Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Importance of Sovereignty

5 Hol HaMo'ed Pesah 5769

The Importance of Sovereignty
Yoel Meltzer

Erev Pesah 5796/April 7, 2009

Following publication of my recent article "Sovereignty in Israel" - an article which suggested that Israel's passive compliance to the demands of American leadership questions the whole notion of whether Israel actually has true political sovereignty - I was asked by several people to explain how genuine sovereignty can be attained, as well as why attaining it is deemed so important. Moreover, regarding the latter point, there were several inquiries as to the meaning of the closing sentence of the article: "Finally, if Israel ever truly desires to fulfill its unique role in the world, then it will have no choice but to start thinking about itself differently and to realize why true sovereignty is in fact needed in order to fulfill this role."

In order to address these questions, I write this article. Moreover, since it is my belief that the key to understanding the significance of Israeli sovereignty can only be acquired by first properly understanding what is the unique role of the Jewish State, I would like to focus on this point.

What, then, is the point of a Jewish State? Although many believe that the building of the state of Israel in order to establish Jewish sovereignty is the goal of the Jewish people, the truth is that it is not. Of course it is very important and it has profound significance in and of itself, but this is not the whole story. If it were, then the building of the state of Israel would simply be a nationalist endeavor and nothing more. If so, then Israel would be no different from other nationalist endeavors such as France, Turkey, Argentina, etc.

While it is true that Israel is similar to other nationalist endeavors in that it too needs to build the country on a purely physical level - with firemen and bakeries, clothing stores and electricians - for Israel, however, there is much more. In addition to building a full-fledged country in every meaning of the word, Israel has to do this according to the beautiful ideals and morality of Judaism.

Done correctly, Israel is to create a socially just society. On the one hand, a thriving economy, strong army, educational and scientific achievements, and more, while on the other hand, a caring and equitable attitude towards the weaker segments of society, honest and dedicated public officials, polite discourse amongst the people, etc. True, this may sound like a dream, especially in the current state of affairs, but nonetheless this is the goal.

Still further, as beautiful as such a state would be, this is not the final goal. For what really separates Israel from other nationalist endeavors is that Israel also has an international agenda. Briefly stated, the building of such a socially just society is merely to serve as an example for other nations of the world. Thus, the nationalistic aspect of building the country, settling the land and establishing sovereignty is not an end-goal in and of itself, but rather a platform for bringing this message to the world. Described in the poetic language of the Tanach (Bible), this is what is known as being a "light unto the nations".

That is the real final goal and destiny of the Jewish people.

For a world that has been endlessly ravaged by wars, famines, suffering and lack of justice, constantly searching and hoping for a better way, the state of Israel is to serve as the paradigm of how to build such a socially just society and, eventually, a socially just world. This is the profound meaning of what is referred to as tikkun olam.

Thus, leading by example, the State of Israel is essentially charged with nothing less than rescuing the world from its own seemingly endless madness. This is quite a grand and lofty ideal, but nonetheless, it is the ultimate goal.

That is the real reason why political and economic sovereignty is so important for the State of Israel, for only thus can we fulfill the role that God has chosen for us. It's quite simple. We cannot be a "light unto nations" if we are subservient to another nation - be it politically, economically or in our way of thinking. Either we understand this and internalize it and start transforming ourselves, the country and the world, or we continue to ignore this and thus perpetuate the chaos in Israel and in the rest of the world.

Having answered the question of why sovereignty is important, what remains is the more challenging task of how to implement it. There are no simple or magical answers. Quite simply, the above message needs to be discussed and disseminated every which way possible until it becomes the mindset of individual Jews and the collective Jewish nation. There are no shortcuts. However, the potential and power that such a way of thinking would unleash if it were to seep into the consciousness of more and more Jews is nothing less than mind boggling. That's the power of real, authentic and passionate idealism. In addition to providing a clear sense of purpose, it creates excitement, it's catchy, it affects and motivates others, it causes action and generates revolutions.

Understanding this message, although seemingly so basic, should not be taken for granted. Only by internalizing it can the real importance of Israeli sovereignty be fully understood and appreciated. In addition, it is the tool that is needed to overcome our self-imposed limits and fears, to break out of our 'comfort zone', and to finally acquire true political and economic sovereignty.

Yoel Meltzer has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies and lives in Israel.

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