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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The Power of Ideas (2)

I just finished reading Yoram Hazony's book, "The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul" (see my earlier post). As some background, Hazony basically presents the current trend of Israeli intellectuals to take positions that are in direct conflict with the goal of a Jewish state. He then gives an intellectual history of Zionism, starting from Herzl up to the present day, and shows the origin of the universalist ideas that are so prevalent now, and which threaten the very idea of Jewish nationalism. It is a fascinating read for anyone frustrated with the current trends in Israeli and international politics, and I highly recommend it.

Ariel Natan Pasko, in the comments, that the problem with the book is that Hazony only presents the problems, but does not offer a solution. However, I think he does present a solution in the last two paragraphs of the book. He says that the story he tells...
affords optimism, in my opinion, because it also offers a different lesson: the lesson of how a small fellowship of intellectuals, without the benefit of exceptionally sensible ideas or especially cogent means of expressing them, nonetheless succeeded in changing the life of a nation, against all odds, and despite the deepest longings of an entire people. With this lesson in mind, one cannot help considering what a few individuals might yet be able to do, if their ideas were just a bit more sensible, and if these ideas did correspond in some way to the dreams and desires of our people....

It seems to me that such individuals could even now return to the work that was left undone, reestablishing the idea of the Jewish state on solid foundations, that it might actually become the guardian of the Jews and a source of strength to them. And in this way, too, they might assist the Jewish people to again become a nation of grandeur and a blessing to all who nbefriend them, perhaps even to all the families of the earth. And it seems to me that the Jewish people and its friends among the nations await just such an effort.

I read this as a detailed prescription for what we need to do. Activism on specific issues is important, but in the long run, it is serious intellectual development, especially among the students and young people in our communities, which will make the difference in how Israel develops over the course of our lives. We do have the ability to make the difference, and we don't need to be the prime minister to do so. We need to keep writing, keep teaching, keep talking, and keep blogging, and develop a strong, positive, inspirational Jewish nationalism that we can use as a model for building the future of the Jewish state.


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