Israel and Judaism
The importance of Israel for Jews who do not live there.
by Yosef I. Abramowitz and Rabbi Susan Silverman
The rebirth of the state of Israel, and its victories over the enemies who sought repeatedly to destroy it, is a modern-day miracle for those who lived through this darkest time in Jewish history. Today, with Israel’s survival all but assured and its place in the world community firmly established, many American Jews feel less need for emotional and spiritual investment in Israel. Yet we should remember that it is still the land where our kings and prophets walked, where Jewish history lives and is being made. It is the place where the majority of Jewish children in the world are being raised. The fact that so many American Jews are moved by their visits to Jerusalem indicates a spiritual attachment that is not in conflict with being an American. There can be a difference between a spiritual homeland and a place of citizenship.
Israel is the place where Jewish spiritual and social possibilities are endless. The relevance of Jewish teachings and values can be tested on a national front. Through our relationship with Israel, we are able to dream about what an ideal, Jewishly based society would look like and then explore that vision. The idealism and inherent optimism that Israel can represent to our children, and especially our teenagers — most clearly manifest by a visit–are characteristics that will serve them well in life. Furthermore, to be a Jew in Israel is to bestow a sense of normalcy and calm in the hearts of the American Jewish visitor, who may not usually be aware of the sense of “otherness” to which they have become accustomed and, therefore, did not even know existed in their American lives. We in America have generally lost the national aspects of being Jewish, of being part of a people; we focus mostly on the religious or cultural dimensions of Jewishness. Israel challenges us to think of ourselves as part of one people, one nation. This national consciousness among our people has worked to create the miracle of the rescue of Jews from oppression in far-flung areas of the world. The challenge is to wrestle and redefine the relationship of the Diaspora with Israel in each era so that it can be mutually beneficial and inspiring.
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