3. Towards a Fulfillment of Dreams?
In our discussion, we noted that increasing power has fallen into the hands of a few – this being true both for Israel and throughout the Jewish world - and that the ordinary citizen has little recourse to change the system, or to influence the state of things.
Although so much has been said about the state of leadership in the Jewish world and the supposed system of checks and balances between the various systems of political government in Israel, there has nonetheless not been a serious attempt in Israel at reviving the classical paradigm that maintains a balance between political power and the maintenance of the traditional Jewish ethic. Indeed, while the Supreme Court portends to stand for the protection of human rights, the understanding of what constitutes those rights is open to question - partly for lack of constitutional and civil legislation.
Judaism was generally suspicious of power being vested in the hands of one individual; the King always had a “counterweight” in the Prophet. While he was to be respected, we have indicated that royal power was limited by an awesome number of restrictions placed before him.
We also bring to mind Rabbi Soloveitchik’s call for the country’s leaders to act also as the country’s teachers and role models.
What can we say today, when writers in the Press argue that the only difference between today’s Israeli leaders and the politicians of the infant state is that today’s leadership has been “caught”? Moreover, corruption appears to have become the norm, for, “The love of power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Without Prophets and priests today, our spiritual, moral, religious and political leadership in Israeli is also found wanting, for not having inspired a post-Zionist generation that has largely tired of idealism.
Moreover, the mix of or crossover between political parties and religion has not added stature to those who, clinging to tradition, might have facilitated the goal of attaining a holy nation and kingdom of priests that, in ancient times, was intended to act as a blessing for all the nations.
One dictum Israel's current leadership would do well to invoke is Cohen’s assessment of power:
“Power can be good or evil, not in an intrinsic sense: It acquires its moral character from the purpose it serves. Power is suspect when it is used for an immoral purpose, it is concentrated in the hands of a single individual, or when it becomes a purpose in itself.”
Another dictum leaders could internalize is from Sol Roth:
“The Jewish State is both an affirmation and a source of power. It is an instrument for the achievement of ends, including the values of Jewish life.”
We can but pray (or hope) that the latest revelations in the ranks of Israeli leadership will trigger a younger generation of leadership to find the will to help lead Israel – and the Jewish People – towards the fulfillment of the dreams of our fathers, both in the ancient world and in our post-Holocaust generation.
From the introductory questions provided:
Select a few on Israel that have not been addressed. Form small groups to discuss them.
Raise any further questions you wish to explore or review.
Bring some conclusions to the plenary.
Propose five guidelines for Jewish leadership, from classical and modern sources, that you believe can work today, both in the Diaspora and Israel.
Conclude with some ideas for today's Jewish/Israeli leaders.