BALAAM'S CURSE: How Israel Lost Its Way, and How It Can Firm It Again by Moshe Leshem

BALAAM'S CURSE: How Israel Lost Its Way, and How It Can Firm It Again

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A former Israeli Ambassador on four continents, now retired, Leshem presents a brief, lucid volume that examines the last five centuries of Jewish history and sets forth a radical requestioning of the very basis of current-day Israel in the light of its historical context. Modern Israel, in Leshem's view, seems to be fulfilling the ancient prophecy of Balaam in the Old Testament that the Jewish people ""shall dwell alone. . .among the nations."" The reason for this is the recent ""religious revival and growth and influence of the religious sector"" within Israel, which now views ""the State in a new light: as an instrument of redemption."" This feeling was fueled by the 1967 War, when modern Israel came into full control of the territory of Biblical Israel. As a result, the Israeli minority of Orthodox Jewry became influential way beyond their actual numbers, and were especially instrumental in having the slate be increasingly perceived as ""an instrument of eschatological aims."" This is unfortunate in Leshen's view, even tragic, as in begs Balaam's curse. It bodes a re-ghettoization of Jews in an Orthodox-dominated state isolated from the world and positioned to light alone in a near-holy war to maintain territories seen as the very sign of redemption itself. This is the wrong course, Leshem maintains, and it reverses the original Zionist mandate for a secular state pledged in its own Declaration of Independence to ""ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all. . .[and to] guarantee freedom of religion."" Israel must again become a ""normal state"" and ""discard messianic politics and territorial aspirations,"" advises Leshem. It must always be remembered, he adds, that God is the center of Judaism, not the State of Israel. A one-sided argument but laced with an experienced diplomat's wisdom in and of the world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1989
Publisher: Simon & Schuster