Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Jim Shipley
Shipley Speaks 

What is Israel?


In Herzl’s dream, Israel was to be the home of the Jewish people. A home for the Jewish people. Herzl pictured a utopian libertarian place where creative, literary and academic Jews could be Jews. Where their knowledge, their inventiveness would no longer have to deal with anti-Semitism or prejudice of any kind.

Ah, but where in the world would this place be? And what about the Jews who did not fit the literary, academic profile? The gentile minds of the time felt that location was secondary to just getting the Jews out of their hair. As time passed it finally became clear that yes, there was a place in the world to which every Jew in the world could trace their ancestry. The place had once been called Israel and at the time the Romans destroyed it, it was the Second Jewish Commonwealth.

Herzl’s idea was replaced with a much wider vision. The Jewish National Fund collected money (your mama will remember the little blue boxes). That money paid for lawyers to comb through old Turkish land documents to determine who owned land in the place that was once Israel. The JNF found the documents and bought the land for what they hoped would be the once and future land of Israel. The only thing neither they nor the Turks discussed was the fact that most of the land they were buying for Jewish settlement already had people living there.

No, those living there did not have ownership. Some paid a form of rent or tribute to the Turkish owners. Above all, the wily Turks did not discuss this with the European Jews who were giving them money for deeds to land that was already lived upon. Thus came the problems of settlement, of deadly clashes because not only were Europeans coming to clear people off land on which they had lived for generations, even worse, these people were Jews!

So after the Holocaust and in many ways because of it, Israel was born on one percent of the land of the Middle East. No oil, few natural resources, but the original land of the Jews. The Arabs of neighboring countries as well as the Arabs living in what the British had called Palestine did not want there to be a Jewish State. So, the war of 1948 was fought and won. And the war of 1973 was fought and won. And the suicide bombers were finally stopped by a horrendous fence that shut out thousands of Arabs who had never thrown a bomb.

The so-called “Peace Process” has dragged on for the past 50 years or more, to no avail. It is time we faced the fact that the “Two-State-Solution” is a myth. The Arabs are truly not interested in an Israel of any size or shape. Israel could and should declare its borders and make that a feat accompli. Yes, it is the “Alon Plan” from the 1950s—and really, what has changed?

We are Jews because we were born Jews. It is in our DNA. The Kohanim can be traced back over a thousand years through their DNA. There are those who become “Jewish” through conversion. But a Jew? Remember we were a people for more than a thousand years before we became a religion.

To me a Jew is a Jew. As an example, I know some ex-Catholics; but I don’t know any ex-Italians. If we are to have a Jewish State than that is what it is. Does this mean that everyone there to become a citizen of the State must be a Jew? Ah—there’s the rub. What about all those people who remained behind when the others fled in 1948?

The Israeli Supreme Court decided last year that there is a difference between “nationality” and “citizenship.” In other words, you can be a citizen of Israel, with all rights and privileges, but you are also identified by nationality—so you are a Jewish citizen of Israel, or a Palestinian citizen of Israel, or I guess, whatever.

There are those in the world who, if Israel separates its citizens by Jew/non-Jew, will call it an “apartheid State.” But Israel is unique among nations. It is the Jewish Homeland. On the other hand, if Israel is a “democracy” then it has to act like one. As should its citizens. Everyone living there should pledge allegiance to the flag of Israel. It should be incumbent upon all citizens to pledge to defend the State, to abide by its laws, to worship in any way they choose. Does that mean Arab citizens take up arms against other Arabs should the need arise? It certainly means that the thousands of “Haredi” who demonstrated against duty in the IDF, if they are citizens of the State, are bound to serve. There are no easy answers. No, none of it is simple or easy. But who ever said it is supposed to be?


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