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February 15, 2015 12:17 pm

Chaos Strengthens Israel and the Jewish People

avatar by Jeremy Rosen

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According to Pew Foundation many young Jewish Americans do not identify either with Judaism or Israel. Photo: WikiCommons.

According to the Bible, before the world was created there was chaos, Tohu VaVohu. However, it was out of chaos that something positive emerged. I am a fan of chaos. The alternative to chaos is order. But too often order is worse. Human life constantly shuttles between these two, on a personal and on a national level. Jewish life, in particular, has always been thus. But I believe we should welcome it. This state can be creative. It can throw up all kinds of new possibilities. Maybe we need to be reminded every now and then, as now, of what chaos is like.

In Judaism there are many conflicting ideologies and social groups that, by definition, are all but impossible to reconcile. Reform Jews have split from the mainstream by deciding to adopt patrilineal descent to define Jewish religious identity. Many Ultra Orthodox sects have split by making identity depend on exclusive dress and standards of practice that reject modernity and go way beyond mainstream Jewish law.

We are at odds with ourselves and at odds with much of the world. For some this alienation is religious, and for some it is political. In the Diaspora we can read, say, The New York Times, and not a day goes by without an article critical and demeaning of Israel and Jews. We can hear news and media losing no opportunity to blame Jews and Israel, themselves, for the hatred directed towards them. We do suffer demonization. Israel faces de-legitimization, from without and within. According to Pew Foundation many young Jewish Americans do not identify either with Judaism or Israel. I no longer expect the left wing to accept Israel’s right to exist any more than I expect Muslims in the Middle East to accept Israel’s right to exist. And I realize we few 14 million or so are surrounded by billions of enemies. Doesn’t this scare me? How long can so few, however talented, however determined, however brave and convinced of the rightness of their cause, hope to survive against billions?

I do not believe for one second that if Israel were to disappear tomorrow we would be any more loved or respected. And I do not believe for one minute that anything would change if Israel were to become the most ethical, caring, uncorrupt, nonviolent state in the world tomorrow. At the same time, I am depressed by the negative aspects of Israeli and Jewish society, the gap between the rich and poor, between communities, religions, and races (even if they are no worse than every other polity or state or religion or people). Yes, I do expect them to be better. Yet we can also find sites and media that are able to put Israel in perspective in relation to other states. I am elated and impressed by Israel’s achievements despite the countervailing winds. Dammit, why else would Somali refugees avoid their own Muslim states to try for refuge in a Jewish one?

The political landscape of America is changing. Eighty percent of Jews used to vote Democrat. Now it’s reducing rapidly. Jewish life in the USA used to be dominated by Reform Judaism; now the Orthodox are taking over. Obama and most Democrats are completely out of sympathy with Israel. Academia is resolutely anti-Zionist, read anti-Israel, read anti-Jewish-self-determination. Russia and China still vote against Israel at the UN. But we can also hear those who stand up for our right to exist unmolested, be we Jews or Israelis.

India is moving in our direction. While Turkish Islamic leaders spew hatred we still trade, and we help the Kurds. As ISIL decapitates and burns within miles of Israel’s borders, Israel herself is increasingly self-sufficient in gas, oil, and water, not to mention technology. And frankly Judaism has never been stronger in terms of people, learning and power for two thousand years. Do we look at the cup half empty or half full?

Chaos is everywhere. One minute Russia is down, the next it is invading other countries, and no one can stop it. Assad of Syria is the enemy; then he’s the ally. One day the EU is a powerful economic entity, and the next it is on its knees and fragmenting. The USA is the world’s policeman at one stage, and then it cannot take a stand on anything. Once Japan ruled the east; now it is China. Six months ago oil was a $100 a barrel and now it is $50. The Swiss franc goes wild. The Chinese Yuan is nervous.

Nothing stays the same. History does not end. Humans remain the complex organisms they were created to be or evolved into, whichever theory you prefer.

