Reclaiming Secular Zionism’s Religiosity

A recent article in an Israeli political journal argued that anyone who wishes to revive Israel’s moribund left must stay true to its secular heritage and “take a stand against both religion and religious people.” But to Gershon Hacohen this claim rests on a profound misunderstanding. While it is true that David Ben-Gurion and other early leaders of the Zionist left were secular insofar as they were agnostic and did not observe halakhah, their ideology was deeply enmeshed with the Hebrew Bible and Jewish traditions:

In his writings and speeches, Ben-Gurion made use of Jewish ideas fraught with religious content. [In] February 1937, for example, he asserted, “The definition of the ‘ultimate goal’ of Zionism is nothing other than the full and complete redemption of the Jewish people in its land. The ingathering of the exiles, national sovereignty.” And the Declaration of Independence [invokes] “the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream—the redemption of Israel.” There is a fundamental difference between aspiring to no more than a civil-law state that is pleasant to live in and aspiring to eternal redemption.

[U]nlike secular circles that reject any definition of Jewish identity that does not distinguish between the religious and the national, Ben-Gurion insisted on the unique and indissoluble link between the two dimensions: “The Jewish religion is a national religion, which has assimilated all the historical phenomena of the people of Israel from its beginnings up to the present. It is not easy to separate the national aspect and the religious aspect.”

In the face of the ḥaredi opposition to Zionism, Ben-Gurion stressed that not only did he refuse to turn his back on the age-old Jewish heritage but, in fact, the opposite: he sought to renew the connection with the Jewish legacy of “Rabbi Akiva, the Maccabees, Ezra and Nehemiah, Joshua son of Nun, Moses our teacher.” Disavowal of this connection is the main reason for the left’s loss of a path to the national leadership.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: David Ben-Gurion, History of Zionism, Labor Zionism, Religious Zionism


Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria