Filled with provocative ideas eloquently expressed, any book by Daniel Gordis is a compelling read. On the subjects of Judaism, the Jewish people, Zionism, and Israel, he writes with a prophet’s zeal and a defense attorney’s intensity. In his latest book, The Promise of Israel, he makes instructive and challenging arguments in support of the Jewish state that are similar to those he expressed about the Jewish people in 1997’s Does the World Need the Jews? Turning his attention to Israel, Gordis attacks what he sees as Western society’s current preference for universalism over particularism and extols Israel as a model for other countries of a democratic nation state that embodies the benefits of particularism.
The author takes on Israel’s varied detractors – academic elites, Arab countries, liberal American Jews, and European activists. He assails the now-fashionable argument against the continued existence of nation states, putting forth the reasoned claim that human beings learn best how to care for all people by caring most for their own group. It’s an inspiring message, supported by numerous examples of the many ways Israelis care for their countrymen as well as reaching out to others in need around the world.
Gordis contends that the benefit to the world of Israel’s success as a democratic society makes the most compelling case for its existence. He passionately and extensively records Israel’s many accomplishments in implementing democratic values despite the overwhelming challenges it faces. It is an inventory that will certainly evoke pride in any Zionist, providing a critical counterweight to the current worried, and sometimes even despairing, discussion of Israel’s future.
The Promise of Israel calls for all those who are committed to the Jewish state to continue the hard work of achieving effective government, civil rights for all citizens, and a thriving economy in the Jewish state. And it reframes the debate in the wider world about the role and purpose of nation states in the twenty-first century.