Jewish Values in the Jewish State
A paper prepared for the project
"Israel at 2020: Master Plan for Israel in the 21st Century"
Daniel J. Elazar
Israel, built as it was by the Zionist movement for the purpose of saving and restructuring the Jewish people, not surprisingly was founded to rest upon Jewish values. While the meaning of Israel as a Jewish state is itself in flux these days and no doubt will be over much of the next generation, the issue of that meaning remains an important one and its resolution will undoubtedly have an impact on the role of Jewish values in the state.
Jewish values are grounded on and derived from the idea of covenant which in itself embodies a basic value: the idea that humans establish institutions and relationships on grounds of a fundamental equality and based upon freely choosing to do so.1 Thus covenantal relationships and the institutions built upon them stand in great contrast to hierarchical ones in which every person has his or her place in the political social pyramid at a higher or lower level with the higher ruling the lower, or by some kind of natural elite that gravitates to positions of power which it retains unrestrained.
The covenantal basis is the true, some say the only, basis for democracy.2 Since its biblical origins through which it entered first Jewish, then Western, and finally world civilization, the covenant idea has been the central value promoting human freedom and equality. While the original biblical covenants were between man and God, the very idea itself that the two could be joined in covenant was quite radical and involved the limitation (in biblical terms, the self-limitation) of God by entering into covenant with man, which, if it did not make men the equal of God, made them equally responsible for the tasks embodied in the covenant. Much later the Reformed Protestants of Western Europe and the Puritans of England recognized the daring quality of this claim and erected the ideas that became the foundations of Western democracy upon it.3
Such Jewish ideas as tzimtzum, God's partial withdrawal to make space for the world including humanity, and the view dominant throughout Jewish history from the biblical portrayal of the patriarchs and Moses through the ideas of hassidism that humans can indeed argue with God and attempt to convince Him to change His course of action are all grounded in this fundamental covenantalism.4 According to this view, while God may be all powerful, He does not rule humans hierarchically and thereby empowers humans to rule themselves.
In the final analysis, this may be the ultimate Jewish value. Jews are covenantal through and through, regardless of whether they are religious or secular. Covenantalism has become rooted in their culture over thousands of years. The fact that the State of Israel was built upon hierarchical European models while the people of Israel count on a very different cultural tradition generates so many of the dysfunctional elements in Israeli society as individuals whose cultural expectations are covenantal have to work within a system whose institutional structures are hierarchical and thus develop devices to bypass the formal procedures.5
Covenantal principles not only lead to the establishment of partnership relations based upon the fundamental equality of free people, but establish those relationships in such a way that actions and agreements are achieved through negotiation and bargaining. That negotiation and bargaining, to be covenantal, must be conducted with hesed, that is to say, in a spirit of hasidut with the parties recognizing that they are negotiating with covenantal partners and hence must be prepared to go beyond the letter of the law (lifnim meshurat hadin).6 Otherwise, the relationship becomes contractual in which each side is only interested in maximizing its own advantage. The Bible pairs brit v'hesed over and over again and in Jewish tradition and those most faithful to the covenant with God have almost from the first been described as hasidim.
At the same time, Jews have recognized that life is not merely a set of covenants but also rests on an organic dimension and that the solidarity among kin is fundamental to human and particularly Jewish existence. Historically, to this day, the Jewish sense of kinship and solidarity is legendary and even is seen by some as a form of tribalism carried over into the contemporary world. Jewish values recognize the importance of this solidarity for all peoples as separate peoples and collectively as human solidarity. Thus the ideal situation from the point of view of Jewish values is a society organized on the basis of an appropriate combination of kinship and consent. That is why the Bible presents humanity as having two foundations, one, the common descent from Adam and Eve, and the second, their common binding through God's covenant with Noah after the Flood which establishes the rules by which humans must live.
A second comprehensive Jewish value concept that serves as a central pillar for all Jews and for the Jewish state is that of re'ut as in veahavta reaha kamoha. Re'ut, a concept that first appears in the Bible and then subsequently in rabbinic literature, deals with the kind of solidarity that a territorially-based community should have. In a sense it is both an extension and a limitation of brit arevut, the value that holds all Jews arevim ze l'ze because of the kinship that binds them. While re'ut has been variously interpreted, it not only offers the possibility for solidarity between Jews and Jews but also between Jews and non-Jews when the non-Jews are in the position of being re'im. While many rabbinic sources limited the concept to relations among Jews, the Bible does not do so but leaves the matter open. Community solidarity, the logical extension of re'ut, is a particular characteristic that the Jewish settlers of Eretz Israel sought to foster in the Yishuv and in the state, and remains a hallmark of what, in Jewish eyes, makes for a good commonwealth.
A third core value concept is that of tzedakah u'mishpat, the fundamental justice that is built into the world and is anchored in the fundamental law governing human relations. Tzedakah u'mishpat is the biblical-Jewish equivalent of natural law in Greek and Western thought, except that in its Jewish origins it rests on God's creation and covenants described in the Bible. As a value concept it has been a critical motivator for Jewish life, especially political and social life.
