In my column on Ynet, “This Is How the New Book of Citizenship Should Look”
Few read it, but everyone is arguing about its content. The discussion about the new book of citizenship is not a discussion about truth, but about controlling the ability to influence the character of the nation of Israel—Jewish, Democratic, Binational, religious, secular, or devoid of external indicators?
The heated debate about the new civics textbook is important. It is a fundamental debate about the character of the nation, as the duty of every Israeli citizen to participate.
Citizenship is a fundamental and controversial field, in particular when talking about rewriting a textbook whose goal is to instill values for the next generation. If we were to try to define the concept of the nation of Israel, we would get such a wide range of answers that we might be forced to write a citizenship book for every individual.
In the last 26 years, 17 ministers of education have served in Israel! At a time when the world is found in the middle of a multifaceted global crisis and considering the general state of uncertainty, it would be appropriate to base our views on a solid and unchangeable foundation like the laws of nature.
I suggest opening the first chapter in the book of citizenship for the citizens of the nation of Israel with the story of the people of Israel. Begin with explaining our roots, the manner in which the people developed over the years, emphasizing the role of the people of Israel and how to realize it. To be citizens of Israel, we first must recognize our roots.
The Story of the People of Israel
Around 4,000 years ago, a great and developed civilization flourished in Babylon. One of its characteristics was a strongly felt connection to a common fate that was felt by its citizens. However, even among the inhabitants of the Babylonian community, a large ego, the power of separation, was growing, bringing the disruption of relationships and the phenomena of exploitation, abusing and hating others (1).
Relations deteriorated and led to a dead end. In searching for an escape, the Babylonians turned to Abraham, a known Babylonian sage. The essence of his teachings laid before them were: “Remoteness and separation will not solve the problem. In order to escape the crisis, it is up to you to constantly strive for unity, as students, you and I are steadily doing and seeing the blessing of our labor. ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18) is the fundamental law, the basis for the entire system of relationships. It is true that this is difficult, for the ego divides and separates between us, yet the moment that we try to rise above what separates us and to connect, these efforts will attract the positive influence of the forces concealed in nature.”
When Abraham began to disseminate the method of connection, he gathered a group of thousands of students, who called themselves Israel, Yashar-El (Straight to the Creator), because their desire was to discover the El (Creator), the power of unity in nature. The Babylonians who were not interested in being engaged with this scattered everywhere, and they are considered to be the ancestors of the various peoples from which all of humanity developed (2).
With the departure of the people of Israel from Babylon, they knew a positive and harmonious period for about an additional 2,000 years. Unity was a supreme value then, and the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) that was built was one of the symbols of this. With the end of this period, egoism erupted again and brought a deeper separation. The same group founded by the students of Abraham failed and didn’t succeed in maintaining unity. The legality, according to which the egoistic attitude and separation were revealed among the people of Israel, led to destruction and was preserved at this time. The Beit HaMikdash was ruined, and the people of Israel entered a 2,000 year exile.
Since the period of the destruction of the Temple, the connection between us disintegrated (3). Each division created over the years, accumulated and added to the lack of reciprocity that we have experienced until this very day. Followers and opponents, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and even Jews and Arabs—they are all right. Yet working with past wrongs or who is right leads nowhere. Instead of trying to rewrite history according to a particular and narrow narrative, it is up to us to open a new shared page, clear of unfinished business.
Israel as the Spiritual Center of the World
Unity is the most solid rock we can hold onto, and should serve as a law. The law of connection, the same law of nature that Abraham discovered, is the foundation of the wisdom of connection, which is the wisdom of Kabbalah (4). Kabbalists are those people who succeeded in realizing the laws of reality that are derived from within nature. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is the basis for the legacy of connection that was bequeathed to us, knowing that a harmonious life will lead us toward living according to nature.
In fact, apart from this spiritual inheritance, we do not have much else. The nation of Israel of our day is a collection of tribes or factions inhabiting the same piece of land. They are very far from the role that the assigned to it: a nation whose role is setting an example and leading humanity toward connection, peace, prosperity, and absolute equality between everyone (5).
The group of Abraham of that time was supposed to become a kind of world spiritual center that was open to anyone who would be ready to connect to others according to the general rule, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Otherwise, according to the writings of the Kabbalists, we don’t have the right to exist here. Moreover, when we realize our original mission, the spiritual idea will spread throughout the world (6).
What About Minorities?
No person, minority, group, religion, or sect has a monopoly on the laws of nature. Already in ancient Babylon, the people of Israel included various tribes. According to that principle, even in our day, there is a place for every minority to live in the land of Israel as long as they accept the basic conditions: the value of connection between people will be crowned as the supreme value. Druze, Circassians, Armenians, Muslims, and Christians, without any difference, are part of Israel. Even the migrants from abroad can do this provided they accept the realization of the law of connection upon themselves.
In reality, in which everything grows out of a connection between people, even the set of laws that we enacted in the past will be clothed in a new form in the future. The Law of Return that grants every Jew the right to immigrate to Israel could change its character. Today, it primarily serves the basic purpose that stood before the eyes of the lawmakers, maintaining the security of the nation of Israel. In the new situation described here, there will be no problem in absorbing a person provided that he would become Israel, Yashar-El. In other words, he will aim toward discovering the law of unity in nature.
