To Be (Set Apart), or Not To Be (Set Apart)

That is the question…that lies at the heart of Israel’s dangerous divisions, and not for the first time in history.

| Topics: Israel
On holidays, everyone's Jewish. But secular Israelis don't want God or His Word anywhere near their politics. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90
On holidays, everyone's Jewish. But secular Israelis don't want God or His Word anywhere near their politics. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90

Should Israelis see themselves first as “Israeli,” or first as “Jewish”?

In a recent article, our editor, Aviel Schneider, pointed out that this identity crisis is at the heart of the present division in Israel.

Right-wing and religious Israeli Jews see themselves first as Jewish, then as Israeli, and lastly as a citizen of the world.

Left-wing and secular Israeli Jews see themselves as first a citizen of the world, then as Israeli, and lastly as Jewish.

“Israeli” in this context does not mean “child of Israel” in the biblical sense, but rather is a modern nationality that most would define as first and foremost liberal, democratic and progressive. A “child of Israel” is a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and is first and foremost defined by the divine covenant between God and those forefathers.

As such, for the sake of this discussion, the more modern appellation “Jew” is synonymous with “child of Israel.”

This is a deep-seated issue, and convincing one side or the other to accept, or at least consider the opposing viewpoint has become nearly impossible.

Even so, it is instructive for us to ask the simple question: What does the Bible say?

Even if half of Israeli Jews couldn’t care less what God has to say on the matter, and view as “extremists” those who do, the simple fact is that without the Bible, there is no Israel, progressive, conservative or otherwise.

And the God’s Word is very clear on the matter at hand:

“For you are a people set apart as holy for ADONAI your God. ADONAI your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his own unique treasure.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)

God isn’t going to force this uniqueness on Israel. He wants her to embrace it. But biblical history shows that Israel has as often as not rejected its calling to be “set apart,” and we see the same happening today.

The issue of judicial reform is just a catalyst. If you listen closely to the demonstrators, you’ll hear that their real fear is becoming a “religious state,” of becoming something other than the Western ideal of liberal democracy, of becoming set apart.

And they’re willing to bring the country to a grinding halt to prevent that.

You can argue that the uniqueness envisioned by the rabbinical authorities or Itamar Ben-Gvir isn’t the uniqueness God has in mind. But that’s not the point. Even if the Messiah himself showed up and began transform Israel into a nation “set apart,” many of the same people who are protesting today would oppose his policies as “fascist.”

At the heart of the matter, they’re resisting the very notion of being “chosen,” of somehow being different from what the rest of the world wants and demands that they be. The other half of society already sees Israel as a religious state with a prophetic mission rooted in Scripture.

And that internal division is where our prayers should be focused, because it’s far more threatening than any external foe.


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4 responses to “To Be (Set Apart), or Not To Be (Set Apart)”

  1. Susan says:

    Praise God! I couldn’t agree more!

  2. Disciple 1978 says:

    The problem is in the politics not the Jewishness. Modern Israel has released Jewish people from rabbinic rule and they like the new freedom they enjoy. The collective memory baulks at any return to that rule but I think it still likes to have at least a nominal Jewishness. Traditions remain strong throughout the community but Israel still has to find the right concept of rule that satisfies both the traditionalists and the moderns. Herzl and Ben Gurion released modern Israel but religious Jewishness hasn’t come to terms with it yet. Messianic Judaism is comfortable with the freedom but that is resisted by the rulers and the religionists.
    Israel’s 70 years have shown that secular Israel is not extreme. They’ve been happy with the State’s Jewishness thus far but are not happy with the Religious Zionists seeming desire to return to rabbinic rule. Perhaps it’s only a perception but the politicisation of Jewishness has turned it into a confrontation that forces the issue to a vote.

  3. Disciple 1978 says:

    Both the political and non-political Jew are set-apart by their race, creed and culture, the world hates that. The only way the world can be set apart like them is to receive salvation from the Jewish Messiah but that means bowing to their God, which they don’t naturally want to do.

  4. Masami Cobley says:

    I am not trying to be cynical towards the left-wing and secular Jewish people, but if they call themselves “progressive” simply because they are walking down the popular road of this world where the rights of LGBTs are regarded highly, then, I think, that term should be corrected as “retrogressive” or “regressive”. When we read Leviticus carefully, we learn that 3500-4000 years ago, LGBT, incest, murder, rape and theft were all “normal” because the fallen world was that depraved. And the Lord God listed them one by one to teach and command His chosen people of Israel not to do those things because they were set apart for Him. The world seems heading back to its lowest state where the Lord God began His Salvation History. For those whom mentioned above, God’s 4000-year salvation efforts seem to have been completely wasted. What a shame!

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