Envisioning Israel’s Future: Rabbi Steinsaltz on Israel at 60


The continuation of the State of Israel depends on the ability of the state, or better still its people, to solve the problem of its identity. As an entity, the state is in the stage of adolescence, asking: Who am I? From its inception, it has had two very different answers: Israel is a Jewish state, or Israel is a state of Jews. This reflects the basic ambivalence of Zionism, which is, on the one hand the desire for complete assimilation, to become a normal nation to the point of annihilation. But at the same time, Zionism was a Messianic movement (even when not always religious), craving for definition and difference. This problem is expressed in every facet of life – law and education, economy and defense. So far the answers are mixed and confused, erratic like any adolescent.

As a general collection of Jews (by any definition), Israel may continue to exist by inertia, although the constant outside pressure, internal friction and the ability to immigrate and disappear will eventually disrupt the state. The only way to ensure the state is, strangely enough, spiritual – by deciding that Israel is a Jewish State that has to find its strength in reconnecting to its past, to a feeling of a mission. Army and economy may help but the state can exist only when it is built on a dream.