The State of Israel as a Modern Jewish Enterprise: An Introduction


is defined here as a “ modern Jewish enterprise , ” first of all , since it is a distinct product of new Jewish politics and of social , economic , political , and cultural processes that were , primarily , modernization and secularization processes undergone by various Jewish communities at different times and in different forms , and that have had a cumulative effect on the fate of the Jewish collective as a whole . Modernity created a new , fundamentally secular , political culture , for Jews as well ; the State of Israel is a product that embodies this new political culture . As with other peoples in the West , and even to a greater degree , the processes of modernization and secularization among the Jewish people , from the outset , entailed unavoidable tension between them and the strong religious heritage from within which they emerged , and whose bonds they sought to remove . Consequently , this tension is tangible in the entire life of the State of Israel : it was established as a secular state , grounded in democratic-liberal conceptions , and in accordance with the universal principle of the self-determination of peoples . It was incapable , however , of bringing its secularism to full fruition and to encompass all . This has its roots in the fact that for many generations , until the modern era , the religious identity of the Jewish people was fully congruent with its national identity . The Jewish people , that is meant to realize in the state its - fundamentally secular - sovereign political existence , has its roots in religion , and for parts of it , these religious roots are very deep . This tension has been present in Israel since the day of its establishment , and is stronger than in most Western countries , which had already resolved ( or lessened ) some of these tensions at an earlier stage ( the clock of Jewish modernization is behind theirs ) . This Introduction will examine the following : * The roots of this tension , with the beginnings of the Jewish people’s modernization in the time of the Haskalah , to the pinnacle of the activity of its national movement ; * Its tangible expressions in the laying of the foundations of the State and that state’s first steps . What was of Crucial Importance in the Establishment of the State ? In the years that preceded the establishment of Israel , diverse forces worked to attain Jewish sovereignty . This Introduction will not attempt to resolve the historical disagreements as to which was more decisive : the organized Jewish Yishuv that had been constituted over the course of seventy years , was constituted as “ the state in the making , ” and was ready for self-definition and political independence , or the terrible Holocaust that revealed to all the Jewish people’s desperate need for a state of its own ; what was more influential in attaining international recognition : the drama of the ma’apilim ( illegal immigrants ) ships , crammed with refugees from the Nazi destruction that were pursued by British warships , or perhaps the fear among the European peoples , both in the East and the West , of the possibility that the Jews would stream from the Displaced Persons camps back to their countries ; and what had a greater impact on the British in their decision to relinquish their rule in Eretz Israel : the terror acts of the Irgun Zva’i Le’umi and Lohamei Herut Israel underground movements , or perhaps the combined activity of the Yishuv leadership and the Jewish Agency , that acted in tandem in the political arena , in the organization of illegal immigration , the advancement of settlement throughout the land , and the building of a military force , the Haganah , that for a certain period of time participated in the armed struggle against the British ( when it headed the Jewish Resistance Movement ) , but whose main contribution was the preparation of the infrastructure for the War of Independence ; and what was more instrumental in obtaining the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on November 29 , 1947 , for the partition of Palestine-Eretz Israel into two states , a Jewish one and an Arab one : American support ( albeit hesitant and at times

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