In one sense, all three of these fundamental value concepts are undergoing great change at the present moment. The Jewish sense of Jews being covenanted to one another, that Jews are b'nai brit, is undergoing stresses of dealing with the polarization of religious and secular Jews at the extremes in present Israel and the diminution among the latter of the sense that Jews are perforce bound together, by the reality of their position in the world, not by Divine commandment. The idea of re'ut is under assault principally through the spread of Western-style individualism in Israeli society, with its materialistic and hedonistic elements, that diminish both the sense of solidarity and the perceived demands for it. In essence, those who advocate civil society on the Israeli scene do so at the expense of those elements of re'ut that promote solidarity.
Tzedakah u'mishpat are under challenge because of the demise of socialism as an ideology which, in turn, reflects the sense that socialism, which was intended as a modern secular way to embody the aspiration of tzedakah u'mishpat, could not produce the intended results but rather created its own distortions. While the ideology of socialism has been abandoned and so, too, many of its practices, nothing has yet emerged to take its place and many Israelis still have a certain nostalgic belief in the ideal of socialism even though they no longer want the practices.
Of the three, it seems likely that tzedakah u'mishpat will have a quicker recovery since the Jewish commitment to that pillar is likely to survive the transition and find expression before too long. Re'ut is likely to be expanded to include non-Jews, particularly Arabs, in the immediate neighborhood, although it will do so first through lip service, then through public expressions, and only later through private ones. Brit may also make the transition, but that will be in many respects the most difficult. It still is the sense of Jews the world over that all Jews are b'nai brit but this idea of covenant may be supplemented by the sense of having similar kinds of associational relations with Israel's neighbors or, for that matter, with the regions of which Israel is a part (the Mediterranean Basin and West Asia) or beyond. One thing that stands to contribute to the reinterpretation of the idea of brit is the kind of compactual connections that are emerging among the nations and states of the world as a result of what is generally referred to as globalization.
Here a note on methodology is in order. This paper follows from the work of Max Kadushin who authored several books exploring the thought process of the Talmudic sages and understanding of the norms emphasized in talmudic sources titled The Rabbinic Mind and Organic Thinking.7 In those books he presented rabbinic thought as based upon a number of what he referred to as "value concepts"; that is to say, core ideas designed to express certain values which were not so much precisely defined as expressed through midrashic commentaries to build an edifice of ideas. To paraphrase to Kadushin's approach, rather than setting out basic definitions of those value concepts within definitional frames in the manner of Greek philosophic thought, value concepts are built like the oases of Eretz Israel and this region. They start with a central core around which are added various elements overtime, those closer to the center are the more critical to understanding the value concept. Thus value concepts and complexes of value concepts express the fundamentals of Jewish thought in the area in question and have in that way become parts of Jewish culture, able to be developed, expanded on, or redirected in every generation according to the needs of time and place.
The Jewish values discussed in the following pages are value concepts of relevance both to the internal development of Israel and in Israel's relations with its region and the larger world. They will be discussed drawing upon Kadusin's methodology.
In discussing Jewish values in Israel, we may divide those values into three groups: 1) humanistic Jewish values, i.e., those values stemming from the Jewish tradition that deal with universal themes and are universally applicable; 2) Zionist values that are specific to the Zionist enterprise and the rebuilding of Jewish life in the Land of Israel and the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state; and 3) values having to do with the Jewishness of the Jewish state, those that deal with the specifically Jewish aspects of Israel.
The first are heavily covenantal and minimally organic. The other two are deeply rooted in the particularly Jewish combination of kinship and covenant that has given the Jewish people its special character and no doubt will continue to be, even then they are expanded to include all citizens of Israel.
1. Humanistic (Universal) Jewish Values
While many people no doubt think only of the last category as "Jewish values," in fact the impact of the first category is likely to be the most enduring, come what may. This conclusion can be drawn from the experience of Jews or those of Jewish ancestry in the diaspora who have assimilated but whose universal values remain those fostered by their Jewish heritage, unbeknownst to them and remain, deeply imbedded in their culture.
Humanistic Jewish values are those which almost everyone would agree are valid in all times and places for all human beings. They are the values at the core of Western civilization and, indeed, are either fully or substantially derived from the Bible and Jewish sources for Western civilization as a whole. They are strongest in those lands and among those peoples strongly influenced by the Bible and its covenantal worldview such as Protestant Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as Israel.
Since those are the countries and peoples that contemporary Israelis seek to emulate, those values may be reenforced even by the greater involvement of Israel with the larger world, aside from the fact that they represent many of the core values of Western civil society and liberal democracy, and are so rooted in Jewish culture that even when parts of the West retreat from them, the Jews remain their most powerful partisans. We see that as the case in the United States. As Americans have grown wealthier, they have moved from the humanitarian liberalism of the 1930s to a new conservatism. The exceptions are the poor, those still struggling for social acceptance, and the Jews, who, despite the fact that they have both "arrived" politically and socially and have become wealthy economically remain committed to the social values of the old liberalism.
There is no reason to expect that a similar development will not occur in Israel as it achieves greater peace and prosperity over the next thirty years. It is only to be expected that there will be those who take some values more seriously than others, but there is every reason to anticipate that the dominant values in Israel will continue to be derived at the very least from these universalistic values of humanitarianism and social justice which Jews have acquired over the centuries from the Bible and Jewish tradition and which they have modified in light of their different collective and individual life experiences. Israelis will have to find ways to adapt these abstract values to the concrete and specific situations that they confront, but there is every likelihood that they will make the effort to do so, as witness the recent controversies over building the bypass roads in the territories between those who want the roads to be built as rapidly as possible so the peace process can continue in the field and those, including some of the strongest supporters of that process, who are worried about permanent damage to the environment.
