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December 26, 2014 10:58 am

A New Zeal for Israel

avatar by Uzi Silber

Email a copy of "A New Zeal for Israel" to a friend
The Temple Mount atop Jerusalem's Old City. Photo: Dave Bender

The Temple Mount atop Jerusalem's Old City. Photo: Dave Bender.

How will Israel survive? It’s a question many of us don’t like to admit we’re silently asking ourselves. Her future certainly won’t be secured by middle-aged, kosher food-eating, Yom Kippur-fasters like me.

How then? Eight decades ago, FDR rolled out a New Deal. What Jews and Israel need now is a New Zeal.

Zealotry moves history – Israel itself was founded by zealots. Most of the thousands of young Jews like my grandparents who immigrated to the Land of Israel starting in the 19th century substituted the traditions and faith of their ancestors for Zionism: the movement to build a new Jewish State. It was a revolutionary faith that could only be realized by the most devoted of zealots.

And they succeeded wildly: in the face of relentless isolation and hostility, an old-new homeland improbably arose out of sand, rock, and swamp.

But zealotry eventually subsides: with the mission of establishing Israel accomplished, the passion slowly ebbed and cynicism filled the void. Then, at some point during the 1970s, Jews of a certain persuasion began to pin the blame for the endless wars on Israel, with some even questioning the justice of the Zionist enterprise itself.

Meanwhile, the peace treaty with Egypt in 1978 and the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 convinced many that the Age of Aquarius had dawned, that the Arabs and Jews would shortly reconcile, and that Israelis would soon be wiping humus with pita in Damascus. The Oslo Accords of 1993 were signed in this spirit; Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination two years later seemed to augur the transition to post-Zionism.

But rather than embracing peace with the Jews as the Oslo marketers had fully expected, many young Arabs were drawn in another direction:  Jihad – holy war. They filled the ranks of Islamic battalions called Hezbollah, Hamas, Qaeda, Nusra, and of course Islamic State. Fearless and heartless, these warriors were happy to die for the twin goals of destroying the Jewish State and that eternal supply of virgins upstairs.

I lose sleep over Israel’s disturbingly inconclusive wars with the Jihadis. True, the Israel Defense Forces are one of the world’s finest armies. But a Western-style military peopled by too many non-Jewish Jews who can’t quite articulate what exactly it is they’re fighting for, is bound to face problems facing an enemy sustained by the call of Allah.

And too many young Israelis can’t be bothered anymore, opting for futures in America, Europe, and Australia.

Twentieth century Zionism seems to have exhausted its ability to inculcate the sort of passion in young Jews now required for confronting not only the Jihadi armies but the resurgent Jew haters of Europe. At the same time, Israel’s vital overseas support reservoir is vanishing, as assimilation and intermarriage erase much of American and European Jewry – a process dubbed a ‘White Holocaust’.

So how will a liberal, tolerant Israel, largely populated by non-zealous Jews, cope with a determined enemy on the march, certain of its absolute Islamic truth?

That’s where the New Zeal must come in – call it Zionism 2.0:  while Zionism aimed for a state populated by Jews, Zionism 2.0 wants a state populated by Jewish Jews, rather than merely Hebrew-speaking Canaanites.

I’m not talking shtreimels, Third Temples or Messiahs, but a rediscovery of the nefesh yehudi homia – beating Jewish heart – mentioned in Hatikva, Israel’s national anthem. Zionism 2.0 is a recoupling of Jewish Peoplehood with its ancient heritage, literature, and traditions – its soul – from which so many Jews have been divorced for the past century and a half.

As it happens, the first seeds of a New Zeal seem to have sprouted: take the New Israeli Guardsmen, a rapidly growing volunteer paramilitary force on horseback, protecting Jewish-owned farmland and livestock from Arab marauders. Or the phenomenon of secular yeshivas, accommodating the burgeoning interest of young Jews in their ancient scriptures. On Shavuot two years ago, I attended a study session in Jerusalem packed with young secular Jews animatedly discussing various topics related to the festival.

And the soul of beautiful Israel lives: the daughter of an old (leftist) friend served in an elite army intelligence unit. She’s now returned home from the traditional post-army service, rite-of-passage world tour, to work as a school teacher in one of the poorest communities in Israel’s south.

And the Jewish heart beats in Diaspora too: during last summer’s war with Hamas, many of us witnessed the breathtaking spectacle of hundreds of Jews emerging spontaneously from buildings along Manhattan’s 47th Street, to take on and chase away a band of rabid anti-Israel protesters.

But we need much more of this New Zeal. It’s the only way to confront the Jihadi armies preparing for the next war, the new Jew haters in Europe, and all the terrible challenges our children are certain to face in the years ahead.

