Give credit where credit is due. The exasperating, pesky, in-your- face Jews are nothing if not consistent.
For thousands of years we have defined “against the grain.” Our founding father, Avraham, was known as the Ivri, he from the other side.
We were not chosen to be Miss Congeniality. Quite the opposite. We were chosen to be the bearer of the reality of God’s sovereignty in the world, and with it, a demanding set of expectations, even for Gentiles.
We tacked right when others went left, we took the fork less traveled by.
For an all too brief, shining period, it all came together for us during the successive reigns of David and Solomon. After that, we turned on ourselves the same stiff neckedness that has defined our behavior among the nations. It was quickly down hill from there.
But now, now we are back. Miraculously, considering the Jewish DNA which, while unsurpassed at survival, is rock bottom poor at “thrival, “ meaning the navigation of normative conditions and times in such a way as to not threaten the entire enterprise while trying to pass a school budget.
The British are experts at thrival. We are in the remedial class for it.
Nevertheless, we have, amazingly, undoubtedly miraculously, thrived. We have succeeded in creating a State, that like the People it was created for, is the exception that proves the rule.
Here are some examples. Recently, a survey was taken, looking for national correlations between trust in institutions and a sense of belonging and well being. Not surprisingly there was a significant direct correlation between those citizenries harboring deep distrust of the institutions of governance and public opinion, and a sense of dislocation, of displacement.
Guess who was the exception. While taking a second place to no one in distrust, dislike and perhaps utter contempt for their media, government, and judiciary, Israelis were the most at home, the most comfortable in their national skins of any surveyed country.
Another example. The recent UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network released its survey of the happiest countries on earth. Embattled, demonized and questionably legitimate Israel placed 11th. As my attached article ( http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/In-birth-and-death-Israel-is-the-happiest-country-in-the-world-546983 ) argues, more relevant criteria might have landed Israel the very top spot, but regardless, how does it happen that being embattled breeds happiness?
The ultimate example of how unique, yes, exceptional, Israel is, can be found in the State’s mission to be a “Jewish and democratic” state. I would suggest that Jewish and democratic are codewords for being both particularistic and universalistic.
For much of the world that is a contradiction in terms. You can’t be both. Europeans and Progressive Diaspora Jews say that Israel’s Jewishness makes it a chauvinistic, exclusionary society that by definition cannot grant equal rights to its non Jewish citizens.
The response to this is that it has only been the Jewishness of the nation that has inspired hundreds of thousands of people to put their lives on the line in its defense. They would not have done to so to protect a State of its Citizens, some kind of a replication of Denmark. They were protecting the one and only Jewish State in the world, not just a homeland, but a place that operates on Jewish time.
Israel’s singular accomplishment, its national embodiment of its Jewish essence, is that it has been able, to a remarkable degree, to be both Jewish and democratic, both particularistic and universalistic. I would argue that rather than this being an innovation a la Start Up Nation, it is a direct throw back to King Solomon’s vision of the Temple that his father designed, and that he himself built.
The Temple was the resting place of the Shechinah, God’s presence here on Earth, the epitome of the unique covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish People. It does not get more particularistic than that.
Yet, the Temple was also the spiritual center of the world, beckoning and drawing visitors from near and far, and a place for prayer for the 70 nations of the world. The sacrifices offered on Sukkot on their behalf is perhaps the most universalistic action in the history of religions.
Israel’s great success is rooted in this duality, and more importantly, in this heritage from our previous sovereign days. We have not evolved into the 51st state, nor another OECD country, nor a Jewish hamoula or caliphate.
Perhaps by our own design, perhaps by Divine Providence, more likely a combination of the two, we have evolved into that unclassifiable, odd man out, but magnificently humane and just and gracious nation where significant contradictions co-exist, and where seemingly irreconcilable modes of existence live side by side.
Israel is not just miraculous because it exists. It is miraculous because of what it represents. And that it is certainly worth celebrating.