Israel Not the 51st State

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When reviewing the existential threats Israel faces, most will think of Iran. A close second would be Egypt, in light of the very real possibility of Islamists taking full control of that country. Few would consider the lack of Zionist commitment among the younger generation Israelis as an existential threat.  But, if a nation is no longer conscious of why it exists, and what its sacrifices are being made for, its very existence is put in jeopardy.  Perhaps in America, idealism and patriotism may no longer be an imperative to its existence.  However, in Israel, such factors are critical to sustaining the life of the Jewish nation.

The Americanization of Israel in recent decades has prompted many to refer to the Jewish state as America’s 51st.  Israeli culture has been impacted by American democratic values and, as Daniel Gordis pointed out in his book Saving Israel, “were Israel to take the values of American democracy to their full and logical conclusion, it is quite likely that it would simply cease to be a Jewish state.”

Ironically, the current generation of young Israelis has the good fortune to enjoy material blessings that previous generations only dreamt of, and yet, observers can see how, in direct proportion to the material growth, idealism has declined.  One might say, well, that is the nature of things in all western countries; as materialism and the good life is more forthcoming, idealism and patriotism disappears.  Israel however is not like all countries, it is unique; it is a nation restored after 2000-years of exile, made up of a people persecuted everywhere, who experienced a catastrophic holocaust only 67 years ago.  And if that is not enough, Israel, the refuge for Jews from throughout the world, is surrounded by hostile Arab nations and Iran, who would like to see it “wiped off the map.”

Many secular Israeli youth lack belief in the righteousness of Israel’s cause.  These young individuals  believe in nothing beyond their own pleasure, and are eager to imitate the fads and fashions of their peers in the U.S. and other western countries. Wanton violence in clubs and in the streets that was once unheard of has become frequent.  And who can forget the case of two Israeli 15-year old youths from an affluent neighborhood that killed taxi driver Derek Roth in 1995, for the thrill of it? It prompted an Israeli police officer specializing in youth work to say, “I envy the Arab kids.  They still have something to believe in.”

In the past, secular Israeli youth were inspired by Ben Gurion’s (Israel’s first Prime Minister) call to settle the wilderness.  Ben Gurion and his wife moved to Sde Boker, in the heart of the Negev wilderness, and his example inspired young kibbutz and Moshav members to become pioneers in the Negev and the Galilee.  Today, this spirit of sacrifice for the nation remains in the domain of the national religious youth.  They have settled in Judea, Samaria, and the Golan as a way to create facts on the ground, much like their secular counterparts in the 1950’s.  But for the secular young, who once produced the “cream of Israeli youth” and who were to be found in the elite combat units of the Israel Defense Forces, the kibbutz was replaced by bohemian “Shenkin Street” in Tel Aviv, and the Silicon Valley of California.  Where once post-army youth would hike the length and breadth of Israel, they are now fascinated with India and the Far East, and in disproportionate numbers interested in mystery cults of one variety or another.

The cut-off point for the loss of idealism is hard to indicate with absolute accuracy.  Suffice it to say, however, that it began after the Six Day War of 1967, and became more pronounced in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

The aftermath of the first Lebanon War in 1982 spawned the rise to prominence of post-Zionism, and while Israeli governments sought to satisfy Israeli material aspiration, the Ministry of Education failed to institute a strong pro-Zionist curriculum.  In 1993, Education Minister Shulamit Aloni – a post-Zionist leftist, was forced to resign her post following her criticism of religion (Judaism), and her charge that the pilgrimage of Israeli students to concentration camps in Poland “turned Israeli youth into aggressive, nationalistic xenophobes.”

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  • ObamaYoMoma

    Leftism is a mental disease.

  • UCSPanther

    The Jews have always been an independent minded people, and they should be.

    They should stand on their own, do what is necessary to survive and if the rest of the world doesn't like it, to hell with them, and that includes the United States, especially where Obama is concerned.

    • gago

      With that analogy… today there would be 1 jew in a museum somewhere in Germany. Independent minded until they're up a certain creek without a paddle. Lol; dumba$$.

