Rabbi Sacks on Israel and Jewish Society

JInsider (March 2010)

Many people think about Israel in many different ways. It is the city of refuge of the Jewish people. It’s the place of the ingathering of Jews. It’s many, many things. But to my mind, Israel is the only place on earth where in 4,000 years Jews have ever had the chance to construct a society according to their own beliefs. And that is surely the right of any nation. If we as individuals have the right to freedom, then surely as peoples, as civilisations, as nations, we have the right to self-determination.

And for heaven’s sake, Judaism has influenced more than half the world. If you look at the, I don’t know, how many countries in the world today, there are 56 Islamic states. There are over 100 Christian nations, but only one tiny Jewish state, so small that it is less than one quarter of 1% of the landmass of the Arab world. Or to put it another way, there’s a wonderful park in South Africa where you can see wildlife roaming freely called the Kruger National Park. The entire state of Israel is smaller than the Kruger National Park.

In this one tiny space, Jews have the only chance they ever did of creating a Jewish society in which the language, the calendar, the landscape are all Jewish, where you can walk where the prophets walk, speak in the language of the book of Psalms, live the rhythms of the Jewish year. That to me is Israel. And that is the key location where Judaism becomes vividly alive as a society dedicated to the service of God and humanity, attempting to pursue in this difficult world, a society of justice and compassion.