There Is No Judaism without Zionism

The connection between Jewish nationhood and the Jewish religion goes back to God’s revelation to Abraham in Genesis, writes Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, and the two cannot be pulled apart now any more than they could be then:

Jewish particularism—the distinctive attachment and commitment to the Jewish people—is not an incidental component of Judaism, or a less-evolved, now irrelevant vestige of ancient days. It is its beating heart. Every biblical verse, every prophetic utterance, every talmudic discussion, every halakhic ruling, every prayer, emerges from, and assumes fealty to, the centrality of Am Yisrael—the people of Israel.

That said, from the beginning, Jewish peoplehood was a blend of both particular and universal impulses: “I have grasped you by the hand . . . and appointed you a covenant people, a light of nations, opening eyes deprived of light” (Isaiah 42:6–7). Thus, God compelled a reluctant Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach the message of repentance and social repair. Our particular purpose was to represent universal moral values: “I have selected Abraham to do what is just and right” (Genesis 18:19). The urgency to do right compels Abraham to challenge God’s intention to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

[But] Judaism absent Jewish peoplehood is not Judaism; it is something else. Whenever Jews abandoned their ideological—or practical—commitment to Am Yisrael, they eventually drifted away.

Unlike every nation of antiquity that lived by our side, we did not disappear when our national sovereignty was dissolved. Miraculously and unprecedentedly, we learned to adapt and survive. But at no time was separation from the Land of Israel considered permanent. At no time did we abandon the dream of return. At no time did we consider dispersion to be a blessing. At no time did the rabbis sever Torah from Israel, or God from the people. At no time was tikkun olam—the universal demand to do what is just and right—ripped from the moorings of klal yisrael—the centrality of Jewish peoplehood. It was never one or the other.

Read more at Sapir

More about: Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Particularism, Religious Zionism

In the Next Phase of the War, Israel’s Biggest Obstacles May Be Political Rather Than Military

To defeat Hamas, Israel will have to attack the city of Rafah, which lies on the border between Egypt and Gaza, and which now contains the bulk of the terrorist group’s fighting forces as well as, most likely, the Israeli hostages. Edward Luttwak examines how this stage of the war will be different from those that preceded it:

To start with, Rafah has very few of the high-rise apartment houses, condo towers, and mansions of Gaza City and Khan Yunis. This makes street-fighting much simpler because there are no multilevel basements from which many fighters can erupt at once, nor looming heights with firing positions for snipers. Above all, if a building must be entered and cleared room-by-room, perhaps because a high-value target is thought to be hiding there, it does not take hundreds of soldiers to search the place quickly.

Luttwak also argues that the IDF will be able to evacuate a portion of the civilian population without allowing large numbers of Hamas guerrillas to escape. In his view, the biggest challenge facing Israel, therefore, is a political one:

Israel will have to contend with one final hurdle: the fact that its forces cannot proceed without close coordination with Egypt’s rulers. President Sisi’s government detests Hamas—the Gaza offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood they overthrew—and shed no tears at the prospect of its further destruction in Rafah. However, they also greatly fear the arrival of a flood of Palestinians fleeing from the Israeli offensive.

As for the Israeli war cabinet, it is equally determined to win this war in Rafah and to preserve strategic cooperation with Egypt, which has served both sides very well. That takes some doing, and accounts for the IDF’s failure to move quickly into Rafah. But victory is Israel’s aim—and it’s not going to give up on that.

Read more at UnHerd

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security