We may concentrate on four particular complexes of values in this category which bear on the concerns of Israel 2020. We shall examine them utilizing the traditional Jewish terms for each:
1.1 Yishuv Haaretz
In matters of planning, the first great complex of Jewish values is that encompassed by the concept of yishuv haaretz, which has to do not only with the settlement and development of the land but also with the protection of its environmental quality in the course of that development. It includes such concepts as bal tashkhit, the prohibition of senseless destruction of the environment even in times of war. The laws of sanitation both in civilian life and in times of war, the sabbatical laws, the need to reinvigorate the earth by allowing it to lie fallow periodically, also fall within this category.
From the first, even in biblical times, all three of those dimensions were included within the value concepts involved here. Each has received emphasis at different times. For example, in the years of Zionist pioneering in the resettlement of the land, the emphasis was on the populating with Jews and development of a barren and exhausted land. As a result of that effort, at one and the same time, was turned green and productive and also injured through improper development.
In recent years, with the sense that the ecological improvement of the land in a developmental way has been more or less completed, and population pressures have grown, the emphasis has shifted to environmental concerns. As of yet, Israel is not in the forefront in showing concern for environmental problems since we are still in the process of transition from the old developmental philosophy to the new, but this transition is likely to be completed over the next thirty years and environmental concerns are likely to become predominant, although how predominant is an open question since the needs for development will grow apace with the growth in population and the withdrawal from the territories.
While at this time, it is unlikely that direct reference will be made to the basis of this environmentalism in Jewish sources and ideas, the basis will be there. As in other Jewish values (democracy, for example), it will come to us as those sources and ideas have been filtered through the West, reinterpreted in modern and contemporary form, and then brought back to us. However, if a direct effort is made by Israelis to understand the Jewish sources fostering concern for the environment, we will undoubtedly benefit in our struggle to apply the values properly.
1.2 Bnai Noah
This complex of value concepts deals with the unity of humanity and the place of all humanity in covenant with God, the Jewish basis of both human equality and law and order in the world, derived from the biblical covenant that God made with Noah (Genesis 9). The talmudic sages derived from this a Jewish equivalent of Greek natural law, including the prohibition against theft and murder and idolatry, the necessity to establish courts of justice, and such civilizing elements as not tearing flesh from living animals for eating purposes. In the traditional sources, the seven Noahide laws prohibit idolatry, blasphemy, bloodshed, sexual sins, theft, eating from a living animal, and positively require the establishment of a legal system to enforce the prohibition. Other prohibitions were derived from these. For example, both military conquest and dishonesty in economic life are prohibited under the prohibition of theft. Positive injunctions to practice charity, to procreate, and to honor the Torah are derived from the Noahide laws.8
The essence of the Noahide covenant is that we are all the children of Noah and equal in our descent, and therefore must relate to one another on the basis of mutual respect. Even more than in the case of yishuv haaretz, these values have entered Western civilization and have come to function at its cutting edge from whence they have been returned to Israel where many Israelis were not aware of their Jewish origin. Nevertheless, in one form or another they have come to influence the interaction of peoples and states in the world and will continue to do so. Israel will become more aware of them in their contemporary form as it loses its isolation in world affairs over the course of the next generation.
1.3 Tikkun Olam
This complex of value concepts deals with the reform or reconstruction of the world along lines that will lead humanity toward the implementation of its ideal visions, visions that to a great extent were originally derived from the Bible or whose impetus was. The very ideas that history is progressive and that humans can improve the world are biblical in origin and have entered Western civilization from the Bible through the Jewish people and Judaism with its offshoots, Christianity and Islam. In the modern epoch, those ideas were secularized through the modern revolutionary movements that placed great emphasis on the reconstruction of the world, but to the extent that they left out the religious constraints on human excesses, they failed and brought misery to the world.
Today the world seems to be tired of the kinds of ideologies that those secular revolutionary movements represented, but especially among Jews with a strong culture of social consciousness, the idea of tikkun olam not only remains strong but, among North American Jews at least, has become articulated as a central value in these very terms. This rearticulation of tikkun olam has yet to come to Israel in the same way, but is very likely to within the next generation as Israel becomes more subject to influences from outside of its boundaries in terms of its values as well as its more material aspirations.
What constitutes tikkun olam at any particular time is an open question but it invariably embraces the values of humanitarianism and social justice, however interjected. Earlier this century, socialism, as an assault upon radical economic and social inequalities or social democratic concern for improving the lot of the poor and underprivileged was a major concern as was the achievement of a place in the sun for peoples who were persecuted or colonized. Today, many of those who advocate reform as tikkun olam are in the forefront of the feminist movements, of the environmentalist movement, of naturalist movements, of movements designed to prevent the abuse of spouses, children, and animals, of improving accessibility and participation in society of the disabled, and other such causes, all of which have come to Israel in one form or another and are likely to be even more important on the Israeli agenda if the peace process is successfully completed and Israelis have the time to respond to other issues which will touch their social conscience which, as suggested above, is particularly strong among Jews, for this complex of value concepts can almost be described as a burning one.
To date, there is no Israeli equivalent of the conservative backlash to social democracy and the welfare state that has spread widely in the West. Some of that backlash is simply the result of the increased privatism and even selfishness in the Western world, but some of it at least presents itself as principled in terms of the same concerns for tikkun olam, that is to say, a belief that those concerns are best achieved through free markets and private initiatives including public but nongovernmental voluntary activity and philanthropy. One might assume that this wave will reach Israel in about twenty years.
It is very likely that with the great increase in private wealth in Israel as a result of the present prosperity, Israelis with means will begin to make some share of that wealth available to voluntary organizations designed to undertake humanitarian and social missions, thereby increasing the role of the public nongovernmental sector in Israeli life in two ways: one, giving it more resources, and two, and perhaps most important, detaching it from a dependence upon government financial support.
Under the socialist ideology which informed so much of the old Israel, it was held that if something was worth doing publicly it should be done by government and not by private philanthropic effort, just the reverse of the view dominant in those Western countries that Israelis try to emulate. That may be reversed under Israel's new prosperity, combined with the Jewish drive for tikkun olam, may make this both possible and likely, especially since the range of causes that fall within this category has expanded greatly and people will seek to pick and choose the causes that they support and the ways in which they support them, and the policies and programs that need to be developed to do so.
1.4 Darchei Shalom
In certain respects, this is the complex of value concepts most overtly prominent among Jews, both religious and otherwise, who are constantly calling for peace for Israel and the world in prayer or song or other forms of expression, no doubt because Jews have suffered so greatly from lack of peace in the past and continue to do so. We are now engaged in a peace process attempting to close the period of conflict with our immediate neighbors, while the world as a whole is engaged in a peace process which led to the end of the Cold War and now has taken a new turn, seeking to end local conflicts, especially long term ones that have engaged people beyond the boundaries of the conflict.
Israel's peace process is perhaps a classic example of the combination of ideals and self-interest that characterizes the humanistic Jewish values. Jews are at the forefront of almost every peace movement, individually or collectively, and those Jews among the least attuned to an overt recognition of the place of Jewish values in our society are among the most active in the struggle for Israel-Arab peace.
The peace process is likely to be dominant in Israel at least for the first half of the coming generation and, indeed, will undoubtedly be involved in the clash of values between those who see peace as a preeminent value and those who see other Zionist and Jewish values as equally if not more important (see below). The question before us will be to what extent will this be viewed as a clash of Jewish values and to what extent they are viewed as a clash between Jewish and other values. If the conflict of values is recognized as a conflict between Jewish values, Israel is likely to do better in preserving its Jewishness and its solidarity as a society than if it becomes a conflict between "Jewish" and "democratic" values, and the "Jewish" values are seen only as the more parochial ones.
2. Zionist Values
Zionist values are those that are specific to the Zionist idea, the Zionist movement, and the Zionist enterprise. They played a major role in the rebuilding of Jewish life in the Land of Israel and the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state. At present, these values are in something of a retreat or eclipse in the face of the search for peace with Israel's neighbors and prosperity for Israel's people. Neither search need be seen as contrary to Zionist values but in an approximate sense, the experience of Zionism made them seem to be for some people in the short run, since those values involved the Zionist struggle against Arab enemies of the enterprise and the means chosen to pursue the rebuilding of the Land of Israel were socialist and collectivist rather than the market and more individualistic means that are needed to prosper economically.
While some of these Zionist values have been displaced, either because the Zionist achievement has pushed them from center stage or because other considerations have obscured or confused them, there is every chance that some will survive. As we saw at the time of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, for Israelis and even more so for secular ones, Zionism is the "faith of the fathers," to which people turn in times of crisis for solace and reassurance. At the very least, there is likely to be a struggle within Israeli society between those Zionist values as originally understood or as reinterpreted, and other interests or drives.
2.1 Bayit Leumi
This complex of value concepts deals with the core of the Zionist enterprise, the rebuilding of the Jewish national home in Eretz Israel, and what must be considered in that regard as Israel enters into a new phase of its existence. Israelis must redefine what Israel means to them as a bayit leumi now that the original Zionist pioneering stage has reached its end. This includes both parts of the phrase: what is Israel as a bayit and what does leumi mean or imply in an age of greater universalism, especially a spreading universal world culture at both popular and elite levels. Jews being Jews, this question will not go away, even if many Jews try to act as if it is irrelevant or obsolete.
2.2 Medina Yehudit / Medinat Hayehudim
This siamese twinned complex of value concept focuses on Israel as a Jewish state and as a State of Jews on the ideas of statehood, Jewishness, and democracy, and the role and problematics of Jewish values in shaping all three. It is a set of concepts that is full of conflict-producing questions. Is Israel a Jewish state or a state of Jews, i.e., happens to have a Jewish majority? Is Israel engaged in the struggle between Judaism and democracy? In my opinion, that misstates the question. The use of the term "democracy" in that way is a code word for trying to end Israel's existence as a Jewish state? So, too, Judaism is a code word for Jewish religious fundamentalism and a state governed by a fundamentalist understanding of halakhah as interpreted by fundamentalist rabbis.
Whereas humanistic Jewish values can be unifying since they bridge between the religious, traditional, and secular, the struggle over Zionist Jewish values has produced conflict between various segments of the Israeli population and is likely to continue to do so. This struggle could be disastrous for Israel, a kulturkampf of major proportions or the detachment of Israelis from all of their moorings, or it can be the basis for serious new thought leading to the successful synthesis and adaptation of Jewish values for a new Israel committed to achieving the purposes of Zionism in a new generation. If the questions considered by the Israeli public continue to be phrased as they have been, then the former is likely to be the case. If they are rephrased in more appropriate ways to ask: What kind of democracy? What kind of Judaism? Then they could begin to find a very productive synthesis.
