Free or fearful?

Zionism’s responses to Jewish insecurity

Authored by: Uriel Abulof

Routledge Handbook on Israeli Security

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138217300
eBook ISBN: 9781315165196
Adobe ISBN:


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“All things are mortal but the Jew,” remarked Mark Twain, “all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?” 1 For many Jews this is a rhetorical question, evincing the everlasting bond between the one God and His Chosen People. 2 Still, the people might never have attained certainty in absolute faith, living since time immemorial with equally lingering doubt and deep insecurities. Consider Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. Explaining Jewish life on the brink of oblivion and the verge of modernization, Tevye, the rooftop Jewish fiddler, tells us that it was “Tradition” (emphasis in the original) that helped the Jewish people to “keep their balance” while living on the edge, facing constant dangers posed by their largely non-Jewish surroundings. 3 He may well be right. Bereft of their ancient homeland and lacking sovereignty, Jews in the Diaspora had turned their religious faith and practice into a “portable homeland” (as Heinrich Heine denoted of the Torah). Religion was the mainstay of Jewish identity and a source of solace in the light of ever-present dangers. This traditional, ethno-religious existence has endured for millennia despite numerous perils. At the dawn of modernity, the secure identity served as an existential bolster in European ghettos, Moroccan mellahs and in Russia’s Pale of Settlement.

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