Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What is Israel?

Many Jewish people connect with Israel as part of our religion. The Torah discusses Israel, as do other parts of the Bible. But what exactly is Israel? The word "Israel" means "one who wrestles with G-d." Wrestling with G-d and asking questions is an integral part of Jewish spiritual life. I started asking questions at one point about human rights and social justice between Israel and Palestine. In this context, "Israel" is not a land, but the people. The chant, "Am Yisrael Chai" means "long live the Jewish people" not necessarily "props to the land of Israel." The nation itself is Eretz Yisrael - the Land of Israel, that which was given to the Jews by G-d in the Torah, in approximately the same area where the modern State of Israel now resides. However, resistance to Zionism is not just the domain of Jews on the left. An extreme branch of Orthodox Jews believe that it is only when the Messiah comes (or returns, depending on one's theology in that regard). Also interesting is that the original Zionists were secular and politically left-wing. The whole idea of the kibbutz (communal work camp) is founded on socialist beliefs. Such a land of contradictions - religious extremism in leadership and socialism amongst the people; human rights violations of others and its own religious/cultural preservation. As a Jew, I wrestle with G-d. Sometimes I think the land of Israel wrestles against G-d, or at least in spite of Him.

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