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  • Uzi, in 2008, I wrote something very similar. ( AND

    It seems that no matter how much time passes, we still have the same issues to tackle.
    We need to find a way to inspire our new generations as the ones who were at the heart of frontier Zionism once were. Without it, we stand to lose so much.

    I keep searching for the answers, and keep going to Israel with my family to keep the hope alive.

  • Efram

    You left out another challenge. The Jew hating president of the US, who is doing his utmost to destroy Israel.

  • len

    we are living in the age of the great grandchildren of holocaust survivors,many no longer remember or ever heard or understand the helplessness of a people without a country who were outcasts in almost every nation in the enemies and the ignorant of the jewish state portray the palestinians as the moral inheritors of this victimization legacy.much of this thought actually is driven from many of the intellectuals of israel itself and this is used as a weapon to shame defenders of israel outside of the country in the west.we are fighting not the battle of chanukah and the maccabbees,we are figthing the battle of those grandchildren of the hasmoneans who after having comfortably reconquered the land of israel chose to culturally go the way of their seleucid enemies diluting the zeal and spirit of what chanukah was all about.i am certainly simplifying this fight probably to many in a very unsatisfatory manner but i understand the danger which presently exists in this obscene attempt to delegitimize the state of israel and the spirit of zionism.there are many reasons for this occurance to be happening now,especially in the universities.many times we just preach to the choir.first and foremost we must fight the fight in our own backyards and that entails education,education,education.the hebrew day schools in america are far and few and expensive.unlike orthodox communities non orthodox communities which are the overwhelming majority in the west have a choice,for sure 99% of them make the wrong choice and choose to send their kids to a public school.there they get minimal background necessary to know who they are and why etc.there will be no more support for israel from these generations as time goes by,at least not any more than for any other country on the face of this earth.they will judge israel through the lens of israel’s enemies and accept that view as the one and only narrative to understand the jewish state.there needs to be a mass undertaking in the west to attract the non orthodox jew to send his child to a school where he can appreciate the state of israel,its values and ideals and teach our young that the jewish religion is not just about eating latkes on chanukah,its understanding what has allowed us to exist as jews for thousands of years.


    Yes, zeal is required.

  • David Hoffman

    Not bad. But the real question is this: Will Israel be able to survive by continuing to use Jabotinsky’s “iron wall” strategy? That is, by demonstrating to her enemies over and over that she can take whatever they throw at her, in the hope that eventually they will get tired of throwing stuff, and leave her alone? Or is a more proactive approach necessary, and, if so, what should it include?

  • manley kiefer

    A well analyzed article. Many of us are concerned and wondering if Israel will be able to survive against the fanatical enemies at its doorstep, who are becoming more numerous and sophisticated in guerilla warfare. I feel if Israel doesn’t do something decisive soon, it may be too late. Counting on God to save Israel isn’t enough.

  • Julian Clovelley

    Computers sometimes garble things in transmission. The third paragraph of my post had that happen to it

    It should read “Israel is seen by jihadists within the concept of its supposed “imperialist Zionist threat” to the region – the threat of a Greater Israel, as extremists in the “Jewish” camp allegedly seek to realise the Zionist delusion(sic), using “defence” as the excuse.”

  • steven L

    How to stop the world from taking the road to INSANITY. The enemy is on its way to kill G-D!
    As far as the “hundreds of Jews emerging spontaneously from buildings along Manhattan’s 47th Street”, these were the Zionist Jews. Too bad. Let us not lose hope.

  • Julian Clovelley

    Zionism would never have been embraced had it not been for the rise of Nazism. It is fundamentally flawed, and to borrow a Marxist phraseology “it contains the seed of its own destruction”. No one really needs to topple it. Ultimately it will topple itself

    The problem with Zionism is that it is a separatist creed, and like all such creeds it is based on a concocted history – which on close examination falls apart as being more of a political fable than an accurate representation of past reality

    In many ways it shares the motivation of the Jihadists – a fear that without a state of external hostility existing, its assumptions and assertions, and its whole hierarchic power structure, would collapse internally. Israel within its “imperialist Zionist threat” to the region. The threat of a Greater israel, as extremists in the “Jewish” camp seek to realise the Zionist delusion(sic), using “defence” as the excuse.

    Both modern Zionism and Jihadism are responses to the unstoppable rush of secularism. As people grow in their consciousness, there is a desire to grow up ideologically, leaving initially just parts , but eventually all, of the old religions behind. The core of all religions is not love but violence – this sad truth only becomes openly observable when the religion is under threat. Such in Christianity was the Great Schism between the Eastern Christianity of Byzantium and the Western Christianity of Rome. It led to the sacking of Constantinople by papal supported Venetians in 1204.