There is little question but that the extremists on either side of this issue have been the ones determining the questions to be asked. What is extraordinary in the case of both is how little attention they pay to the authentic Jewish political tradition, either as it is described in ideal or theoretical terms in the Bible, the Talmud and other sacred or classic Jewish texts, or how it was practiced in Jewish communities and polities throughout Jewish history.9 This neglect is not only as a result of ideological considerations but because Jewish history in the immediately pre-Zionist period emphasized either the Jewish halakhic experience or the emancipation from it which involved an abandonment of Jewish communal autonomy and collective identity, solely of principally religious matters.
In addition, Zionism was founded on a myth (subsequently disproved by the great Zionist historians such as Yitzhak Baer, Ben-Zion Dinur, and Haim Hillel Ben Sasson) that when the Second Jewish Commonwealth was destroyed, the Jews disappeared as a collectivity from the pages of history meaning political history and that only Zionism would restore the Jewish people to the world stage as a political entity as a necessary part of the Zionist revolution. Both of those worked to not only obscure but to hide the Jewish political tradition and experience when in fact both testified to a moderate, rather centrist history of communal autonomy and democratic decision-making, at least relative to the times, within the framework of Jewish belief and law.10
This poses another problematic issue. Present Israeli thinking about statehood is essentially the same as it was at the beginning of the Zionist enterprise a century ago and more when statism or the idea of the totally independent and self-sufficient state was the governing ideal most widespread in the world. Today, however, that kind of statism has faded into history in the world as a whole. While states will continue to exist and peoples that do not have a state of their own will continue to demand statehood, the kinds of states that will exist in the new world will neither be totally independent nor self-sufficient, but constituent units in a new world order that will involve substantial interdependence, economic and otherwise, with great limitations on political sovereignty for all polities and forms of polity whatever they are called formally. This has already happened, in practice, though it is more a reality than it has been recognized to be. Narrow and broader regional arrangements of a federal or confederal character have begun to spread and are becoming more widespread, as the example of the European Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States, or even the Caribbean Community suggest. Larger regional economic, defense, and rights protection arrangements such as NAFTA, NATO, and the OSCE, while formally still a set of treaties, actually are becoming more constitutionally binding on those within them. All of this is taking place within a world system which includes almost everyone. Paradoxically, one result of this is that it is becoming easier for small states and polities within these regional and world systems to define themselves in terms that are particularly designed to preserve their own separate identities and cultures even in the face of the nonpolitical pressures of the globalization which are promoted by the mass media and the market, which, intentionally or unintentionally, work to undermine local cultures. Israel will have to redefine itself as a Jewish state within this new context in such a way that the values adhering to a Jewish state are in some way maintained within this new setting.
2.3 Eretz Israel
This complex of value concepts deals with the land itself, its ownership, control, and use. Quite obviously, Israel and Zionism have reached a crossroads with regard to Eretz Israel. After the turnabout in 1967 when it seemed that the 1947-49 partition of the land west of the Jordan was repealed as a result of the Six-Day War, Israel now finds itself going back to a repartition. But are we? Unlike the earlier partition which was based upon these parts of the land where the Zionist movement had established its settlements, after 1967 Zionists succeeded in settling in all parts of the land west of the Jordan. What will happen to those settlements in any repartition is a matter on the active public agenda and is the center of a serious conflict of values, perhaps the most serious in Israel's history. It is likely to continue to be for at least the next decade and perhaps even beyond.
Even more than that, Israel's peace with Jordan and the outlines of its peace with the Palestinians suggest that simple repartition will not occur, but that there will be a certain amount of federalization along confederal lines in ways that resemble developments in many other parts of the world will be integral to the peaceful solution and will have to be if it is to work. At the very least, strong economic interconnections and the handling of many tasks ranging from dealing with environmental problems to promoting tourism will be handled by joint authorities for Israel, the Palestinians, and Jordan. Thus, if Israel gives up primary control, it does not necessarily mean that Israelis will not be able to maintain a strong relationship backed up with a degree of secondary status throughout the historic land of the twelve tribes (in the words of Aryeh Eliav) or historic Eretz Israel.
Here, the Jewish value of Eretz Israel publicly expressed actually stands in the way of its achievement by frightening our neighbors and awakening in them fears that Israelis are still pursuing goals that they will have abandoned in the very act of implementing the peace process. Still, while Israeli Jews may accept a smaller territory for Medinat Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael will remain a matter of special concern for them. Confederal ties with their Palestinian and Jordanian neighbors may make it possible for Israelis to satisfactorily give expression to this value in many ways other than the political for the benefit of all three entities.
On the other hand, Eretz Israel may also be understood as a value concept concerned with use of the land. In other words, viewing the land as having a special sanctity, Jewish and Zionist should lead to a more respectful and caring attitude toward it and make possible better land use. Just as in pre-state days, this value led to a policy of land acquisition that emphasized common national ownership by the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael in the name of the Jewish people, land use may acquire an ecological dimension in the name of the Jewish people that would otherwise be absent were the matter to be left entirely to market forces. This could be one of the greatest contributions that Jewish values will make to the coming generation of Israelis.