Unity as a Law of Nature, Regardless of Nationality, Race, or Religion
In this spirit, the revised edition of the book of citizenship for a society that is already engaged with connection would be based upon the message that the nation that exists here will be free of any religious identity, from belonging to any nationality or any other character. Every citizen will live in this principled nation will be equal with the rest of the citizens.
The spiritual idea is above national differences, outlook, origin, socioeconomic status, or any other divisive factor. The citizens will be able to maintain any religious view that they like and to maintain their customs according to the religious culture they draw from, but religion must be separate from the nation. No one will impose on his fellow whatever customs he should or should not keep. Above all the various customs, beliefs, and habits, will be a complete world of values derived from the law of nature that manages reality, the law of connection (7).
This process takes time. Until the moment we all live this way, the pioneers tasked to start with the Mitzvah (Commandment) of establishing a model society are the descendants of Abraham, the only group of Jews that previously implemented such a system of relationships. Moreover, as long as the Jews remain far from realizing their role, a natural feeling of hatred toward the people of Israel will be aroused subconsciously among the national world leaders. The appearance of anti-Semitism, which is continuing to increase in the world, indicates the need for us to realize our role to build a model society here and be “a light unto the nations.” This is the order of the day (8).
An Exemplary International Model
Is this visionary? Utopian? Not really, this is an educational program that we must implement immediately. According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, we are living in a special time, and the window of opportunity that has been given to us is closing. To translate these spiritual ideas effectively, we need to launch an expansive socio-educational process. The process will begin with implementing the idea of connection as a supreme value above all of the differences between us.
The concept of citizenship generally refers to people who dwell in a defined place. Yet, in the global era, we need to redefine and reshape the system of relationships between us, detached from physical boundaries, so that after realizing the process among the descendants of Abraham and the establishment of a model society here, it will be possible and necessary to extend the concept of citizenship to the entire world.
Here, too, I would suggest continuing the path our our forefather Abraham and the way of the great Kabbalists, and stimulating a public discourse around the world about the law of connection. For this, it will be important to harness the international media and the various other media, including social networks, and likewise join forces with international educational and social organizations that are hostile toward us today, such as the United Nations, UNESCO, and the European Union. The idea is simple: together we can spread the message to the world that we must live together as a single global family (9).
The first step is we must lead here in Israel. Here we need to develop social systems based on a spirit of unity, beginning with the various educational institutions to building a healthy community life and training in the workplaces. The world will continue to behave as usual. Each person will continue his private life, but alongside it, we must work for connection between us and see in every failure a wonderful opportunity for Arvut (mutual guarantee) and deepening connection (10). After we apply even a little of this, we can advance toward sharing the writing of the next chapter in the common citizenship book of our lives.
1. “Abraham ben Terah passed by and saw them building the city and the tower, and he cursed them in the name of God. Each person wanted to speak in the language of his friend and they didn’t recognize each other’s language. What they did is that each of them took his sword and fought each other to the death. So half of the world fell there by the sword.” Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer, Chapter 24.
2. “The intention of creation was that they would all be one association doing the will of the Creator. It is written that Adam HaRishon (The First Man) said to all the creatures, ‘Let’s bow down and submit to the Creator’; but due to the sin, this concept was ruined until even the best of them in those generations had no possibility of gathering together to serve the Creator and remained isolated individuals. The correction began in the Generation of the Dispersion, when a separation was made in the human species. The correction that began was that there was a gathering and association of people to serve the Creator which began with our father Abraham, peace be upon him and his descendants, when a community gathered to serve the Creator. Our father Abraham went out calling in the name of the Creator until a large community gathered around him that became known as the House of Abraham. And this grew until it became the community of Israel. The Completion of Correction will be in the future when everyone will form a single association wholeheartedly doing the will of the Creator.” Shem MiShmuel, Parshat Ha’azinu.
“One who wishes to go by the path of the Creator is called Yashar-El, which is considered Yashar [straight] LaEl [to God], meaning that he wants everything he does to rise straight to the Creator, and does not wish to have any other aim.” Rav Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (Rabash), The Rungs of the Ladder, article, “One Who Strengthens One’s Heart.” Retrieved from here.
3. “In Israel is the secret to the unity of the world.” Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook (the Raiah), Orot HaKodesh (Lights of Holiness), Vol. 2, p. 415.
“Unfounded hatred existed in the Second Temple because there was a lack of fellowship in Israel.” Shem MiShmuel, Parshat MiKetz.
“But the Second Temple was ruined by unfounded hatred, which revokes their unity, which was their virture in the Second Temple.” Rabbi Yisrael Segal, Netzach Yisrael (The Might of Israel), Chapter 4.
“When unity was removed, this caused unfounded hatred, which weakened the wall around Israel so that the Greeks had the power to break through the walls of Israel.” Shem MiShmuel, Parshat MiKetz.