  • Talia

    I feel the pain in what you write and i share it. Thank you for voicing these concerns.
    But! i think there is a real change happening right now in the country. A long overdue change of genuine attempts to understand what are we about and how we will work out everything.
    It is so jewish to question ourselves all the time. isnt it?! so let me point something out- have you noticed how contrary to other countries and in spite of numerous attempts to bring chaos and violence into the demonstrations in the summer and even after – it didn't happen???
    in spite of many efforts bought and paid for by the new israeli fund aka Sorros there never was violence or huge rift in the country? not the so called "exclusion of women" not on the attempts of starting race and color warfare lol in Israel?
    In stead something started that i hope will flourish and hopefully will spread to other countries- the Mutual guarantee counter-movement ! the round tables of all the sections in our society sitting and discussing all the things we avoided talking about. of understanding how different and diverse we are as a nation and the problem is not or only the price of cheese:) but the public atmosphere the luck of trust, meaning and good relations between us.
    I share your concerns about our country and indeed the USA and in fact the all of the Western world but i think this is also a huge opportunity as well. and i believe if this trend will spread and continue we will also succeed !

  • Bert

    "To protect its future, Israel must return to its Zionist and Judaic roots, and it must effectively transmit these values to the younger generation, born after 1967." This is the correct direction for Israel and also to reduce its dependency on other countries and especially a declining U.S. under Obama.
    In all this discussion one should include the Ideas of Moshe Feiglin at
    He offers a balance that can bridge the gap between the religious and the secular and is attracting both.
    He did so well in the recent Likud leadership vote that Netanyahu felt obliged to illegally steal some of Feiglins's votes to hide the growing rejection of Netanyahu and his old style corrupt politics.

  • Anneke9

    Shouldn't that be the 58th state seeing how Obama thinks there are currently 57?

  • Schlomotion

    It must Hardcore Platonism this week at FPM, because this article glares out in its naked embrace of the Greater Good at the expense of all else. I am shocked at the brief reveal of honesty: “were Israel to take the values of American democracy to their full and logical conclusion, it is quite likely that it would simply cease to be a Jewish state.” That is a potent damnation of Israel as antithetical to the values of western Democracy.

    The author explains further that free speech cannot be tolerated. It is bad for Israel that the Minister of Education was not a religious zealot. It is bad for Israel that the Minister of Education voices concern about the rabid xenophobia of Israelis who had been to Poland. So she had to go. The author says that anything that is not patriotic indoctrination with Zionism is anti-Zionist and therefore bad for Israel. The author laments that schoolbooks are not pre-censored and designed only by Zionist propagandists. For the full hit-list that Daniel Pipes and Campus Watch have made to eliminate free thinkers in Israel, look at the fatwa here at Middle East Forum:

    Let's hope, through concerted effort, Joseph Puder's desire to prevent American style Democracy to reach its fullest extent in AMERICA never comes to pass.

  • dartson

    As a secular right-wing Israeli Jew, I disagree with some of the author's points. First, equating secularism with the lack of Jewish and Zionist values does not reflect the reality in Israel. In fact, the largest right-wing nationalist party in Israel besides Likud is Yisrael Beytenu, supported mainly by the secular voters. Second, the term "traditionalists" is very vague. People who light candles on Sabbbath once a week, but lead a secular way of life otherwise, define themselves as traditionalists. Third, the author forgets to mention that one of the growing segments in the Israeli population are ultra-orthodox Jews who share neither democratic nor Zionist values. Fourth, the Israeli democracy is too benevolent and is often exploited by anti-Zionists, but the alternative – a fanatical ultra-orthodox theocracy – would be worse. The Likud and other right-wing parties are on the rise, because the secular Jewish majority shifted to the right. Yes, leftist moonbats still dominate the MSM, but their rants hardly convince anyone. When the reality kicks in, in the form of the Palestinian rockets and suicide bombers, even some Shenkin street leftists start to abandon their "peace now" pipe dream.

    • 2012Adamovich

      I agree largely with what you say I see no contradiction is being a secular atheist right-wing Jew.

  • digdigby

    Hey, Israel. America's Catholic Church has been there. We embraced 'Americanism' as a central value for over a 100 years and know it is payback time as 'democracy' gone mad marginalizes and stifles our freedom of conscience and speech. America was NOT founded as a 'democracy', it is a republic. Israel was founded not as a 'democracy' but as a constitutional Jewish state.