We have always dealt with shifting powers and alliances. Chaos is our natural state. Where are the great communities of a thousand years ago, Babylon, Spain, Egypt, Southern Italy? Others have taken their place. We never know for certain who will be our friends, who our allies. But as Mordechai said to Esther two-and-a-half thousand years ago, “If you don’t act now, salvation for the people will come from somewhere else, even if you perish.” Salvation always comes, from the unlikeliest quarters. Though I do believe we need to work very hard at it!

Some focus on the negatives. I do not for one minute suggest it’s all doom and gloom. But it is challenging. Those who put their Jewishness first, wherever they are, are always different. But they are the ones who step up! We have usually found a way of turning the negative into the positive. And when within a state of chaos or uncertainty we withdraw into those we think we can trust because they share our fate; we cluster into small subsections and coteries for reassurance but also for regeneration.

In conditions of turbulence and flux one looks for points of refuge, rocks to cling to, priorities. Just as in the world at large the buzz word is knowledge. Within our world that word is commitment. What is my rock? It is my people. (Judaism is a people, not just a religion.) That means supporting them wherever they may be. It is not that I cannot see our faults and failures. But it is no different than a mother who loves her son regardless of what he has done. There are billions to care about other religions, other peoples. Why shouldn’t I give priority to mine?

The question really is how much one cares. It is not in what way you show your commitment, whether it is religious or social or secular, but how committed ARE you? We will survive. When the floodwaters rise, I want to be with the committed, with the faithful, not with those who swim with fashionable tides. We need chaos. It strengthens us. It always has. Within chaos the small little atoms of cohesion survive to build another world.

I am not saying we must ignore, turn blind eyes or refuse to react. We should never let evil go un-reacted-to. But at the same time we need to focus on the positive not on the negative. We will feel better for it too.

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  • cssai

    People only cooperate when it is profitable.

    There is no one and no group above myself.

  • victor Friedlander

    Naturally, my agreement with your article is partial. Many Jews are completely out of sympathy with Israel. Jews in politics, Jews in academia, and Jews in Israel. One need not be anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish-self-determination to be completely out of sympathy with Israel. As you wrote, “We are at odds with ourselves and at odds with much of the world. For some this alienation is religious, and for some it is political. In the Diaspora we can read, say, The New York Times, and not a day goes by without an article critical and demeaning of Israel and Jews.” Much of the news and media you hear that loses “no opportunity to blame Jews and Israel, themselves, for the hatred directed towards them.” is written and spoken by Jews, within Israel and without.

    Not all criticism of the policies and actions of the current government in Israel are cases of “demonization and de-legitimization, from without and within. Much of it is, as you wrote “We are at odds with ourselves and at odds with much of the world.” To demonize and delegitimize all criticism of Israel’s policies and the activities of those that support them is in direct contradiction to your celebration of the dynamism and creativity of that chaos that in Judaism. Have a nice day

    • Jeremy Rosen

      No I am not demonizing criticism of Israel all the more so since I am guilty of it myself. But much of the criticism from within Israel and without comes from people, Jews and non Jews who are out of sympathy with Judaism or the right of Jewish self determination and they are people I count as out of sync with committed Judaism. And therefore out of sync with me.

  • Hebo

    We need to build strong alliances now with nonwhites to fight for our future. If white christians are truly for the Israeli Jesus christ and the golden rule that’s great but there are alot of whites in europe and the americas that are coming out of the wood work as euro-trash nazis.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    Probably no other relatively cohesive human group on human record has brought structure and optimism to the world as we Jews. Our take on chaos is that it does not define us; our take on the world is that it is a gift to elevate to the ethereal or to help reach a point shared with the ethereal here on earth. Jews find hope in oblivion and challenge in that which is unknown. We look to the future with feet not quite firmly planted on the ground. If when I die I am asked if i would come back to life as a Jew, I would respond in the affirmative; for to be a Jew one brings value and meaning and electrical dynamism to a creature which could just as well live the life of a Golem. How fortunate is the Jew who believes that the life he or she lives creates a better him or her along the way. . . and a better world for those human beings whose earthly paths somehow intersect that path which has been chosen.

    • baer

      Shalom Yoel
      i agree fully with you
      B”H for Yeremy Rosen incredible to the point article

      all the best to all of us out there

  • This article says it all for me! I couldn’t agree more with the author. When the ‘chips are down’ there is no way but UP and up we shall all go whether religiously or secularly. Keep on going! The Lord is my life and my salvation. Psalm 27.


