The Cultural Crisis of Contemporary Israel

A Jewish Theological Perspective on Its Causes

in Israel Studies Review
Admiel Kosman

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The cultural crisis that Israel is experiencing today derives largely from the concept of isolation, which is based in Jewish theology (Halevi). The concept itself stems from the 'illegitimacy claim', already present in rabbinic literature, which developed into the firm halakhic practice of separating Jews from non-Jews. Although rabbinic Judaism contains an alternative, universalistic current (Maimonides) that was influential in the Middle Ages, Israel's Religious Zionist educational system is based on the 'isolationist' system expounded by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. Proponents of the latter include both religious Jews and secular Israelis, who defend it as part of Israel's Jewish heritage. These tendencies not only prevent dialogue with Israel's neighbors but also fragment Israel's Jewish public. This rejection of the 'Other' as belonging to the 'sons of darkness' is largely responsible for the cultural crisis pervading the country. Israel should reorient itself toward the universalistic stream represented by philosophers such as Buber, Rosenzweig, and Levinas.

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