The Destruction of the Third Temple or The Third Era in Jewish History
In the wake of the major recent machloket on the One State vs. Two States question instigated by Peter Beinart’s New York Time’s article (read responses by Gordis, Kurtzer, Rosner, Kerstein, Pfeffer, etc.), we provide two scenarios that could arise over the next 30 years in the Jewish world: the first is what we could imagine as the worst case scenario, and the second is a best case scenario.
We offer this thought experiment so the Jewish community can so some soul-searching, and rather than spending more time debating why Beinart is right or wrong, let’s redirect all this energy to a discussion on what we must do to create the preferred outcome. Let’s ask ourselves what steps each of us can personally take right now to bring us closer to that future. And rather than pointing our fingers across the ocean at each other demanding they change, let’s each look at ourselves and ask what we must do to secure our Jewish future.
Scenario One: The Destruction of the Third Temple
Over the next 30 years, as the West continues to embrace the narrative against Israel, it will embolden Israel’s enemies, who will grow more and more hateful against the Jewish State. This will force Israel to make tougher security decisions, including not making any further progress with the Palestinians.
Israelis, feeling under siege by the world, will become even more hawkish on security and lean more right politically. And those secular Israelis who are not happy with the right wing government will leave Israel in greater numbers, in turn making Israel even more religious and nationalistic.
Because of Israel’s defensive actions, American Jewry – and eventually even more of the Diaspora – will become more critical of Israel, with large segments of the Diaspora totally writing off Israel and making a Jewish life without any attachment, love or support for the Jewish State. In fact, American Jewry will lead the charge in criticizing Israel as a way of over-compensating for their shame at Israel’s behavior.
All the while, non-Orthodox American Jews will become more assimilated into American multi-cultural, universalist society, and will lose more of our Jewish tradition. Many will even join in on the Jew-bashing – along with the Israel-bashing – to prove that they are even more American than other Americans.
Israelis, in turn, will become more disdainful of American Jewry’s attitude toward Israel and write off American Jewry even more, further inflaming Israelis’ Diaspora negation. This will create a vicious cycle, leading American Jews to react even more forcefully against Israel and then in turn, the religious Jews will grow more aggressive in claiming American Jews aren’t “real Jews,” while nationalist Israelis will grow more aggressive in claiming American Jews aren’t real Zionists.
As American Jews turn away from their brothers and sisters in Israel, Israel’s enemies will see that we, as a united people, are weak and vulnerable because we are unwilling to stand by our family. Initially, our enemies will stand back and let us tear ourselves apart.
The anti-Semitism will boil over in the Diaspora – as it always does eventually – but Diaspora Jews will have nowhere to escape to because Israel will not accept them: the religious will claim Diaspora Jews aren’t really Jewish, while the nationalists will claim Diaspora Jews – especially American Jews – are a secret, fifth column.
Eventually, Israel’s enemies will see how much we’ve weakened ourselves and that’s when they will attack. And because we are divided, because we can no longer muster the support of the world leaders – especially American leadership – we won’t be able to help defend Israel. And Israel will be dispersed yet again.
Scenario Two: The Third Era in Jewish History
Over the next 30 years, as Israel transitions from a regional to a global superpower, the West will come to appreciate the sustainable solutions the Jewish People have developed to deal with the most vexing challenges confronting humanity in the 21st century. This will finally persuade Israel’s enemies to set aside their animus against the Jewish State and lead Israel to conclude that their legitimate security requirements need not preclude genuine self-determination for the Palestinians.
Israelis, no longer feeling under siege by the world, will become even more confident in their destiny as a light unto the nations and embrace their better angels in political and international affairs. Secular American Jews seeking greater meaning in their lives will gravitate toward Israel in greater numbers, in turn making the Jewish State even more enlightened and generous toward their less fortunate neighbors.
Because of Israel’s value and contributions to America, Christians and Muslims in the US will become enamored with Israel, with large segments of the Diaspora living a part of the year in Israel to explore Jewish life in its fullest. Birthright 2.0, a new gap year experience where Jews in Israel and the Diaspora exchange time in each place, will eventually make an immersive experience accessible to all who are interested. In fact, American Jewry will lead a renascence in spirituality and social entrepreneurship in Israel, no longer feeling only marginally engaged in the fulfillment of Jewish destiny.
All the while, American Jews will become more accepted into American multi-cultural, universalist society and will feel confident enough in their own identity to also embrace more of Jewish tradition. Many will even engage in traditional Torah and Talmud study as a means of self-expression and authenticity-actualization, demonstrating their attachment to the source of America’s three great religions.
Israelis, in turn, will become more respectful of American Jewry’s genuine attachment to Judaism and Israel, and embrace American Jewry even more, finally abandoning negation of the Diaspora as a tenant of Zionism. This will create a self-reinforcing cycle, leading American Jews to react even more positively toward Israel. Confident in their own tradition’s viability, Israel’s Orthodox Jews will grow more tolerant toward secular and non-Orthodox Jews, and expand outreach activities to accommodate the curious and open-minded. Nationalist Israelis will grow less defensive and acknowledge the myriad contributions of non-Jewish Israelis to the success of the Jewish State.
As American Jews strengthen ties with their brothers and sisters in Israel, our enemies will see that we are strong and resilient because, despite our differences, we stand together as a family. Initially, our enemies will stand back and hope that in time we revert to our old ways and tear ourselves apart. Then, eventually, our enemies will see how much our confidence has strengthened us and that’s when they’ll seek genuine coexistence.
Anti-Semitism will never disappear in the Diaspora – as it is too firmly embedded in the psyche of the West – but Diaspora Jews will no longer feel marginalized in the world because Israel will not only be a source of legitimacy and pride, but it will also be the source of their identity and strength. Israelis meanwhile will claim American Jews as true mishpucha, so anti-Semitism will lose its power in being the formative component of Jewish identity making.
This is when Israel’s enemies will see that we are united and can muster the support of world leaders – and especially America – who value not only our global contributions, but also what we represent: redemption of the once discarded and the promise of a better future for all humanity.
The co-authors have over 50 years of combined experience working in the Jewish community, focusing specifically on the US-Israel relationship, from academia to politics to the nonprofit world.