  • Ivan Cohen

    Dear Jeremy
    My compliments on an excellent piece. For me there is one point that needs to be added:
    It is the responsibility of all to point out the untruths, misrepresentations and injustices disseminated by the media, the politicians, the academics etc. We cannot stand idly by and ignore these and come forth with the same old hackneyed response . . . . “what can we do about it?”.
    We must hit our keyboards and use whatever means we have to try to rectify the lies. Israel is not perfect and neither are we but if we cannot muster up a defence for ourselves, how can we expect others to do so?

    • Jeremy Rosen

      Yes Ivan I completely agree with you

      In the absence of our great prophets we ordinary people must stand up and refuse to accept the corruption and distortion that inevitably comes when people have power, whether religious or secular.

      There is a lot of good and charity in our Jewish world but there is also a lot that is wrong. Burying our heads un the sand will only allow things to get worse.
      Thank you for your comment.

  • Dr. Bradley Wilson

    Jeremy Rosen’s” Chaos Strengthens Israel and the Jewish People” is right on point and one of the best I have read in a long time. I am not a Jew but a Christian who takes Zionism extremely seriously as I follow my Christ. Yes the Jewish people will be tested as they always have been, but God will never let Israel be taken by anyone. That is His promise and the Psalms 83 war this year will prove the point.

  • Jacobite

    For this very reason some none Jewish people unite in agreement that out of Tribulation came Hope, and from Hope comes Faith, which in the end will bring eternal Love and eternal Peace and unity, with out thier could be no positive or Hope.
    Child birth and the labor pain attached could not discrib it better, what the world now is going through is labor pains or contractions which will bring the Birth of a new Age under a new World Order a Righteous world order.
    It matters not that we agree on detail in the end Thy Will, Will Be Done On Earth, will be done, and at the end of the day this is the only Hope worth holding onto.
    Come mighty Lord come .

    • Neil D. Chase

      The State of Israel was established. Therefore, He came.

  • Julian Clovelley

    Strength is displayed in the ability to adapt – to accept and plan change and reform. Within Judaism the same phenomena occurs as within Christianity. A determined and belligerent Conservatism and Fundamentalism is so disruptive that those seeking change walk away – in many cases graduating out of the religion and the culture entirely

    This draining of intellectual and reforming talent leaves the institution in ultraconservative hands, as a result of which the process of decay accelerates, leading to corruption and internal collapse. The apparent nature of a community, when viewed from outside, is changed – creating appearances that in turn can help incite hostility.

    Conservatism is not the true face of the Jewish people in my experience – what gives it that appearance is that the assimilated never return, and the ultraconservative elements of the Jewish Community ceases to count their existence. It has long been so. Despite the fact that assimilated Jews are in every family tree the delusion of a “pure” people continues. In this delusion there is nether assimilation or conversion. No Rabbi, “Jews” are not a people – they are indeed a religion. They always were. That is the key to it all.

    Jewish and Christian and secular scholars need to work together in creating a more rational approach to the myths they hold in common. We don’t need chaos we ned co-operation. If swimming “with fashionable tides” gets us to the desired destination – then let’s do it!


  • Liz

    Thank you for this article!

  • David

    Let’s begin the march to victory by rebuilding the Temple of Zion in Jerusalem. The Amalekites will get their just dessert.

    There are more than 20 million Jews in the world unlike your low estimate. We also have those with Israeli and Hebrew ancestry across the world hoping for us to be the Leaders, like Moses. Our allies are the Kurds, Ethiopians, Americans and Honduim.

    We must leave the past and Europe far away. We will focus on building a great nation in the Levant region. Our great heritage Torah, to be a Light unto the Nations and our strong military self-reliance and economics.

    • victor Friedlander

      Back to animal sacrifice, venal priests, and a golden temple for people living in hovels. Great Idea! Read or reread Yoseph Mattityahu’s Wars of the Jews.

  • Jeff

    “When the floodwaters rise, I want to be with the committed, with the faithful, not with those who swim with fashionable tides.”