Last week, Israel celebrated 75 years since its formation, with many Israelis jubilant about what the country has achieved in those few years. From the early decades of socialistgovernment to the present day, modern Israel has been through a lot.
A lot of Western corporate media sounded alarmed, warning that Israel stands at “perilous crossroads“. Protests in Tel Aviv have dragged on over the last few weeks. Sparked initially by judicial reforms proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Dr. Micah Goodman, an Israeli writer and political advisor, says the unrest is now over the fundamental issues dividing the country.
Listening to Dr. Goodman, you may note that things are slightly different in Israel than the US – the conservatives want change, the liberals want things to stay as they are; the Right is angry about the past, the Left is anxious about the future. But it appears the issues playing out are pretty much the same as in many Western democracies: there are two competing visions of what makes for a flourishing human society. Each side thinks if the other side wins, the country is lost.
Interestingly, the modern nations of India and Pakistan were founded at the same time as Israel, and partitioned for the sake of religious practice. Both are also wrestling with their national identity, whether it will be a religious one tied to past lore and traditions or something else. As one commentator put it, Israel will need to choose whether it wants to be a state for Jews or a Jewish state.
Modernity, and especially its progressive iteration, is a potent solvent. A worldview founded on rationality, directed by science and formed by mass education will dissolve tradition and faith unless it is checked. But Modernity can’t fulfill the needs of human hearts and so we also find many nations, including out own at the crossroads. Will we continue to build on a substrate that cannot support the richness needed for a meaningful human life, or look back to something more ancient – wisdom outside ourselves. “Righteousness exalts a nation” as Proverbs says, so we keep praying for our nation, living as redeemed people do and bringing the hope of Jesus Christ everywhere we go.