The State Is His Last Testament

How did Israel turn its back on the children of its progenitor, disowning them for 76 years only because these they did not fit the image it wanted to project?

How did the embryonic state and the sovereign state of the Jews turn its back on the unfortunate children of its progenitor, arrogantly disowning them for 76 years only because these offspring did not fit the image of the new and gallant Israeli youth? They were left to languish with growing and deepening despair in a foreign land, lacking everything - just so they would not serve as an embarrassing example for the generations raised here, who had shed the burden of exile and shame.

And now, during the month of selichot [prayers of repentance], we are presented with some moments of grace and pity, and also a considerable measure of self-pity. Even if late in coming, these beautiful pre-high holiday moments would not have occured without the efforts of two good people: history professor Ariel Feldstein and Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. It is good that there are still people like them, though Herzl himself would surely have rubbed his beard in surprise: Was it really necessary for a researcher and a rabbi to make his last testament and his children "kosher?"

Politicians and party activists also sought to powder themselves with the golden dust of loving kindness. The speeches, as usual, thundered through the hill named for the father: Behold - the will of the state's visionary is finally being fulfilled to the last letter and "the Zionist circle is closed."

I do not know exactly what is written in Herzl's personal and official will, though it is not difficult to check and find out. I am more interested in his real testament - Israel, the State of Israel. This is his complete testament and we are far from fulfilling it. But this point was not mentioned in the sermons on the mount. The circles of Zionism are not closed, as claimed there, but open each time anew when reading "The Jewish State" and "Altneuland." And life here is not according to the book, his books.

True, the complete vision is always more perfect than the sum of its everyday parts. But what have we really done to "not permit the theocratic urges of our clerics to dominate?" What have we really done to distance our military personnel from involvement in affairs of state "lest they bring upon us difficulties at home and abroad?"

And how exactly have we made an effort so that "elections would not instill a measure of arrogance in us?" And how are we operating the laboratory designed to "make an experiment for the benefit of all mankind, because people want to be in the forefront of everything imbued with the love of man, and as a new country to serve as a model country?" And how have we ignored the priority of people over territory, "because the state is not tracts of land but rather the people included within it?"

And not a word was spoken on Mount Herzl about the part of the testament pertaining to full equality of rights for people of all faiths and nationalities within us - a part that was violated. And not a word about the enlightened laws of citizenship and the guidelines for humane education and health. They only knew to speak about the bones of Paulina and Hans, as if visited by the spirit of the prophet and his vision of the dry bones, as if these bones alone would fill the Zionist movement with spirit and revive it.

Tomorrow, in the Musaf service on Yom Kippur, it will be said in holy awe: "Because of our sins, we were exiled from our land and driven from our soil." Are the sins of our times, for which we confess and repent this event, liable to bring upon us an additional exile? And even internal exile is a difficult thing.

This state is his testament and its citizens are the creatures of his vision - we are all his children. Did only Hans and Paulina and Truda disappoint him? It has been said that the vision was too grand for the personal dimensions of his children, that it was his vision that drove them insane. And what about the children of the national homeland? Perhaps the vision is also too big for us. The coat of many colors that was tailored for us now looks like a sack in which we are floundering, lost as orphans. Sometimes it seems that this space between the coat and the body makes us crazy, and is even liable to generate suicidal urges.

So we will make more of an effort to reach high and touch the spirit, his spirit, and if our strength wanes, we will lower the vision from the dizzying heights and adjust it to our shrinking stature. And there is no better day to shed the excessive weight of hubris than Yom Kippur, when we say in the middle of the fast, "here I am, poor in worthy deeds."