Today, seventy-four years ago, the United Nations decided to adopt the proposal suggested by the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) and create two separate states in Palestine—one for the Arabs and one for the Jews. The proposal, known as the “United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine,” created a de facto Jewish state, which became official some six months later.
Regrettably, we’ve never lived up to our task, and we’ve never lived up to our title: the Jewish State. At best, we have been a “midway station” where we must decide our future: dissolve among the Arabs or build a model of unity for all of humanity.
The very notion of the Jewish state serving as a safe haven for Jews is wrong. This is not a justification for the existence a Jewish state. A Jewish state that does not set an example of unity will never earn the world’s support, and the Jews themselves will turn their backs on it, as is already happening.
The Jewish people are not a nation like the rest of the nations. They have no common origin, no common culture, and no distinct biological ancestry.
The Jews are an ideological nation. When Abraham first started circulating his notions of mercy and kindness to all, people from every nation in the ancient world gathered around him and attempted to practice what he taught. They forged unions among people who were previously unfamiliar or even hostile to each other, yet believed in Abraham’s ideas.
The Hebrews polished and honed their union through centuries of trials and tribulations. Finally, after a prolonged exile in Egypt, they reached such a level of unity that they became “as one man with one heart.” At that moment, they were declared a nation.
Their nation was of a kind never before seen: a nation formed by people’s conscious choice to unite above their divisions, and for the sake of unity alone. They had no other reason to stay together other than the importance of unity above differences. But in doing so, they proved, in practice, that nations could make peace, that love above differences can triumph, and that war was not necessary. This is why as soon as they became a nation, they were tasked with being “a light unto nations,” namely with sharing their unique unity with the entire world.
Through the ages, the Jews were exiled and returned to the land of Israel several times. They were sovereigns in the land when they were united, and were expelled from it when they became divided. In a sense, the real “land” of the Jewish people is “the land of unity.” Put differently, our geopolitical state always reflects our level of union or division.
Yehuda Ashlag, author of the acclaimed Sulam [Ladder] commentary on The Book of Zohar, wrote about it in The Writings of the Last Generation. In his words, “Judaism must present something new to the nations. This is what they expect from the return of Israel to the land!” Baal HaSulam added that unless the Jews in Israel set an example of unity, “Zionism will be canceled altogether … Undoubtedly, either [the Jewish settlers in Israel] or their children will gradually leave the country, and only an insignificant number will remain, which will ultimately be swallowed among the Arabs.”
The world’s unfulfilled expectation that Baal HaSulam talks about will determine whether we can remain here or not. As then, so now, our physical residence in Israel reflects our inner level of union or division. Currently, our level of division is so high that there is no doubt we are well on our way to disintegration, just as Baal HaSulam warns. We will not want to remain here, and the world will not want us to remain here.
Therefore, there is only one condition that justifies the existence of a Jewish state, and only one condition that merits being called “Jewish”: If we are united, we are true to our legacy and merit the title, “the people of Israel.” If we are divided, we are back where we came from: a collection of people who have nothing in common and feel nothing but hatred for each other.
On the other hand, if we want to unite above our differences, we have every right to tell the world: Don’t interfere with our lives here in Israel; we are building our union so as to set an example for the world. Everyone will accept this. Everyone knows this is our calling, and everyone knows that our calling is to benefit the world. Therefore, if we work on our unity, and for no other reason, everyone will support our efforts.