The Limits of Reason

A life of Jewish faith brings with it the need to defend propositions that many of the supposedly best minds of the era deny or reject.

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The World Can Learn Much from Israel’s Commitment to Liberal Nationalism

A few decades ago, notes Einat Wilf, the security measures at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport baffled and annoyed foreign visitors; nowadays, elaborate security procedures are used at airports worldwide, and Israel is admired for its efficient and effective system. So, too, Wilf argues, with Israel’s commitment to nationalism: once many in the West believed the Jewish state clung anomalously and foolishly to a dying idea; now the world could learn from its example:

From Asia to the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, it is becoming increasingly clear that faced with globalization, immigration, and economic uncertainty, people have a greater need for a specific sense of belonging to something, whether it is a tribe, a people, or a nation. This basic need of all peoples can be expressed in a variety of forms, from the benign to the mean-spirited, but when it is ignored and even denigrated, it is more likely to manifest itself in supremacist and racist ways.

Against this backdrop, Israel’s Jewish nationalism emerges as reasonably balanced: providing people with a sense of specific belonging to a people and a nation while addressing ongoing challenges of immigration, integration, and the existence of large minorities who possess, at best, ambivalent attitudes toward Jewish nationalism. Decades of dealing with these enormous challenges under the world’s magnifying glass while being subjected to scathing and often sinister criticism mean that, if anything, Israel and the Jewish people are positioned to provide a model of a relatively benign form of nationalism.

It is not that Israel does not exhibit distasteful expressions of nationalism; they are not cause for pride, but they can no longer be considered cause for specific shame. There is nothing in the Jewish need for a sense of tribal and national belonging that makes it inherently better or worse than that need among other peoples, tribes, and nations in the world.

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More about: Ben Gurion Airport, Israel & Zionism, Nationalism