The further Israel moves from a solution to the conflict, the more it finds itself in need of the symbols of the religious right. As long as liberal Israelis do not fully renounce the sanctification of blood and land, they will be unable to present a real alternative.
By Yudith Oppenheimer
I have not adhered to halakha in my daily life for years now, but in spite of this I do fast on Tisha B’Av. I am often asked if I am mourning the destruction of the Temple and the answer is both yes and no.
Yes, I identify with the historic Jewish consciousness of destruction, exile and catastrophe that are associated with this date. No, I do not hope for the building of a third Temple. The Temple sacrificial ritual and the Cohanim autocracy, subject to sharp internal criticism prior to the destruction of the Temple, gave way to the Talmudic give-and-take which valued the multiplicity of opinions and debate.
Even if the Romans had not destroyed the Temple, Judaism would have eventually abandoned it, and if not, God forbid, Jewish culture would have atrophied. A number of anti-Temple sects had already developed prior to the destruction, one of which was to become the largest religion in the world. However, due to the catastrophe of its destruction, the Temple became the locus of future redemption.
Post-Temple Judaism managed, for the most part, to embrace the tension between the longing for the Temple as a utopian symbol, and the solid foundations of halakha, moral teachings and interpretations grounded in everyday life. However, there were also periods of messianic foment and attempts to speed up the redemption, almost all of which came to disastrous ends.
Zionism was a daring attempt to harness the messianic tension for social-political action in — and not outside of — history. From the outset this involved walking a thin line because, as Gershom Scholem and others stated, the land of the Bible, its landscapes and language, were largely inseparable from the loaded values and symbolic images with which they were imbued.
The more Zionism invested in denying the existence and presence of the Arab inhabitants of the land, and later in maintaining the occupation, the more it needed the array of sanctified justifications that seemingly granted it exclusive ownership of the land. Thus, the Temple reappeared and took up its place as a foundational Zionist symbol.
It would...Read More