2.4 Techiya Yehudit
This complex of value concepts deals with the role of Israel in the revival of Jewish civilization, Jewish life, and the Jewish people from a Zionist perspective, both secular and religious. If Eretz Israel could prove to be one of the most unifying Jewish values for Israel, this is likely to prove one of the most divisive during the next generation since what constitutes a proper and important revival of Jewish civilization, Jewish life, and the Jewish people are all controversial matters. To give only a few examples, should the Jewish people mean only those Jews in Israel or include both Israel and the diaspora? Should the Jewish people be open to those who seek or accidentally find their way into it or should it seek to remain relatively closed by demanding higher levels of commitment for belonging? Should Jewish life be religious, or is it enough to be the life that Jews live at any given time? Does it have special standards or requirements? Are the historic standards and requirements still valid or should new ones be developed? What constitutes Jewish civilization? How is it best maintained and fostered?
Indeed, Zionism always had within it two great camps, those who saw the Zionist enterprise of restoring the Jewish people to their land as the first step toward that normalcy, and those who saw it as a means of restoration of the Jewish spirit in its most productive sense. Those two camps go back to the very beginning of Zionism and, regardless of what other divisions existed in the Zionist movement, represented the main and greatest division. Until the peace process began, while Israel was under siege, those two camps had enough in common to hold themselves together as one. Today, however, the prospect of peace has divided them in the most profound and contradictory ways, placing them in strong opposition to one another.
No doubt the polls would show a different result. Most people still combine their desires for normalcy with their desires for a Jewish revival to some degree, but like the Guttman Institute poll of last year that presumably brought such cheering news about the degree of Jewishness of Israeli Jews, such polls can be misleading, covering up the deep cleavages, in part because they are rarely compared to earlier findings which may show trends in the direction opposite from what the poll suggests when taken alone. Even more important, polls only offer a snapshot of behavior at the moment. In ordinary surveys they do not probe more deeply and hence they do not reflect opinion, which requires opining and more considered thought which may reveal reasons for behavior that are contradictory and pulling in opposite directions.
For example, in the Guttman Institute religious behavior poll, there is no recognition of the great schism between those who believe that Jews are religiously obligated to do what they do and those who view their Jewish religious behavior as simply the maintenance of the customs of their fathers that may be good for the children as well, provided that they are taken moderately. In operational terms, most of the first group can be expected to stand firm on matters of Jewishness, while most of the second will, in the last analysis, usually go with the dominant trends in society since other matters will end up to be more important for them.
What we can say is that this is a historic struggle, not only within the Zionist movement but throughout Jewish history, between those Jews who seek normalcy and those Jews who feel in some way obligated or bound by their Jewishness. Indeed, much of the falling away of Jews in the past as well as the present probably has had to do with that struggle and the side different people were on.
All of these questions are controversial today, as well as the central question: is techiya yehudit still an important Israeli goal? The next generation will be critical in determining answers or at least a framework for consensus on these issues.
3. The Jewishness of the Jewish State
Here we focus on those Jewish values that deal with the specifically Jewish aspects of Israel, what many people mistakenly think of as the sum total of "Jewish values" that need to be considered. These involve those norms of Judaism that deal specifically with the Jewish people, even more specifically with the Jewish people politically independent in their land. Questions of people, polity, and land have in part been considered in the previous section. Here we need deal only with the question of halakhic considerations of what constitutes Eretz Israel and what authority Jews have, to determine under different circumstances what they will retain and what they can surrender under other conditions.
Included here are questions of what kind of polity a Jewish state requires. This question has been framed in two ways. Hilonim have phrased it as medinat hok mul medinat halakhah and religious Zionists have phrased it as halakhah u'mishpat hamelukhah. Both of these questions are value questions which need to be brought into some harmony for the discussion to go on in a productive manner.
With regard to questions about the Jewish people, the most significant value question for Israel as a Jewish state is what kind, to what extent, and in what areas does, can, or should pluralism legitimately exist within a Jewish state and how is it reconciled with issues that seem to demand monism. Most of these questions, when raised, will become public issues, often in distorted ways, but they will have to be treated as issues in the public eye and their resolution will have a public character. Having to fight these issues out in the public realm offers great educational opportunities, but also has opportunities for great distortions, especially in a world in which the media tend to concentrate on extremes which provide more interesting "copy" than more sober assessments of the issues on any side of them. Clarification of the terms of the debate on these issues will be a major task before the Israeli public over the next generation. Whether or not there will be closure on the issues themselves, at least, should be accomplished.
3.2 Edah: Public and Private Religious and Cultural Expressions
Edah is the biblical term for describing the Jewish people in its organized political form. In the Bible, the name of the Jewish polity was adat bnei Yisrael.
This complex of value concepts deals with the role of the state and other public institutions in giving expression to Jewish religious and cultural matters. To what extent will the state institutions of Israel continue to give a favored position to Jewish matters and to what extent will it simply seek to become a neutral instrumentality serving its citizens of every persuasion? What will the state undertake and what will be undertaken by public nongovernmental bodies not part of the state apparatus? Will there be greater separation between the state and Jewish national institutions such as the Jewish Agency, the Keren Kayemet, Keren Hayesod, and the Histadrut Hatzionit? These are issues that are likely to be at the top of the state's Jewish agenda over the next generation.