4. “There has never been such benevolence as there was with Abraham…he brought peace between one person and his fellow, since after all, he was the father of many nations. Because of this, he united and made peace between all creatures.” Gevurot HaShem, Chapter 6.
“’And you shall love your friend as yourself’. You should do everything for your brothers that you want them to do for you…This is the law that our father Abraham legislated, and the way of kindness according to which he acted.” Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Sefer Shofetim, Hilchot Evel, Chapter 14.
“’You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18) is the supreme commandment in Judaism. The eternal human doctrine of Judaism becomes crystallized according to these words, and all the books on ethics in the world cannot say more than that.” David ben Gurion, The Spiritual Revolution.
“Israel is like a single body and all of Israel are united with each other.” Shem MiShmuel, Parshat Matot.
“We were ordered in each and every generation to strengthen the unity among us.” Sefer HaToda’ah, Chapter 16.
5. “Israel – The essence of the world and its existence.” Ma’arechet HaElokut, Chapter Ten, “The Gate of Man.”
“The children of Israel became guarantors for correction of the entire world with the power of Torah, for everything depends on the children of Israel. When they correct themselves, they will draw all of creation after them.” “Sfat Emet,” Sefer Shemot, Parshat Yitro.
“From Israel, holiness spreads to the entire world.” Zohar for the People, Parshat Emor, section 92.
“…it is upon the Israeli nation to qualify itself and all the people of the world…to develop until they take upon themselves that sublime work of the love of others, which is the ladder to the purpose of Creation, which is Dvekut with Him.” Rav Yehudah Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), “The Arvut (Mutual Guarantee),” Item 20).
6. The community of Israel is the essence of all of existence, and in this world this essence is really influenced by the Israeli nation materially and spiritually, through its offspring and faith. And the history of Israel is the ideal summary of history in general. There is no movement in the world, among all peoples, that doesn’t find its example in Israel. Its faith is the summary, the discharge and the origin that influences the best and the ideals of all faiths…bringing them to the level of a clear language, calling them all in the name of the Creator.” Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, “Ohrot“ Item 138.
“Our sages said about the reason for the words: Therefore, the blessing of peace in the whole world precedes the strength, meaning the redemption, because ‘God did not find a vessel to hold the blessing for Israel but peace.’ Thus, as long as self-love and egoism exist among the nations, Israel, too, will not be able to serve the Creator in purity, as bestowal, as it is written in the explanation of the words, ‘And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests,’ in the essay, ‘The Arvut.’ And we see it from experience, for the coming to the land and the building of the Temple could not persist and receive the blessings that God has sworn to our fathers.
And this is why they said, ‘God did not find a vessel to hold the blessing,’ meaning thus far Israel did not have a vessel to hold the blessing of the fathers. Therefore, the oath that we can inherit the land for all eternity has not yet been fulfilled, because world peace is the sole vessel that enables us to receive the blessing of the fathers, as in the prophecy of Isaiah.” Rav Yehudah Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), “The Peace.”
“When the Children of Israel are complemented with the complete knowledge, the fountains of intelligence and knowledge shall flow beyond the boundaries of Israel and water all the nations of the world…” Rav Yehudah Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), “Introduction to the Book, Panim Meirot uMasbirot,” section 4.
7. “The religious form of all the nations should first obligate its members to bestowal upon each other to the extent that (the life of one’s friend will come before one’s own life), as in “Love thy friend as thyself.” One will not take pleasure in society more than a backward friend. This will be the collective religion of all the nations that will come within this framework. However, besides that, each nation may follow its own religion and tradition, and one must not interfere in the other.” Rav Yehudah Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), “Writings of the Last Generation.”
8. “All the commotion in the world…essentially comes only for Israel. They are now calling us to a great and sacred role, fulfilling it willingly and consciously, to build ourselves together with the entire ruined world.” Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, “Igeret Haraiah”, section 2, page 324.
9. “The purpose of Israel is to unite the entire world into one family.” Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, “Whisper to me the secret of existence.”
10. “First, there must be a small establishment whose majority are altruists to the above-mentioned extent. It means that they will work as diligently as contract-workers, ten to twelve hours a day and more. Each and every one will work according to his strength and receive according to his needs. It will have all the forms of the government of a state. In this manner, even if the framework of this institution contains the entire world, and the brute-force government will be revoked completely, nothing will need to be changed in governance or work. This institution will be like a global focal point with nations and states surrounding it to the farthest corners of the world. All who enter this framework of communism will have the same agenda and the same leadership as the center. They will be as one nation in profits, losses and results.” Rav Yehudah Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), “Writings of the Last Generation.”
“Certainly one doesn’t need an Israeli certificate to be with the Creator, to perfect the form of the human species, to maintain its character and to elevate it. And since our certificate is a certificate that exists and stands accompanying the certificate of the totality of nature, whose law includes everything that exists, certainly it is up to us to maintain it for our entire life, and for the entire human species and its moral development whose fate depends upon the fate of our reality. And without a doubt the ascendance of its development depends also on the elevation of our entire people according to our general national power.” Rav Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook, “The Israel certificate and its nationality.”