Saving the Jews vs. Saving Jewish Character: The Conflict between Political and “Therapeutic” Zionism

In the first of a series of lectures on Zionism’s early thinkers, Micah Goodman contrasts two competing visions within the ranks of its secular adherents. The first, the primarily political approach of Theodor Herzl, focused on protecting Jews from anti-Semitism and the moral decay of assimilation by creating a Jewish state. The second—associated with Nachman Syrkin, Micha Yosef Berdichevsky, and Yosef Ḥayyim Brenner—saw the Jew as spiritually degraded by subjugation to the Gentiles and by Judaism itself, and aspired to create a new, liberated Jew. Goodman proceeds to explore a third alternative, espoused by Ahad Ha’am, that embraced the “therapeutic” version of the second group without advocating a complete break from the Jewish past. (Video, 53 minutes. Audio versions for streaming and download are available at the link below.)

Read more at Tikvah

More about: Ahad Ha'am, Berdichevsky, History & Ideas, Nachman Syrkin, Theodor Herzl, Zionism

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount