On the occasion of Israel’s 70th anniversary—April 19 on the Hebrew calendar, May 14 on the Gregorian—many have remarked on the miraculous nature of the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish homeland. Rick Richman points to an additional two, equally miraculous, aspects of the country’s history:
David Ben-Gurion described [the second miracle] in an essay he wrote in 1954 . . . : the extraordinary Jewish unity on May 14, 1948. Zionism had never been a single ideology. The movement included very disparate factions—Labor Zionists, Religious Zionists, Socialist Zionists, Revisionist Zionists, General Zionists, Cultural Zionists—and the conflicts among them had been fierce. But every group signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence, . . . including the non-Zionist Jews, from (in Ben-Gurion’s words) “the Communists, who had forever fought against the Zionist enterprise as reactionary, bourgeois, chauvinistic, and counterrevolutionary, to the Agudat Israel [party], which had perceived as apostasy any attempt to bring about the redemption of Israel through natural means.” From left to right, every Jewish group joined. . . .
As Israel turns 70, unity is not a notable feature of Israeli democracy. The current Knesset includes seventeen political parties. The government is a shaky coalition comprising five of them, holding a bare majority of seats. The prime minister is surrounded by politicians who believe they could do a better job than he can. Josephus, the 1st-century-CE historian, described Jewish politics of his own time as consisting of disputes between religious and secular parties, with numerous Jewish leaders who “competed for supremacy because no prominent person could bear to be subject to his equals.” Two millennia later, not much has changed. . . .
And that is the third Israel miracle. Along with its fractured politics, . . . Israel has produced one of the world’s most vibrant democracies and most dynamic economies. . . .
The third Israeli miracle demonstrates that, in fact, a fractious democracy may well be a necessary condition for generating the variety of ideas and leaders that can move a society forward—just as the multiple approaches to Zionism produced remarkable leaders across Zionism’s left (Ben-Gurion), right (Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin), and center (Chaim Weizmann), creating a national movement spanning the Jewish political spectrum.