The Promise of Israel: Why Its Seem­ing­ly Great­est Weak­ness Is Actu­al­ly Its Great­est Strength

  • Review
By – July 30, 2012

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.

Read Daniel Gordis­’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

The Nation-State

Ideas Do Matter

An Inten­tion­al Detour

Discussion Questions