The reason why I think Israel matters is because I’m thinking that the rightwing rot from over here rolls over there and the rot over there makes an impact over here. I think shoring up and projecting a North American liberal-progressive center may very well depend upon things going right in Israel-Palestine.
I don’t think the relation between Israel and American Judaism is a “causal” one. Not in a direct way. But I think it’s a kind of “leaky” overlap. In this, Rosenzweig is not helpful, because we are living under post-exilic conditions.
I’m not sure you can split the difference between American Jewishness-Judaism and Israel. It would require a terrible amputation. At any rate, affect tends to carry across these kinds of gaps. This has less to do with ideology than a more simple human element, a network of association and affection between people over here and over there. In this, I’m more interested in Israel more than “Zionism” per se.
I’m actually not being irenic here. In fact, I think the situation is even worse, much worse, than Hayyim does.
Like many on the left, he wants to think Judaism can be salvaged by de-linking it from Israel. My concern is that the problem really isn’t “Zionism” as much as it is “Judaism.” The more “Jewish” Israel-Zionism gets, the worse things turn out to be. So maybe Israel should de-link from Judaism, no?
As a rule, I’m coming to think that religion is a good thing when you keep it in a cave or a box. The rabbis in b.Sanhedrin try to do it with the yetzer ha’ra. It doesn’t quite work out, but at the very least, they feel confident that at the very least they’ve tapped down the yetzer for incest.
At any rate, against contemporary conservative political theorists and political theologians, I can’t see how Israel does not stand out as a test case for the need to keep religion out of politics, and politics out of religion. Yeshiyahu Leibovitz was right. Zionism might be killing Judaism, but that doesn’t mean that Judaism isn’t killing Israel.