Talk of Messiah Permeates Israeli Politics

“If that’s the Messiah, I’ll convert to Islam,” quips media following news that rabbis helped weaken Israel’s unity government

By Ryan Jones | | Topics: Messiah
Was coalition whip Idit Silman convinced to quit the government by rabbis speaking of redemption and the coming of Messiah?
Was coalition whip Idit Silman convinced to quit the government by rabbis speaking of redemption and the coming of Messiah? Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israel’s secular mainstream media was irked last week over how easily the Jewish state’s politics can be rocked by talk of messianic hopes and national redemption.

Two weeks ago, coalition whip Idit Silman caused a political earthquake when she abruptly quit the current unity government.

Silman is a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s right-wing party Yamina, and later explained that she could no longer sit in a coalition with left-wing and Islamist parties that she said were damaging Israel’s Jewish character.

According to the Hebrew-language news portal Srugim, Silman was encouraged to take that drastic step by certain rabbis who told her that she’d be aiding Israel’s national redemption by weakening the coalition.

A leading columnist for the mainstream news portal Ynet responded to the news: “Suddenly you understand how the State of Israel can be rocked to and fro like a ship on stormy seas because of some rabbis who tell one woman that she’s the messiah. And she bought it.”

The same columnist noted that while Silman might be “looking in the mirror and seeing Messiah, Netanyahu sees the donkey upon which Messiah (himself) will enter the scene,” a clear reference of course to Jesus and how he entered Jerusalem prior to his sacrifice.

Another mainstream columnist from the left-leaning newspaper Ha’aretz tweeted that if the Messiah is to come in the image of Idit Silman, “then I’m prepared to convert to Islam.”

The back-and-forth does raise an interesting question: To what extent do our modern politics influence or impact divine plans of redemption?

The Christian world tends toward the view that God’s will is going to be accomplished in His timing regardless of what we do, and so politics are of little consequence to the grand scheme of redemption.

The rabbis lean in the other direction, especially in a world where Israel has been reborn as a nation-state. Judaism often teaches that the divine will can be hastened, delayed and even altered by man’s actions and interventions. An oft-cited biblical example of this is Abraham’s successful lobbying on behalf of the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, or God’s decision to make Israel wander in the wilderness for 40 years instead of enter the Promised Land immediately because of the report of the ten fearful spies.

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