Superficially, Israel looks as if it is polarized between hilonim and haredim, with the hilonim demanding separation of religion and state to the maximum extent possible and the haredim seeking the reverse. In fact, a much more nuanced situation prevails. According to the latest survey by the Guttman Institute published two years ago, 20 percent of Israelis define themselves as hiloni and, of them, three-quarters maintain some observances and only a quarter (5 percent of the overall total) claim to observe nothing. On the other hand, some 25 percent consider themselves shomrei mitzvot in the traditional sense, two-thirds of whom are religious Zionists and a third haredim. The other 55 percent fall into the masorti category whose beliefs and observances range from the modest to the virtually Orthodox.
Some three-quarters of all Israelis have a Passover Seder and close to that percentage fast on Yom Kippur, while over two-thirds state that they believe in God and over half believe in Torah m'Sinai. On the other hand, only a quarter believe that God obliges people to follow the precepts of the Torah. When compared with other studies, it seems that the masorti group is slowly moving away from traditional practices but not changing much in the realm of belief. What this suggests is that the hilonim who tend to dominate the upper levels of the Israeli establishment, especially in the communicating professions, and certainly not the haredim, speak for an approach that would be acceptable to the mass of Israeli Jews. In the early days of the state, the moderates in both the religious and non-religious camps together controlled policy-making in the area of religion and state for Israel, but since the Six-Day War the extremists of both camps seem to have displaced them in terms of setting the direction for policy-making. What the moderates in both camps are likely to want is some continuation of the public observance of Jewish tradition along with maximum possible freedom for private choice in the matter. Whether this will lead to institutionalized policies will be one of the issues on the agenda over the next generation.
As far as the question of Judaism and democracy is concerned, the very term edah, as is implicitly defined in the Bible and subsequent Jewish tradition, reflects a republican political order and, for that matter, a rather democratic republican order, albeit one that stayed within the framework of God's commandments as interpreted by the human authorities of the time. In essence, God and the people shared jurisdiction. While this understanding can be interpreted in various ways, there is no requirement that it be interpreted as the haredi extremists suggest and indeed there is much precedent in Jewish tradition for other interpretations, but working through the coming together of the Jewish political tradition and modernism in this field offers the best opportunity for shaping the result in a manner suitable to the vast majority of Israelis.
3.3 Am Segula
This complex of value concepts looks at the question of Israel's Jewish uniqueness and the tension between it and the striving for normality in Israeli society. Zionism was founded as a synthesis between the Herzlian view which saw the Jews striving to be like all other nations but able to do so only if they acquired a state and were settled in their own land and the Ahad Haamian and Religious Zionist approach which saw the rebuilding of a Jewish national home in Eretz Israel as the best, if not only, means to revive and reconstruct Jewish civilization under modern conditions. From the first, the two approaches lived within a certain uneasy tension which was possible because they needed to work together to achieve their shared immediate goal of reestablishing the Jewish people with their own governing authority in Eretz Israel. After the reestablishment of the state, the necessity to defend it against the neighboring Arab states and peoples kept consideration of those basic differences a luxury that Israelis could not afford.
With the coming of peace and prosperity, those issues have come to the fore. With the sense of life or death crisis past, people have the luxury of looking at their other problems. Israel is now dividing into two groups, those who are striving for normality in the world and want Israel to become a state like all others, and those who want Israel to remain a Jewish state and the center of Jewish civilization, however they define that. This will be a major struggle in the coming generation and it is first and foremost a struggle of competing values.
3.4 Brit Arevut
This complex of value concepts raises the issues of solidarity among Jews in Israel and between Israeli Jews and the Jews of the diaspora including the sense of Jewish peoplehood that goes beyond Israeli citizenship. Part of the division between Israeli-ism and Jewishness is the question of what should be Israeli Jews' relations with their diaspora brethren? Is there a Jewish people that extends beyond the State of Israel? Part of the value system of those who advocate normalization is shedding the burden of Jewish peoplehood and of a Jewish diaspora.
Those who see Israel as the bastion of Jewish life and civilization see it maintaining as close a relationship with the diaspora as possible. Israel, form them, is the center of a worldwide Jewish people. The struggle between the two camps will continue on this front as well as the aforementioned ones.
Meanwhile, within the camp of those who wish to keep Israel as a Jewish state there is a new concern with how to reinvent Israel-diaspora links. It is clear to all that the means that have existed until now are no longer appropriate. As Israel achieves peace with its neighbors and becomes more prosperous and as fewer Jews need to be rescued from the diaspora and brought to Israel because of their troubles in their countries of origin, the old "philanthropic" or "relief and rescue" approach to Israel-diaspora relations is widely recognized as having become inadequate.
This sea change offers a great opportunity to rebuild those relationships on more positive and pro-active grounds. No longer is Israel a poor relation that needs sustenance, nor are there masses of Jews in the world that need to be saved physically. Instead the Israel-diaspora relationship has to be built on common interests and concerns and common interpersonal ties. The interpersonal ties will come through families and friends who have members or counterparts in Israel and in the various diaspora communities. The common interests must revolve around the interest in remaining Jewish and the need to work together to foster that result.
The diaspora, too, is composed of the same two camps mentioned in connection with Israel, except that it has not made resettlement in Israel the touchstone of the division. Those who seek normality in the diaspora can simply assimilate as individuals, quietly steal away, as it were, without any ideological struggle or fanfare, while those who seek to perpetuate Jewish life and civilization at best can lean on the neutrality of the state in which they live but cannot expect positive action on its part to pursue their goals. Still, the new division in Jewish life will not be between Israel and the diaspora but between those Jews who seek to be "like all the nations" and those who seek to perpetuate their Jewishness.
