Israel’s very existence is the manifestation of divine intervention in history to which it must attest. In Israel, history and revelation are one. Only in Israel do they coincide. While other nations exist as nations, the people of Israel exist as a reminder of God’s involvement in world history. Only through Israel is humanity directly touched by the divine.
Rabbi Yochanan taught us that Jews can survive without Israel, as long as there is Torah, the portable homeland of the Jewish people. But Jews will not survive solely because of the existence of Israel—however powerful it may be—if Israel does not incorporate a large percentage of Jewish traditional resources.
Radical change has taken place in the Jewish world after the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. We have been shown that it is impossible for all of us to stay outside of history. The Holocaust has taught us that we cannot survive without entering history. To argue that our yeshiva students are the ones who really defend us against our enemies, and that we do not need soldiers, is an escape from reality.
Several recent events—the Olympic Games and the proposal to work on the railway line construction on Shabbat—are excellent opportunities to start a conversation on the role of halacha in the Jewish State. The question is: what form should the conversation take? It should not, I believe, primarily take the form of a formal halachic argument.
Israel is summoned to remind the world of God’s existence, not only concerning religion but also as a historical reality. There is no security for Israel unless it is secure in its own destiny. We must shoulder the burden of our own singularity, which means nothing less than fulfilling our role as God’s witness. And we must draw strength from this phenomenon, especially in times like these when Israel’s very existence is again at stake. Once Israel recognizes its uniqueness, it will, paradoxically, enjoy security and undoubtedly be victorious.