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Theologically, the term "hope" has always been used to denote a will to arrive at a long-desired outcome, and, in a political sense, the Jewish people realized this hope with the re-establishment of the State of Israel. In its form and content, vigor and growth, Israel has constituted one of the focal points of Jewish existence, since its rebirth in 1948.
In May of 1948 650,000 Jews lived in Palestine. Since then the population of Israel has increased approximately 10 times that size. Hundreds of thousands of Jews have realized the age-old dream of the Return to Zion. We find ourselves facing the daunting and inspiring task of forging a nation out of 124 different Diasporas, creating a new amalgam from a varied history. The unprecedented cultural adventure of reviving Hebrew as a spoken language, infusing it with a life quite different from the world of prayer and intellectual commentary to which it had been relegated during 2000 years in exile, meant that that archaic language, Hebrew, would lose a bit of its ancient mystery and become the language of commerce, education, bargaining, fighting, hating, loving, and…….dreaming. A people who, after 2000 years, begin to dream again in their native tongue. The great mass of Jews in Israel, dynamic, mobilized, striving to construct a contemporary nation state…..and at the same time perpetuate their ties to their tradition and the common past that unites them.
This is the great hope of a people beyond the bounds of culture and history, this is the desire arising from the tangled web of the countless idiosyncrasies, paradigms, and multiple ways of being which characterize every one of the many Diasporas whose members live in the Jewish state.
A new hope gives new life to an old people, beckoning them towards a road of normality unheard of during all their long and complex history. And the road is a long and winding one, to quote the Beatles. Already half a century after the Jewish state’s founding, only one third of the Jewish people actually live there. Jews must seriously look at their Judaism and determine what will be the nature of their state. And there will be no mass influx of Jews to Israel. Not today, not tomorrow. The Jewish communities of the Diaspora do not show any general signs of joining in the realization of the Zionist dream.
Then, of course, there is the over-idealization of Israel so common among the Diaspora country-clubs; the ideal, always unreachable, of some rose-colored Jewish wonderland…light years removed from the grittier reality of nation building on a day-to-day, yes, even routine, basis.
This is precisely why Israel is still a hope, its reality and the ability to change it, are far more real than all the clichés about Jewish unity. With its vicissitudes, tensions and accomplishments, Israel is like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise petrified environment.
Uncompromising and nervy, the hope and optimism say clearly: Time to get down to the hard and exciting business of creating a state….our compass points towards the Jerusalem, and the road forward is not exactly a bed of roses….so let’s not waste any more time!"
Have you ever wondered why the national anthem of Israel is "The Hope" (Hatikvah).
That is why, following on the heels of such immense tragedy and besieged by such enervating apathy, there is still some hope at the bottom of this Pandora’s box.
At the commencement of a century which, in the words of Bob Dylan, is "busy being born", Israel represents a realistic hope that demands optimism, vision, and above all, the energy to make it work.
(Tzvi Hasson is the director of shlichim in South America).
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