Reading Israel

Tags: People and Society, Books

Saving Israel by Daniel Gordis

Saving Israel is an honest look at Israel's struggle between its founding purpose of reinstating the Jewish homeland and its evolution as a western style democracy. While parts are painful to read, Gordis does an excellent job highlighting the critical mistakes in foreign policy that Israel has made in recent years, and what it must do to successfully continue its mission.

"The results of two studies in the twin pillars of modern Jewish life, one in Israel, the other in America, reveal how serious matters have gotten. When asked if the destruction (mind you, the destruction, not the gradual withering away) of Israel would be a personal tragedy for them, an astounding 50 percent of Jewish Americans under the age of younger than 35 said it would not. The other alarming study result is that 50% of Israeli schoolchildren apparently do not know who Theodor Herzl was.

Hard as this is for some of us to believe, these statistics reflect an increasing trend of alienation from millennial Zionist aspirations as well as a growing ignorance of basic Jewish history, both modern and ancient. Gordis points to the poetry of pre-state Zionists like Natan Alterman and Haim Bialik, noting that while they criticized and challenged the biblical ethos of the Jews, they were steeped in the richness of those sacred texts and in the history of our people." - David Brumer

Drawing on Zionism’s example of the power of such ideas, Gordis concludes that Israel needs a new sense of purpose, one that transcends the current stalemate with the Palestinians and that starts with the recognition that Israel was never meant to be a state like all other states.
- The Jewish Book Council

We have compiled 10 questions to aid you and your fellow readers in an in-depth exploration of Saving Israel!

  • Rabbi Gordis suggests that Israel’s reason for being is “the healing of the Jewish people, the creation of a space in which Jews can thrive as they could nowhere else.” What do you think can be achieved within Israel that cannot be accomplished from outside a sovereign Jewish state?
  • Israel makes great strides to balance its democratic principles with the sense that something should be Jewish about the country, albeit not always successfully. Based on the examples Gordis raises, do you agree that these two aspects of Israel’s reality should be equally balances?
  • Israel has many citizens of all faiths, ethnicities, and origins. Gordis shares some aspects on what has been effective in the integration of non-Jewish citizens as well as some of the country’s failings in this regard. How do you think Israel's Arab population who share all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of citizenship already and do support and respect Israel’s right to exist can be more integrated into Israeli society? How will this “save Israel?”
  • In Israel, as in many nations around the world, it is impossible and often considered undesirable to have a complete separation of religion and state. Gordis asks “Should all Israeli schoolchildren study the Bible and some religious content? To what extent should Israel's Arabs be required to study the Hebrew Bible, or classic works of Zionist literature? Should Jewish Israelis also study the Koran?” How does this make you reconsider the value of having faith as an integral component of a nationalistic society?
  • What do you think are the rights of those who disagree with Israel? Is this different for those who live within her borders vs. those who live in the Diaspora? Is this a part of saving Israel?
  • Gordis proposes that Israel needs a new sense of purpose. Do you think he means Israel the State, or all of Israel the People scattered around the world?
  • Do you think we can speak about Israel not in terms of the Shoah or even of enduring Antisemitism? How do you think this would help?
  • Can Jews in the Diaspora embrace the need for Jewish defense? If they did, would we have greater Jewish unity?
  • As Gordis outlines, Israel is the only state engaged in ongoing belligerencies with all of her neighbors and ongoing threats to her existence. What did you find most interesting about his presentation of the facts and the options for response?
  • Based on what Gordis shares, could the Jewish People survive without Israel?

Read More About Saving Israel

The Reading Israel Book Club's Book of the Month: A Pigeon and a Boy

Every month, the Reading Israel Book Club at Israel Forever brings you a new literary delight to grow your Israel connection through the written word.

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Tags: People and Society, Books