The State of Israel exists, first and foremost, as the nation-state of the Jewish people, not because the Jewish people is particularly deserving or fit for it, but by the grace of God toward a people that suffered unspeakable and interminable cruelty. But just as God, in His grace, took the land from the Emorites and gave it to the Israelites, He has taken it from Israel and given it to other nations, which were more worthy in His eyes (Jeremiah 27:5-6). So on Yom Ha-atzma’ut, as we celebrate the fulfillment of Zionism’s first and most basic aspiration, we must maintain focus on its second, higher aspiration.
The people of Israel will not prove itself worthy of its land by listing more companies on NASDAQ or with an increased number of start-ups, scale-ups, or exits. As important as they are, these are not what we hoped and prayed and dreamed about for 2,000 years. Rather, we must ask whether our civilization fights on behalf of the widow and the orphan, gives succor to the poor, treats the alien, the migrant, and the non-naturalized resident fairly. We must ask whether our civilization is teaching the world how to best harness the power of the sun and how to extract the most value out of every drop of water; whether our civilization is healing the world, teaching it how to wield military might responsibly, and how to shape extraordinary diversity into a functioning democracy.
The answers may not always be to our liking, and it may take centuries to shape our civilization into something that is. But I have seen enough to convince me that I want to participate, and I want my descendants to participate, in this monumental project.
“Zion shall be redeemed through justice, and those who return to her, by righteousness.”
Rabbi Elli Fischer, “Between Two Zionisms: Normal Country or Exemplar?”, The Jewish Week (5 May 2017), 21.