Over a year ago I wrote a short article series about what I considered to be the footstool of Judaism. Three vital pieces or “legs” on which the Jewish people stand are “covenant, Torah and Israel.” Without these three we wouldn’t be a complete people. Why? Because covenant with God is what make the Torah and Israel relevant to the Jewish people. Torah is the law we govern our lives by and Israel is the glue that binds Jews from all walks of life, from the four corners of the world.
As I thought about the specific aspect of the Jewish people and their relationship to the modern state of Israel, I saw how tricky it can be to navigate any discussion about Israel regardless of who you’re talking to. Why? Because some people consider the existence of Israel for the obvious political reality it is and others view Israel as more of a religious ideal than a “secular” state. And I don’t care on which side of the political ideology people characterize themselves, everyone has an opinion about Israel.
Ultra-orthodox Jews believe Israel shouldn’t exist in its current form because it’s secular. Yet if Jews become persecuted in various reaches of the world, Israel would most likely allow them to make aliyah, which means to immigrate to Israel.
Many people can have rather vehement opinions about Israel’s existence.
In my hometown of Iowa City, I was active in the ongoing discussion about peace in the Middle East. One of the things discussed was places in Israel disputed between Jews and Muslims that were sacred to both. This is where the political and spiritual collide and one is required to remedy the dispute regarding the other.
So can religion be political? Historically it has been and is here in the United States as we try to strike that familiar balance between separation of church and state. We strive so hard to be fair to each soul that we are afraid the discussion will become too heated and divide us even further than we tend to be any more, especially where politics are concerned.
For me, Israel is a very specific Jewish reality... Why? Because I’m going to make the state of Israel my home someday. I am fascinated by Israel, and it’s been my dream before I even started practicing Judaism.
Israel is a Jewish reality because the land itself is desolate without a Jewish presence and the Jewish soul is lonely without the craving of Israel tugging at its heartstrings. You cannot take Israel out of the Jews, even if you remove the Jews from the physical land of Israel.
Israel is a Jewish priority because Israel is the land that has become the safe haven for persecuted Jews from all around the world. Jerusalem is the place millions of people for centuries have held in captive fascination and has been fought over by countless armies. Yet God always sees fit that a Jewish presence remains firm.
Israel is a Jewish priority and will remain so forever.