In this moment, almost all Israelis have been drafted into service. Some are on the front lines of Gaza or the northern borders, while others are tending to the wounds (physical and psycho-spiritual), identifying the bodies of the dead, or trying to give the tens of thousands of displaced citizens a safe space to live, learn and feel some sense of routine and normalcy. Still others are lobbying for the release of hostages or doing their best to stem the tsunami of anti-Israel, antisemitic bias, and propaganda. As we go about this impossible but important task, most Israelis can’t help but think about what comes next. In the aftermath of this terrible war, we will have to plan our collective future, for ourselves as Israelis and for the Palestinians, our neighbors, who like us, have been victimized by extremist terrorism. Certainly, there will have to be a reckoning where leaders both military and political will be held accountable for the lacuna that led to the terrible massacres of October 7. Similarly, the Palestinian people will need to abandon their support of terror and agree to live next to Israel. Beyond this, however, we will need to pick up the pieces and consider seriously what our society will look like in the years ahead, including how we will continue to live beside the Palestinian people.
To an extent, this process will require drastic shifts in thinking, with new and novel solutions replacing the largely ineffective ways in which we have functioned over the last quarter century. At the same time, we must be cognizant of the fact that we have a roadmap, a vision statement of what this nation could be, how it should operate, and the possibilities it has for peaceful coexistence within its own borders and with its neighboring states. I am of course referring to
the Declaration of Independence, the foundational treatise upon which our still very young state was founded at its birth in 1948. Looking at this seminal document, there are several important clues to as to how we might proceed—the ways in which we can legitimately operate, the places in which we have thus far succeeded, or failed to live up to our own ideals and promises. Here are a few examples of how we might look toward the Declaration of Independence for guidance and inspiration:
1. We must reassert the legitimacy of our
right to exist on this land. The Declaration carefully details the historic and spiritual connection that the Jewish people have to the Land of Israel. It outlines the story of our lives on this soil as well as the 2000-year longing to return from Diaspora. This narrative is the single greatest tool we can use to stem the rising tide of anti-Israel sentiment that seeks to delegitimize our status as indigenous people in the region.
2. We must rebalance the Jewish and Democratic nature of our country. Although it seems like a distant memory, the terrible events of October 7 we preceded by a period of deep division in Israeli society which must be resolved so that we may secure our nation’s status as a haven for all Jews and a thriving democracy for all inhabitants. The Declaration of Independence states clearly that Israel will be a Jewish AND Democratic state that it shall guarantee equality for all its citizens regardless of gender, race, or religion. We must ensure that our governing bodies work toward freedom for all Jews to practice their own version of Judaism, that they achieve a state of working equilibrium between the branches of government and that they enshrine the rights of individuals, not just the majority. This will likely require the creation of a constitution, a declaration of rights and responsibilities that must be based on the ideas and spirit of the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence . Photo: Kluger Zoltan
3. We must learn to live with our Arab neighbors, most especially the Palestinians. Israel’s Declaration of Independence was predicted upon the principles of UN Resolution 181 which portioned Mandatory Palestine into two states. The founding mothers and fathers of Israel understood that this would be a complex and difficult process, but one that was ultimately necessary. Their Declaration called upon Arab states to recognize and support Israel, while at the same time honoring the rights of local Arabs (today’s Palestinian people) to live in peace and prosperity. Since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Israelis have been led by forces which have attempted to erase this fact from our collective history, replacing it with a vision that legitimizes the ongoing subjugation of the Palestinian people in the vain hope that they might simply give up their right to exist as an independent nation. Palestinian leadership has taken a similar stance, demanding all of what was once Mandatory Palestine, attempting to erase the right of the Jewish people to exist on this Land.
As the stronger party in this equation, as a powerful and successful nation, it falls to us to lead the way, to put an end to the occupation and offer a comprehensive vision of peace and coexistence. This will, of course, require a great deal of compromise on our part, we will need to let go of property and dreams of cultivating all our historic territory. We will need to leverage the world’s leaders to assist us in convincing the Palestinian people to accept the best version of compromise that will offer them the chance that we ourselves took in 1948 when we built a working, prosperous state upon a portion of the Land we dreamt of owning.
The horrific events of October 7, 2023 will forever echo in the memory of the Jewish people. Rather than using this memory to justify more and more conflict, let it be a turning point, a moment in our history when we look deeply into our collective past in order to pave the way for our future. Our seminal texts, the vision of our ancient and modern prophets offers us a blueprint. It is up to us to build our state accordingly.
Rabbi Dr. Avi Rose is an artist, educator, psychologist, and Jewish leader living in Jerusalem.
The “Hagut Institute” is in the process of being established by educators, academic researchers and people whose future of Judaism is dear to their hearts