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Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The Power of Ideas

I just started reading Yoram Hazony's "The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul". In this book, Hazony, head of the Shalem Center, looks at the influence of Israel's intellectual elite on the development of post-Zionism. This formerly marginalized ideology eventually took hold with politicians, leading to the Oslo accords, and everything that followed. He then goes through an intellectual history of Zionism, showing how an equally marginalized and far-fetched ideolgy at the time, that of the Jewish State, took hold and bore fruit.

It is very enlightening to look at the current crisis in Israel not as a debate over policies (where to build the fence, which communities to uproot, etc) but a much more fundemental debate over ideaologies. I am still reading, so I will post more on this important book when I finish. But so far, I see two important lessons: 1) We must recognize the ideological underpinnings of the debate in Israel, if we can hope to effectively grappple with the issues. 2) The power of ideas. Herzl wasn't nearly as much of an activist or a fighter as he was a philosopher, spreading an alternative philosophy that would lead to the creation of the Jewish State. We mustn't underestimate the power of spreading ideas.

In our modern, connected age, blogs are becoming a powerful tool for just that - the spreading of ideas. I think that Kumah speaks to an ideaology - not just that of making aliyah, but as seeing ourselves as combining a historic return to our roots with the best of the opportunities that the modern world provides, in order to fulfill our Godly destiny. This thinking is rooting deeply in Jewish law, tradition, and texts, and is certainly not unique to Kumah. But it needs to be spread much more effectively both in the exile and in Israel. I hope that this blog will be able to be used as a tool for development and discussions of these ideas, to energize a new generation of chovevei tzion, lovers of Zion.


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