In the world, but not of the world

Secular Zionists mean no evil; they merely think their course will bring respite from the persecution which has haunted us for so long.

moses god 88 298 (photo credit: )
moses god 88 298
(photo credit: )
The rifts dividing the Jewish People can only be understood by examining the spiritual roots at the foundation of the modern state of Israel and the phenomenon of political Zionism. Throughout two millennia of exile, the Jewish people have been the most persecuted of nations. We have come to reflexively attribute this persecution to our differences from the nations among which we have dwelled. This in turn has triggered a desire to assimilate by blending into the non-Jewish world. Theodor Herzl, "father of political Zionism," saw the futility of this course. He was covering the trial of Alfred Dreyfus, a captain in the French Army who had been falsely convicted of treason. Although his innocence later became clear, the French judiciary did not relent. As Dreyfus was paraded through the streets of Paris, sentenced to exile for life on Devil's Island, mobs chanted "death to the Jews" while spitting in his face. Herzl, himself an assimilated and intermarried Jew, was shocked that his beloved France could sink to such depths, and realized that the only place the Jews could be safe was in a land of their own. Only then, Herzl surmised, could we become a nation like all others... and thus successfully assimilate into the international community! This new nation would look to America and the western world for both its culture and its values. MANY CHRISTIANS we've met have been shocked to learn that the State of Israel was founded, not as a means of ensuring religious expression for the Jewish people, but rather as a vehicle for assimilation. This philosophy is the antithesis of Torah Judaism, and the spiritual chasm that separates the two camps explains the rifts we see in Israel today. The Torah bestows 613 commandments on the Jewish people - intended, among other things, to separate us from the nations of the world. Isaiah describes the Jews as "a light unto the nations," while Jeremiah prophesized: "Thus said the Lord: Learn not the way of the nations." These two prophecies go hand in hand, and clearly describe the true and final purpose of our Jewish state. Israel was not to be a cultural reflection of America in the Middle East, but rather a spiritual conduit to bring truth and understanding from God to all the nations of the world. Judaism is not a religion of conversion but of example. Through the kindness, humility and modesty with which the Torah can endow us, we are to show people the only way to live a life of genuine meaning and true happiness. In Leviticus, God tells us: "And you shall be holy unto Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have set you apart from all the peoples, that you should be Mine." Moses, our greatest prophet, explained the inescapable relationship between the Land of Israel and Jewish observance in Deuteronomy: "Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments that you should do in the midst of the Land which you go to possess." The Jewish people will not be able to shine on the world as long as the Jews of Israel seek to be k'chol hagoyim ("as all the nations") while the Jews of the exile seek to remain b'chol hagoyim ("in the midst of the nations"). The world's undiminished anti-Semitism and the hatred that our secular democracy has engendered is proof enough of the failure of both approaches. Only when we all return to the Land and reconnect with our spiritual roots will the hatred stop, and we can finally make good on God's promise to us and to the world. To contact Ari & Jeremy, please visit: (From the August 2006 edition)