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Yosef Mendelevich

By Yosef Mendelevich



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I am not a prophet, and no one can predict the future, even with regard to a period far shorter than fifty years. Therefore, what I write here is how I would like the State of Israel to look in the next half-century. As a believing Jew, I neither can nor want to engage in fantasies outside my belief. R. Abraham Isaac Kook noted long ago, in his lectures on the Kuzari, that our freedom of choice stops at the point where our ability to imagine ends—which is certainly no short distance.
Describing what the future holds is quite challenging, especially considering how hard it is to understand many events of even the past or present. Some changes that have taken place in Israel over the years can be understood only in relative terms of “more” or “less.” Before, there was more love of homeland, and now there is less; before, there was less security, now there is more. Such pronouncements must be qualified and questioned, because they are not a matter of statistical measurement. And neither is the vision of the nation’s future a matter of bookkeeping.
One thing, however, is clear: A unique, extraordinary spirit beats in the heart of every Jew, and in the shared soul of the Jewish people. We are not like other peoples. And I definitely expect this spirit to reveal itself soon. When and how will this happen? For this I rely upon the theory of evolution, and upon the idea of converting quantity into quality.
One may find a thousand explanations for why the process of redemption began specifically in our time, but we cannot know which is the correct one. Nevertheless, that this process has begun is unquestionable, especially with regard to the Ingathering of the Exiles. The wave of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, which has also brought hundreds of thousands of individuals of unknown origin, fulfills the promise of ingathering the exiles even from the ends of the earth. Parallel developments have included the discovery of entire communities, even entire peoples, who are of Jewish origin, along with Christianity’s capitulation to historical fact and acknowledgment that the Jewish people is no longer a pariah. Christian-Zionist organizations have come to the fore, and Christian churches are asking forgiveness for shedding our blood. I do not know how sincere they are, but that is almost beside the point, given the implications of their actions.
Despite all this, one important component is still missing: A grand Message. Non-Jews are being drawn to the Jewish people because they sense, in light of historical events, that something special is happening here. It is perhaps this reality which is referred to in the Psalms: “Then shall they say among the nations, ‘the Eternal has done great things for them!’” (Psalms 126:2) The Message itself, however, as a manifestation of the general truth that the world so anticipates, has not yet come forth. The Message of the truth about creation and existence—why we were created, what we are doing here—has yet to issue from the people and land of Israel.
Obviously, this truth is already known to us: It is the Tora. But I anticipate a revelation of this Message in a manner comprehensible to all and universally accepted. How this will happen, and what will follow, I do not know. I do feel it significant that in our generation the Holy One opened the gates of human wisdom, including sophisticated developments in the realm of high-tech (which has already become a forum for idolatry of sorts). This is a challenge that also offers great possibilities. It might only be a slight exaggeration to say that many people today will only be convinced of the truth of the Tora once the most advanced computer has confirmed that the Lord is, in fact, God.
Another consequence of technological progress is the increasingly large pool of people no longer needed by industry. In many industrialized countries today, regular unemployment benefits exceed fifty percent of the average wage. This creates a new problem: When livelihood is guaranteed, man searches for something to do with himself. Every new leisure activity seems to exhaust itself; it quickly wears thin, and eventually one tires of it completely. With Tora study, this does not happen. Our Sages prophesied that the day would come when man would be blessed with more free time to engage in the study of Tora. And this day is to come in the time of the Messiah, the redeemer who will rescue man from his burden of tedious labor and direct his efforts into other channels. For this reason, I anticipate that technological progress, especially in Israel, will advance mankind in areas of the spirit.
When I consider the transformation of the Jewish soul which is to come, I do not ignore the longing for righteousness, justice and, above all, love and respect among people. This longing reveals itself again and again, sometimes coming from unexpected sources which initially do not seem to point in that direction. At times, it comes out in the rush toward peace, at other times in the camaraderie and dedication shown in the struggle to preserve the territorial integrity of the Land of Israel, and at still other times as a sober, general realization, such as after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, of the need for mutual respect. These lines come together in the traditional Jewish aspiration for compassion and mercy, the desire inherent in the greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:17)
Truth be told, I find the signs of this spirit not in the newspapers, but rather on the street. My impression is that a unique, divine spirit is spreading through our land, an appreciation of the value and beauty of life, and the love of life which comes with the realization of having been created in the divine image. Many special people in Israel understand what sanctity is and rejoice in it. I am more familiar with this among those who don the kipa, the religiously observant, but I am convinced it is also to be found among those who do not—even if, for now, many of them cannot be identified and do not themselves understand what they are feeling.
Inner strength is also needed, in preparation for the wars which may be waged against us from without. Again, I do not know how we will finally be freed from the threat of annihilation by the Arabs. War, unfortunately, is a possible scenario in the coming years, but one must assume that however this central problem is resolved, it will be in our favor. Our people’s sense of solidarity, cemented by friendship, will be Israel’s secret weapon and a decisive deterrent. It will be a race against time, however, to see whether we can achieve that profound, stable unity of purpose that will frustrate any enemy, or whether war will happen against a backdrop of schism and infighting.
In the era of peace, though, there will be no place for despotic forms of government. On the contrary, when society is based on the values of life, love, friendship and responsibility, it will have no use for a strong regime and control by force. This is how I see the future of the State of Israel: As a society marked by kindness, one maintaining a rich spiritual life in tandem with technological progress.
 

Yosef Mendelevich, a former Prisoner of Zion, is chairman of the Tel Aviv-based Zionist Forum.

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