Italy has still not attained political stability, after the intermezzo of the clownish Silvio Berlusconi. A much reduced Great Britain still thinks and behaves like the empire in its heyday, striving to get away from the Europe of the Frogs and the Wogs.
And so forth.
I LIKE to quote (again) Elias Canetti, the Nobel-prize writer claimed by Bulgaria, England and Switzerland, not to mention the Jews.
In one of his works he claims that every nation has its own character, like a human being. He even undertook to describe the character of major nations by symbols: the British are like a sea captain, the Germans are like a forest of tall, straight oaks, the Jews are formed by the exodus from Egypt and the wandering in the desert. He sees these characteristics as constant.
Professional historians may laugh at such dilettantism. However, I believe that the injection of some literary insights into history is all for the better. It deepens the understanding.
ALL THIS leads me to the Jewish-Israeli metamorphosis.
Israel was literally created by the Zionist movement. This was one of the most revolutionary of revolutions, if not the most far-reaching of all. It did not aspire to the change of a regime, like Mandela in South Africa. Nor to a profound change of society, like the Communist movements. Nor to a cultural change, like that of Atatürk. Zionism wanted to achieve all that, and much more.
It wanted to take a dispersed religious-ethnic community, born in ancient times, and turn it into a modern nation. To take masses of individuals from their homelands and natural habitat and transfer them physically to another country and another climate. To change the social status of each of them. To cause them to adopt a new language -- a dead language that was brought to life again, a task no other people ever succeeded in accomplishing. To do all this in a foreign country inhabited by another people.
Of all revolutionary movements of the 20th century, Zionism was the most successful and enduring. Communism, Fascism and dozens of others came and went. Zionism endures.
But is Israeli society really Zionist, as it claims loudly and repeatedly?
ZIONISM WAS basically a rebellion against the Jewish existence in the Diaspora. In the religious sphere, it was a reformation more profound than that of Martin Luther.
All prominent Jewish Rabbis, both Hasidic and anti-Hasidic, condemned Zionism as a heresy. The People of Israel were united by their absolute obedience to God's 613 commandments, not by any "national" bonds. God had strictly forbidden any mass return to the Land of Israel, since He had exiled the Jews for their sinful behavior. The Jewish Diaspora was thus decreed by God and had to remain, until He changes His mind.
And here came the Zionists, mostly atheists, and wanted to bring the Jews to the Land of Israel without God's permission, indeed abolishing God altogether. They built a secular society. They held abysmal contempt for the Diaspora, especially for the Orthodox "ghetto Jews." Their founding father, Theodor Herzl, held that after the foundation of the Jewish State, no one outside it would be considered a Jew anymore. Other Zionists were not quite so radical, but certainly thought along these lines.
When I was young, many of us went even further. We disclaimed the idea of a Jewish State, and spoke instead of a Hebrew State, connected only loosely with Diaspora Jewry, creating a new Hebrew civilization closely connected with the Arab world around us. An Asian nation, not identified with Europe and the West.
So where are we now?
ISRAEL IS re-Judaizing itself at a rapid pace. The Jewish religion is making a huge comeback. Very soon, religious children of various communities will be the majority in Israeli Jewish schools.