Israel isn't the Start-Up Nation. It's the Jewish state - opinion

Israel did not fight its many wars out of allegiance to the microchip. Judaism is the basis for the past, present and future Jewish state.

 A soldier casts his ballot in the Israeli general elections a day early at the Har Dov military base on Mount Hermon, on October 31, 2022.  (photo credit: JALAA MAREY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)
A soldier casts his ballot in the Israeli general elections a day early at the Har Dov military base on Mount Hermon, on October 31, 2022.
(photo credit: JALAA MAREY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

In 2009, Saul Singer and Dan Senor co-authored a fabulous best-seller brilliantly entitled Start-Up Nation. Lamentably, from then on many of Israel’s lovers and leaders adopted and adapted that title to promote Israel to the world to the exclusion of the foundational reason for Israel’s establishment and existence. That order of prioritization must be righted.

Israel is variously marketed as the innovation nation, the guarantor of never again, the sole democracy in the Middle East and a bastion of Western values.

While Israel can wear such labels with pride, those descriptions do not encapsulate what the state is at its core, explain the essence of why Israel exists or assure its future standing internationally.

Israel’s technological status is laudable. Apple, Microsoft and more have robust Israeli presence. But if an existential threat were to befall Israel tomorrow, those same companies would withdraw quicker than one can say “silicon wadi.”

Israel did not fight its many wars out of allegiance to the microchip.

An IDF soldier demonstrates cutting-edge ''Edge of Tomorrow'' technologies at a training center. (credit: MINISTRY OF DEFENSE SPOKESPERSON’S OFFICE)An IDF soldier demonstrates cutting-edge ''Edge of Tomorrow'' technologies at a training center. (credit: MINISTRY OF DEFENSE SPOKESPERSON’S OFFICE)

Pre-state, the forebears of Israel’s citizenry yearned to return to the land that is now the modern state. They did so not when that land was at the forefront of technological advancement but when it was a series of swamps and deserts riddled with disease.

Thus, Israel’s reconstitution must have been powered by something beyond its technological prowess.

What is the basis of Israel?

Contrary to the beliefs of many, Israel was not founded in response to the Holocaust. Its existence surely serves as a bulwark against another Holocaust but the Holocaust is not the reason for Israel’s existence. Opening the door to such a narrative is an error.

The forebears of today’s Israeli soldiers yearned for Zion centuries before the names Auschwitz, Goebbels, Goring or Adolf Hitler were etched into infamy.

Tragically, with the passage of time and the passing of survivors, there will soon rise a generation of society with a vastly reduced memory of the Holocaust. Predicating Israel’s existence upon a phenomenon so fleeting within the memory of mankind would be misguided, therefore. Neither Israel’s past nor future can be reduced down to the horrific actions of another people.

Promoting Israel’s status as the sole democracy in the Middle East overlooks the deeply socialist roots that Israel had at the time of its founding.

Our Jewish antecedents yearned for Israel when it was most likely to be born a socialist state. Still, they yearned for this land and discounted all others. It was not democracy that they sought. Their yearning for statehood was in no way misguided.

Joseph Stalin voted to recognize the state, confident that a socialist Israel would broaden the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. That man was not powered by a deep love for the Jewish people.

THAT ISRAEL is a democracy is wonderful. May it forever remain so. But curiously, a commitment to democracy doesn’t typically move the Jewish people to fight and die in the defense of the countries in which they reside. If it did, diaspora Jewry would surely be storming the military recruiting offices of Britain, France and America. Some do so but most do not.

Safeguarding the democratic character of a country rarely animates Jewish communities to the point where they stand ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause. Not in Britain, France, America or Israel. It is not for the sake of democracy that the Jewish people repeatedly stare down death to protect the state.

And with regard to Israel being a bastion of Western values, in this era of increasing societal wimpishness, outrage culture, cancel culture and ever-growing self-loathing in the West, Western values are about as dependably formed and fashioned as a piece of masticated chewing gum. They should be relied upon about as much as one would a chocolate fire-guard. With antisemitism back in vogue in much of the West and Western values weakening daily, Israel cannot afford to follow suit.

Into and beyond all of these narratives, Israel must reinject the only quintessential reason for its founding and existence.

In the final analysis, the reason for the state’s founding and daily renewal is that with all of the challenges and opportunities that stand before it, this tiny strip of land just happens to be the Homeland of the Jewish people.

Jewish peoplehood and Jewish liturgy believe this land to have been sworn unto our forefathers by God, stated to have been so at the genesis of the Jewish origin story. That connection is undeniable and must not be downplayed. Israel’s story was forged in the twin furnaces of history and faith. From there, this singular, fundamental narrative was drawn out. It must be told above all others. Absent that truth, all narratives are fleeting.

Those who claim that the world won’t accept such a narrative must be challenged to furnish the narrative in a way in which the world will accept Israel’s presence. But take heed, no matter the branding Israel chooses, to its foes and friends alike, this land is the Jewish state, a reality that begets sinister and celebratory reactions, respectively. How Israel responds to that reality is its own choice. It should do so with a stiffened spine and iron-clad conviction.

It is from this land that the Jewish people stem and around this land that the Jewish people are inextricably tied. If Israel the country thrives, Israel the people will thrive, wherever they may reside.

The United States Marines chant a credo when presented with their weapons during basic training: “This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine.”

Israel’s lovers and leaders should adopt and adapt that narrative: “This is my land. There are many like it but this land is mine.”

Judaism is the basis for the past, present and future Jewish state. All else is a mere outgrowth of what occurs when a land is reconciled with its people and a people is finally reconciled with its land. Centrally stating that truth will ensure that it remains a force for good and strength universally.

The writer is the co-founder and CEO of The MirYam Institute. He is an IDF combat veteran and graduate of the University of Cambridge, UK.