    Violence appeared when the Catholic Church felt threatened by the Cathars in France, in the form of the Popes Albigensian Crusade, and also in the Crusades generally against Islam. It surfaced in the Reformation, the persecution of the Huegenots, the rise of a Catholic supported Fascism to counter Communism, and even in the verbal violence of McCarthyism. Religion under threat turns violent. Just listen to America’s Christian radio hacks and the venom they spit!

    I believe the future of Israel entirely depends on its ability to walk away from mythology. Judaism may well continue for generations as a self reforming religion, but in its present separatist and divisive Zionist dominated form it cannot run a viable multucultural society – and that is all that is on offer.

    Moves towards a “Jewish State” and to change the conditions for Knesset Membership – that might, even incidentally, impinge on Arab representation within it, would be flagrant breaches of the Partition Resolution, of the League of Nations Mandate, and of the Balfour Declaration. Together with the Settlements and Occupation the “Jewish State” threatens the Foundation legitimacy of Israel

    Quo Vadis indeed -“whither goest thou?” – Perhaps the choice is made clearer by the sheer numbers of people labelled, or who label themselves “Jewish”, walking away, happily assimilating into Christian and secular families – recognising that the differences were always fictitious – that the stories of Exodus and Abraham – of the Biblical Davidic Kingdom were ancient political fables that at least carried a spiritual message that had worth. That they treasure and keep.

    The real question for Israel is the same question we all face worldwide. How do we finally walk away from the ancient incarnations of religious delusion that divide humanity – and create a new understanding of transcendant experience, human unity and of spirituality. Maybe the Greeks were right – it is but wind – Maybe Nietzsche was right too when he said “If I wished to shake this tree with my hands, I should not be able to do so. But the wind, which we see not, troubles and bends it as it lists. We are sorest bent and troubled by invisible hands.”

    That is the hidden dynamic – the internation call for a new society, a new political relationship between people – one that leaves the old forms from Patriarchy to Feudalism, to middle class based Democracy, laissez faire market Capitalism, Stalinism and the new Feudalism of Globalisation behind – together with their elite class and caste structures.

    The world wants to grow up. Let the people do that. Hold them back and they will still walk away. That is what the refugees and asylum seeker numbers tell us. Which is it to be – a universal move to free ourself from the chains of the past – or a fight to the death against entrenched theocratic and ideological “authority”?

    • Alan Goldman

      And the lion will lay down with the lamb.
      Pure science fiction. To say your opinions are naive is charitable.
      You ignore man’s basic nature.You forget were we came from. Remember we are created in God’s image. A god that appears to be, petty, mean, and bloodthirsty.

    • Francis

      Not sure what you’re smoking, but let’s have a go at your argument, which, to be kind, appears to be that religion is the problem.

      That’s the first error. Some religions foster violence because they are about seeking power, and for many groups the only way they can achieve power is through violence. Christianity went through a period like that, but has since abandoned it. Islam was created to achieve power through violence; that is why Muslims who claim the Islamic State isn’t really Islamic are wrong.

      Judaism is not about seeking power but about creating a just society. This is a difficult thing to do even under the most favorable circumstances and why Israelis basically want to be left alone. Zionists concluded that achieving this end required that Jews have a place where they could build a society based on their culture, and they naturally chose the land given to their ancestors.

      The problem ever since has been that the neighbors are Muslims whose culture seeks power through warfare. You can prove this to yourself by considering where the zones of chronic warfare are: they all lie along the frontier between the Muslim world and the rest of humanity (in addition to Israel-Arabs, we have Pakistan-India, Ethiopia-its Muslim neighbors, Sudan and what is now South Sudan, in Lebanon between Maronites and Muslims, Greece-Turkey and by extension Cyprus, across Nigeria and much of Africa between Muslim norths and Christian/ anamist souths)

      The upshot is that Israel’s problems with its neighbors will end when those neighbors come to recognize that their culture really doesn’t require perpetual warfare. In the meantime, basically nothing that Israel can do will bring peace any closer.