The Situation Today
For more than a decade there has been a shift in the focus of state educational efforts toward instrumental rather than civilizational educational goals. That is to say, the education system has placed its greatest emphasis on fostering skills that will help students earn a living and compete on the world scene later in life. This means that emphasis on English language, mathematics, and similar instrumental skills have taken preference over the transmission of the Israeli heritage or that of Jewish civilization.
This has come at a time when media influence on the values and habits of people has increased to new proportions in Israel as in the rest of the world. That influence is in the direction of a universal culture, mostly pop, but also a universal elite culture. In either case, it constitutes a challenge to, if not an assault on, most elements of Israeli and Jewish culture which take on a particularistic appearance from the media perspective.
The experience of other countries has shown that a five to ten year interruption in the teaching of any subject matter will produce a generation that knows little or nothing of that subject matter. Thus a new generation has been developed in Israel that knows little about its Zionist past or its Jewish heritage. This generation is most certainly lacking any sense of the degree to which their humanistic values have roots in Jewish sources and has received almost no education in Zionist or other Jewish values per se.
Unless this trend is reversed, we can expect that the overt role of Jewish values in shaping society will further diminish disappear and those values will continue to influence only to the extent that they are imbedded in the culture; that is to say, below the level of conscious awareness, except insofar as those who remain religious express them, and then only in the way they do except insofar as those who remain religious express them and then only in the way that they do. As we have already seen, there is a strong tendency for the non-religious to assume that what the media bring them as the haredi response to these issues is the religious response and the only religious response. While the cultural expression of values is not to be denigrated, in the last analysis, without reinforcement it becomes a form of living off the spiritual capital of the past and, as that capital is used, it is also diminished.
Thus, the next thirty years could be decisive in determining whether or not conscious concern with Jewish values of any kind will continue to have a place in Israeli society. For the vast majority of Israelis who do not learn in the State Religious or Independent schools (which have their own difficulties in communicating Jewish values of a different kind but which still do make the effort to do so with no little success), a major discontinuity would develop with a serious impact on Israeli society. At this point in our knowledge of human behavior, one would be hard put not to recognize how important heritage is in the transmission of civilization and the maintenance of loyalties necessary for any society to survive and flourish. Hence, Israel has entered a very dangerous situation which needs to be assessed and dealt with immediately. The Shinhar report has already suggested as much. Not only that, but this assessment, which will probably provoke a public debate, needs to be rephrased in the proper terms, focusing on the right questions rather than the wrong ones and finding means to bridge the differences in outlook and opinions that are very real in Israeli society.
A serious effort must be made to identify the core Jewish values in the three categories presented in this paper that are part and parcel of the Jewish heritage and of concern for a Jewish state, and, after identifying them, the effort must be made to educate people in those values.
While the values discussed above are not always recognized as Jewish values by their proponents today, in fact, Zionist socialism, which was so important in the building of the state, emphasized just those humanistic Jewish values as the best, indeed for some the only, way to express the essence of Jewishness. Their achievement was to be the justification for a Jewish state among those who shared the ideology of universalism which was so much a part of late nineteenth and early twentieth century socialism.
If the desendants of those Zionist socialist pioneers often no longer recognize the Jewish character of the values that they have inherited from their parents and grandparents, then so much the worse for Israel. Israel undoubtedly would be a better place if more effort were made to develop the present expressions of those values within the framework of a sense of Judaism rather than from that understanding of the Zionist socialist tradition which views them as if they were opposed to Judaism. Such an approach would strengthen the sense of a common heritage for the new generation which, as every other society has found out sooner or later, needs to have a sense of heritage for its own sense of identity and worth, and would enable the new generation to understand how being Jewish can fit into the emerging world civilization with pride.
1. Daniel J. Elazar, Kinship and Consent: The Jewish Political Tradition and Its Contemporary Uses (Ramat Gan, Philadelphia, London and Montreal: Turtledove, 1981).
Daniel J. Elazar, Covenant & Polity in Biblical Israel: Biblical Foundations & Jewish Expressions, Volume I of the Covenant Tradition in Politics (New Brunswick, NJ and London, U.K.: Transaction Publishers, 1995).
2. William Johnson, Everett, God's Federal Republic (New York/Mahway: Paulist Press, 1988).
Vincent Ostrom, The Meaning of American Federalism: Constituting a Self Governing Society (San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies Press, 1991).
3. Daniel J. Elazar, Covenant and Commonwealth (New Brunswick, NJ and London, U.K.: Transaction Publishers, 1995).
Perry Miller, The New England Mind (Boston: Beacon Press, 1939, 1953).
4. Aaron Wildavsky, The Nursing Father (University of Alabama Press).
5. Daniel J. Elazar, Israel Building a New Society (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986).
6. Encyclopedia Talmudit (ET) Vol. 16, 385-389.
7. Max Kadushin, The Rabbinic Mind, 2nd ed. (New York: Blaidsell Publishing Co., 1965).
Max Kadushin, Organic Thinking: A Study in Rabbinic Thought (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1938).
8. Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin, 56-60; Maimonides, Mishna Torah, Melakhim, 8-10, 10-12; both with commentaries. ET, Vol. 13, 348-362.