What do these things have in common: the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Arab Spring, Brexit, the rise of right-wing parties in Europe, “Make America Great Again” (i.e., the Trump phenomenon), and the referendum in Catalonia?
The answer can be reduced to a single word: identity. World wars made national identity, and later identity in general, a dirty word. Seventy years later, humanity once again is seeking identity.
John Lennon’s “Imagine” is, in my opinion, the anthem of the post-World War II world. It envisions a world without states, without religions, without reward and punishment, without values worth dying for (and thus without meaning to live for). It’s a vision of a world without identity, a world in which erasure of identity brings man and mankind to their ultimate happiness.
It began with the blurring of national identities but quickly spread to a war against all identities. Family identity (everything is a family), sexual identity (whatever you choose), and even human identity (meat is murder) – all fell victim in this era of identity loss.
But it seems that the process has exhausted itself, that the pendulum that was pushed with such tremendous force in response to the horrors of the world wars (which were motivated by national identity) has reached the end of its swing and has begun to move back to the center – and, in a very dangerous way, also beyond it.
States and societies wish to return to their national identity and self-definition. People are returning to embrace their religion, their national ethos, their flag – they are returning to their identity. The process is inevitable, but when it is led by irresponsible people, it is also very dangerous. Too many lunatics are now at the helm of organizations and countries – some of which are armed with nuclear weapons and others of which will be so armed within the next decade. Our world now looks like a barrel of fuel surrounded by children who are playing with matchboxes in their hands.
The return to national identity, when not restrained by a culture that condemns aggression, translates into a desire for conquest and expansion that will bring us quickly to the threshold of World War III.
Where will mankind find a road map for a restrained and refined national identity, one that builds society on the foundations of freedom and the sanctity of life? The need for such a map and guide was recognized and expressed by Lord Balfour, the 100th anniversary of whose eponymous declaration which led to the establishment of the State of Israel we are celebrating this year. In the wake of the despair following World War I, Balfour and his friends explained that the return of the descendants of the prophets to the Holy Land and their ancient culture would provide mankind with a message of perfection (described extensively in Barbara Tuchman’s book The Bible and the Sword).
There is no doubt that the return to identity is a widespread global phenomenon that the Zehut Party is a part of. However, unlike the unrestrained reactions that have led to the return of identity around the world, the Israeli Zehut Party is based on an ancient and rich Jewish culture that softens and restrains the process of return to ourselves – a culture that entails a universal message.
Sukkot is the time of this message. This is the holiday when all the nations of the world brought their sacrifices to the Temple: “for My House shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Jewish identity advances a universal message of freedom and peace under the wings of the One Creator, the Master of the World, whom most of humanity that has adopted the Bible believes in.