Q & A with Daniel Gordis on “The Promise of Israel” Cont.

I wrote The Promise of Israel because I felt it important that people the world over realize that what ultimately happens to Israel won’t just be about Israel. What happens will affect all humans everywhere. Israel’s freedom now is, and has always been, about the right to be different. It is about the right to forge our own path, to make our own mistakes. Ultimately, if we are just like everyone else, it will not matter who rules us. If we are not characterized by our differences there will be no need to defend our liberty, and in time we will allow it to be taken from us. Whether human freedom survives depends on whether human difference survives. To many people, particularly in Europe’s intellectual elites, Israel now represents a model that the world wants to abandon but that the Jews refuse to relinquish. The challenge now facing Europe and the United States, however, is to rethink their instinctive dismissal of the Jewish state and to learn to see Israel’s insistence on the glory of human difference as critical to the ongoing battle to preserve freedom for people everywhere.

Daniel Gordis

Q. Do you think there is any chance that Palestine might actually do as you suggest and look to Israel as a model to copy from instead of an enemy that must be ousted?

A. While it is possible that the Palestinians could do with a sovereign Palestine what the Jews have done with Israel, whether they will or not I do not know. But I do think that as the world debates the Middle East and as Israel is disparaged for what many think is its role in delaying Palestinian statehood, the international community would do well to ask this question: What will the Palestinians do with a state? Will they turn the bitterness of the difficult century they have endured into a thirst for vengeance, or will they, like the Israelis, sanctify the memory of their losses by energetically building for the future? I do not know what they will do, but I pray that they will embrace the possibility of a better future for them and the entire region.

Palestinians must now decide how they will balance a commemoration of the losses of the past with a drive to create a radically different future, and they must choose between the worlds of the Ottoman Turks and the British, between the models of Jordan and Israel. Will they use sovereignty to create a Palestinian version of what Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and many other Arab states already are, or will they embrace Israel’s model of cultural, moral and intellectual dialogue with the West? Will they replicate the closed Arab countries that already exist, or will they create a state that might transform the Arab world? Only time will tell.

Q. Why do you feel it so vital that Israel remain a sovereign state?

A. Without Israel, what would remain that would make Jewishness anything more than an anemic form of ethnic memory of the sort that long-ago immigrants like most young Polish Americans or Irish Americans now have? What else in contemporary Jewish life provides an anchor for Jewish engagement, discussion, pride and activism? Throughout the history of mankind, Israel has mattered.

To be sure, what happens to Israel most directly affects the Jews who live there. But the reach is much, much broader than that. For Christians, Jerusalem is a spiritual capital. Jewish sovereignty over Israel represents far more than simple politics and the trading in of tradition for a more homogenized world. The Jewish state of Israel is the embodiment of Scripture. It is a steadfast reminder that God’s Holy Word is as vital and constant today as it was in the beginning.

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This can be used with permission and credit to Daniel Gordis, The Promise of Israel 2012

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