The latest discourse in Israel has centered around the rising role of religion in the policies of the Israeli government. In a state without a separation of “church and state,” the role of religion in government life has always been a point of discussion in Israel. Israel has never fully clarified the lines where religion plays a role in national policy and the ambiguity of religion’s role has led to robust debate among Israel’s citizens.
Zionism has a rich diversity of both religious and secular members. The blending of these two populations’ different values and priorities have created a dynamic nation that stands united in strengthening the one and only Jewish state. While there are occasional disagreements between secular and religious Zionists, they are rare and the shared values of the two communities has been the loudest of the voices in Israel.
No proper self-definition
Zionism never properly defined itself. This lack of a definition allowed different streams of Zionism to develop. Contradictory streams of Zionism, for example, communist Zionism and capitalist Zionism, both developed under the same umbrella of establishing a Jewish State. Even within the different streams of Zionism there are smaller tributaries and differences in philosophy. There are different streams of both religious and secular Zionism.
There are many differences between secular and religious Zionism. At their most fundamental levels, there is one unique difference between the two forms of Zionism which overshadows all others. Secular Zionists maintain the only way the Jewish people can ensure their safety, security and success is by the Jewish people taking matters into their own hands and working towards Israel’s advancement.
Secular Zionists maintain that Jews taking responsibility for themselves has, is, and will always be the only way the Jewish people can guarantee a homeland for themselves. They maintain that the success of today’s Jewish state is due to the Zionist’s efforts of draining the swamps, developing the land and creating the infrastructure that led to the successful place the Jewish people are today.
Religious Zionists agree that it was Zionists that created the State through their backbreaking labor and admirable courage. They agree that it is today’s Israelis who take responsibility for Israel’s future that are ensuring Israel’s security and success. Religious Zionists maintain the most important factor in Israel’s past, present, and future success isn’t human effort but rather God’s Providence.
God will providentially protect
THE FACTOR that has, is, and will lead to Israel’s success is the strength of the relationship between the Jewish people and God. When the Jewish people observe God’s Torah by fulfilling the mitzvot and acting consistently with Halacha, God will providentially protect the Jewish state and her people. It is only with God’s blessing that the State of Israel can continue to succeed.
The difference between secular and religious Zionists manifests itself in each community’s approach to Israel’s future. Both religious and secular Zionism stands for the need for a strong military and economy to keep the Jewish State secure and successful. Secular Zionism maintains the future of Israel depends solely on the State of Israel taking the necessary steps to keep the army and economy strong.
Religious Zionism is more optimistic. It maintains that God, and the Jewish people’s relationship with God will be the ultimate deciding factor in the future of the Jewish State. They are less anxious about external enemies and international diplomacy than their fellow secular Zionists because unlike their secular brethren, they consider God the most decisive factor in Israel’s future.
Religious Zionists maintain that the destiny of the Jewish people will be determined more by Divine Providence than the actions of human beings. That doesn’t mean that Israelis and their advocates shouldn’t take the necessary steps to ensure Israel’s success and security. It means that while doing their part they must be cognizant that their actions will only be successful if they have God’s help.
Religious Zionists also maintain that the destiny of the Jewish people is an upward trajectory of success and the greatest mistake that can sidetrack or ruin that destiny is the Jewish people breaking from God and Torah observance. Our enemies, whether physical or political, cannot adversely affect Jewish destiny on their own without an absence of Divine Providence. It’s for this reason that religious Zionists don’t give as much credence or worry about political enemies or opponents as much as their secular Zionist brethren.
As Zionists continue to celebrate 75 years of incredible Jewish success it’s important to recognize the source of that success. In my opinion, while the Zionists that came before me deserve a great deal of credit for Israel’s current success, as a Torah observant Zionist I maintain Israel’s success doesn’t solely come from the power and might of our own hand. Israel’s success is attributed first and foremost to the power and Providence of God.
The Jewish people and the State of Israel’s success has not come on its own; it is God’s providence that has provided the blessing to the Zionists that built this land. Remembering this will ensure our people’s continued success.
The writer is a senior educator at numerous educational institutions. He is the author of three books and teaches Torah, Zionism and Israeli studies around the world.