cover image The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul

The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul

Yoram Hazony. Basic Books, $28 (464pp) ISBN 978-0-465-02901-3

Hazony, president of the Shalem Center, an institute for social thought and public policy (and a onetime adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), asserts that ""the idea of the Jewish state""--and the future of the state--is under fervent attack from its own intellectual and cultural establishment. These ""post-Zionists"" advocate, for example, the dejudaization of the public school curriculum and the repeal the Law of Return (which grants automatic citizenship to any Jew who immigrates to Israel) in order to create a more secular and equitable ""post-Jewish"" state. Hazony's reading of Israeli history leads him to conclude that the post-Zionists are paving the way to ruin everything the early Zionist and Israeli leaders sought to achieve--an alarming and painful prospect for Hazony; those who share his view will welcome this account. The work, however, presents more than Hazony's polemic. The bulk of it consists of an enlightening and thorough analysis of the evolution of the idea of the Jewish state, starting quite naturally with Theodor Herzl. Hazony does a masterful job of situating the cardinal figures in their historical context and of demonstrating the division of the Jewish community right up until the establishment of Israel in 1948. In this regard, Hazony focuses specifically on the philosopher Martin Buber, whose work at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem he sees as the root of the current intellectual disdain for the state. Hazony claims that, with the exception of the state's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, leading Israeli politicians have not concerned themselves with cultural transmission or the transmission of ideas and therefore have given the intellectuals a monopoly on the cultural agenda. His book, though at times wearyingly political, is an impressive overview of the intellectual history of Israel. First serial to the New Republic; author tour. (May)