The Jewish People - A Unique Nation?

Conclusion Materials for Activities


The uniqueness of Israel also finds its expression in modern terms. But this does not come to deny our legitimate, historic right to national existence. If anything a modern interpretation lightens the burden of having to explain ourselves to the nations of the world and to alienated and disenchanted Jews who have sought after normality and universalism.

The emergence of nations in our day has led scholars to ask what brings a person to a state of preparedness to die for his people or his or her birthplace? This question was especially relevant after the publication of Marx and Engel's call to the workers of the world to unite.

Despite all the fiery resolutions of our stormy age, the workers of the world did not unite. That which divided was stronger than that which united. National feeling is so deep in normal human beings that the time has come to examine the forces that underwrite this behaviour among different peoples in different times.

It is clear that the spirit that pervades one particular nation is not identical to that which typifies another. "Zar lo Yavin" - the "foreigner will not understand" - the idiosyncracies that are the source of so many tragic misunderstandings. These are what we call their uniqueness, the human experience that is unrepeatable, that is a one-time affair. And that is why it is important that nations are willing to learn from each other, as is the human mode to learn from society. If a nation is not closed, it contributes from its experience and from its genius and learns from others. Despite its naitional consciousness it does not cancel itself in the eyes of others; otherwise it decrees its death as a national entity, despite the "give and take" in the international arena.

Each nation and its own peculiarity. And so, like 'all the peoples', the People of Israel must maintain their special character or peculiarity. But we cannot deny any other nation that has the feeling of being 'Am Segulah' - a 'unique people' - the same perogative; nor they us.


  1. Is it possible to think of the chosenness of the Jewish people without God?
  2. What is the difference between justice and righteousness? Is righteousness the perogative of the Jewish people alone?
  3. Is it valid to evaluate the Jewish people by the product of their spiritual message without considering the source of the message?
  4. In what way is there a similarity between the early history of the Jewish people - between slavery and nationhood - and the contemporary rebirth of Israel?
  5. Is the State of Israel a closed society or an open society? Is it possible to reconcile Elon's views with Rabbi Epstein's interpretation?
  6. Can you detect a specific relationship between the people of Israel, the Land of Israel and the Torah of Israel running through these texts?

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Editors, Menachem Persoff, Zehava Albert, "SUKKOT", Youth & Hechalutz Dept., WZO (Education Department of the Jewish Agency for Israel), Jerusalem. Revised Edition.



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08 Jun 2005 / 1 Sivan 5765 0