    • len

      dear julian-nice try but no cigar buddy,you know how to throw a lot of crap around about history,philosophy,economics etc.but after awhile your just trying to impress us with your “knowledge” which when you try to put it all together in a simple little package is meaningless garble. the devil is in the details and you have no details but pseudo generalizations and analagies.zionism was well on its way to succeed way before nazism reared its ugly head but was purposely delayed by great britain in the 30,s because of the arab an aside we can thank our arab cousins for helping to close the door on jews who might have survived had they been welcomed back to zion.i would fairly say the mufti and his ilk bear the responsibility for about a million jewish dead souls if not more and i can also say that they certainly shed not a tear in lieu of that fact.also i dont see why you would quote marx in that embarrassing unfullfilled quote.he was damning the future of capitalism.and as far as i can see capitalism is doing quite well and has learned to adapt to its weaknessess and is in no danger nor has it ever been in danger of being destroyed at if in fact you are a marxist ,dont hold your breath on capitalism and dont hold your breath on zionism either.there is no more problem with zionism as a movement and a philosophy than any other country with a people that wants to be recognized as a special country with a special people who want to be recognized as such.just as a greek wants to be recognized as special as a greek and a nigerian wants to be recognized as special as a nigerian and an egyptian wants to be recognized as special as an egyptian.israel wants to be and has the right to be recognized like all the other nations and they have that right through their years of exile,horrendous treatment and extermination attempts throughout history, to return to their only true homeland,and the proof my dear pseudo intellectual is in the sum it up ,to call israel theocratically entrenched or ideologically entrenched just tells me your dealing with the kind of israel that is made up in the backrooms of the leftist/muslim propaganda media mills,you have been so busy demonizing the jewish state you cant really evaluate this truely dynamic,democratic miracle called israel,home of the jewish people in all its greater imperialist glory which is the size of new jersey and maybe add delaware after its greatest territorial ambitions by some.a real danger to the world and your universe!!!!!how pathetic.

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  • Joseph Australia

    The old elite Jewish European Communists, made a the existential mistake of bringing in the Jihadi Jew hating Islamists. After 2,000 years and within just one generation, their populations was forever decimated.

    What bothers me a great deal is that these very same Post Zionist Israeli Jews who feel that the Zionist enterprise is no longer viable, were exactly the same European elite who told their own very concerned brethren that Hitler was not a threat, resulting in the destruction of almost the entire Jewish Project.

    How can we ever trust these non realists utopians ever again??? If they are wrong then the Syrian massacre would be child’s play if Israel is destroyed. Their friends will suddenly not to there for Israel.

    Lastly if Israel sadly goes due to them, the anti Jewish programs will be there anywhere in the Diaspora. Even inn the backyards where they eke out a living.

  • It looked as if for a minute that you had had an epiphany. I thought you were going to identify the problem as Zionism, which it is. Theodor Herzl would be appalled (I hope) at how Zionism has morphed into a racist colonialist military philosophy in Fortress Israel. The entire zealous enterprise now, as you almost intimated, is so identified with Jewishness as to taint ethical Judaism.

    But then you got to Oslo and started claiming that it’s all the Palestinians fault. Somehow you conveniently forgot that Bibi himself was caught on tape proudly proclaiming how he “stopped” Oslo. You probably don’t read Haaretz though or it would not have escaped your notice.

    • Yale

      People who do read Ha’aretz, and especially those who read only Ha’aretz manage to miss essentially everything about the reality of the Middle East.

      Mr. Hess would benfit by reading more broadly, maybe a real newspaper rather than an ideological mouthpiece.

  • Karl

    what a beta schlubnik this Silber is. We can only dream that the coming economic meltdown will see Caracal girls deciding that the least worst idea is to sacrifice this guy while he still has his excessive quantities of body fat, and feed him to guard-dogs of the Hilltop Youth.

  • Gig

    Uzi, you. Need zealots just as much as the other side needs jihadists. There is no end in this. A true zealot, a brave one will work to understand and end the conflict. You are proposing perpetuating this mess until one side runs out of what? In your approach, you have already lost the war, my friend.

  • David

    The children of Israel are a people chosen by the true and living God. You can trace their history from the book of Genesis. This chosen generation has time and again disobeyed God. And God punished them for this. They were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. All those who persecuted the Jews, were punished by God.

    If you examine the book of Isaiah and the other major and minor prophets in the Bible, you would find that God will not forsake His people.

    The Bible prophesies about a time that these people will have to go through the tribulation which would last for 7 years.

    But inspite of this, there will be a remnant that will return to God. In Revelation chapter 19, you will find, that the Lord Jesus will return with His bride to save His people.

    There is no powers, nor any person who can destroy the children of Israel. Because, their God is the Living God and there is no God beside Him.

  • An excellent, timely essay.

  • Superb article!!! The beating heart of Israel (David & Solomon’s Israel) will never be lost! You’re Messiah will restore your lovely land and its people – not only will you be wholly and completely Jewish (The special chosen people of YHWH) – you will be the center of the world! Believe in the promises made to Abraham – they’re unbreakable.

  • charlie johnson

    If the last weapon you have to fight with is truth and you end up by being defeated by lies you have come to the wrong planet anyway.I look forward to the next world with great delight.