelis are not aware of the circumstances--other than a vague sense that it concerns something apocalyptic--when such weapons might be used. Reports are that the IDF activated its batteries during the first Gulf War when Israel suffered numerous scud missile attacks from Iraq, and sent out the word that it would respond with nuclear weapons if Saddam employed against us any of his chemical weapons.
We can do no more than wonder about those unconfirmed reports in connection with the chatter about Syrian chemical weapons, their possible transfer to Hizbollah, and however the Iranian threat develops.
And for those who feel provoked by these parallels between God and Israel''s nuclear weapons, I will depart from my usual modesty and note that there is on my shelf, and in a library near you, a more wide ranging discussion of parallels between politics and religion. The Politics of Religion and the Religion of Politics (Lexington Books, 2000).