“Israel has made all Jews, both its own and those of the diaspora, feel more at home in the world. At the same time, under the impact of Israel’s political isolation, it has served to emphasise the ‘not-at-homeness’ of the Jew”
“For Jewish peoplehood to be a concept that embraces a continuity of Jewish life, past, present and future, there must be an asymmetry between Israel and the diaspora: the asymmetry between a permanent home and a temporary dwelling. That Jews have spent the vast majority of their history away from home and that most Jews today do not live there neither compromises nor contradicts the fact that Jewish life is a life lived toward Israel. A pluralism of ‘centres’ of Jewish life is as unavailable as a pluralism of ‘truths’ of Jewish faith”
“The State of Israel has in itself transformed the terms of Jewish life and brought to the forefront a serious of theological questions that had laid dormant or disattended since the end of the biblical period.”
“Statehood has changed the context but not the substance of the religious struggle, namely preserving fidelity to Torah in an age of non-belief.”
“Israel’s centrality in current Jewish self-definition rests precisely on its conceptual ambiguity and on a tacit agreement, pragmatically justified, not to push clarification too far.”
“It is difficult to reflect deeply on the rebirth of Israel without sensing the touch of heaven in the minds of men and women, leading them to play their parts in a drama so much greater than any individual could have executed, even conceived.”
“Jews never relinquished the dream of return. Wherever they were, they prayed about Israel and facing Israel. The Jewish people was the circumference of a circle at whose centre was the holy land and Jerusalem the holy city. For centuries they lived suspended between memory and hope, sustained by the promise that one day God would bring them back.”
“When Jews began to rebuild their home in Israel, they had to do things they hadn’t done for centuries. They had to cultivate land that had never been cultivated before, from the rocky hills of the Galil to the desert wastes of the Negev. On barren lands they made farms, in desolate landscapes they built villages.
They had to integrate wave after wave of olim, new arrivals from across the globe. They had to build a society and create the political and economic infrastructure of a nation.
And in some ways the most remarkable of all: they made the decision to revive Hebrew, the language of the Bible, and turn it, after more than two thousand years, into a living tongue again.
“Though Israel has had to fight many wars, from the very beginning it sought peace. The Hebrew language has two words for strength: koach and gevurah. Koach is the strength you need to win a war. Gevurah is the courage you need to make peace. Israel has shown both kinds of strength. But peace is a duet not a solo. It cannot be made by one side alone. If it could, it would have been made long ago.”
“How do you live with the constant threat of violence and war? That takes faith. Israel is the people that has always been sustained by faith, faith in God, in the future, in life itself. And though Israel is a secular state, its very existence is testimony to faith: the faith of a hundred generations that Jews would return; the faith that led the pioneers to rebuild a land against seemingly impossible odds; the faith that after the Holocaust the Jewish people could live again; the faith that, in the face of death, continues to say: choose life.”
“At the heart of Jewish faith is Jerusalem, the holy city whose name is peace. Has a people ever loved a city so deeply for so long? Almost every prayer in the Jewish prayer book includes a prayer for Jerusalem. The word itself figures more than 900 times in the Bible. Jerusalem, David’s city, the place where the Temple stood, home of the Divine presence, the place where, still today, you can feel God’s closeness as nowhere else. And though all that remains of the Temple is one wall, still to stand and pray in that spot is to feel the presence of three thousand years of Jewish prayers and tears and hopes.”
“The day will come, when the story of Israel in modern times will speak not just to Jews, but to all who believe in the power of the human spirit as it reaches out to God, as an everlasting symbol of the victory of life over death, hope over despair. Israel has achieved great things.It has taken a barren land and made it bloom again. It’s taken an ancient language, the Hebrew of the Bible, and made it speak again. It’s taken the West’s oldest faith and made it young again. Israel has taken a tattered, shattered nation and made it live again. Israel is the country whose national anthem, Hatikva, means hope. Israel is the home of hope.”
“The very existence of Israel is as near to a miracle as we will find in the sober pages of empirical history.”
“Israel is the only place in the world where Jews can create a society, and that is a religious task even though Israel is a secular state.”
“In Israel, Jewish life is a community of fate. There Jews, from the most secular to the most pious, suffer equally from war and terror, and benefit equally from prosperity and peace. Judaism, in Israel, is a presence you breathe, not just a religion you practise. In Israel as nowhere else, Jewishness is part of the public domain, in the language, the landscape, the calendar. There you can stand amid the ruins and relics of towns that were living communities in the time of the Bible and feel the full, astonishing sweep of time across which the Jewish people wrestled with its fate as Jacob once wrestled with the angel. And there you become conscious, in the faces you see and the accents you hear, of the astonishing diversity of Jews from every country and culture, brought together in the great ingathering as once, in Ezekiel’s vision, the dismembered fragments of a broken people joined together and came to life again. That is why, for Diaspora Jews, spending time in Israel is an essential and transformative experience of Jewish peoplehood and why Birthright, the American programme aimed at sending all young Jews to Israel, is so successful. At the same time, it is equally important that young Israelis spend time in the Jewish communities of the Diaspora. There they discover what it is to live Judaism as a covenant of faith, something many of them have never fully experienced before.”
“Until Israelis and Palestinians are able to listen to one another, hear each other’s anguish and anger and make cognitive space for one another’s hopes, there is no way forward.”