ISRAEL'S SURVIVAL AND
"THE COMING OF THE MESSIAH"
Timely reflections on the parable by Franz Kafka
By Louis Rene Beres
The Messiah will come only
when he is no longer
necessary; he will come only
on the day after his arrival;
he will come, not on the last
day, but on the very last.
Kafka himself never examined Messianism from the standpoint of Zionism, but it is surely reasonable for us to explore his parable, "The Coming of the Messiah," with a view to understanding Jewish redemption in the State of Israel. What might we learn from this parable about Israel's ever more desperate survival in the coming years? Understood broadly as the requirements for such survival, rather than in the traditional sense of a particular "deliverer," the "Messiah" of Kafka's parable may hold messages of considerable importance for Jerusalem. What, exactly, are these messages?
"The Messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary." Seemingly self-contradictory (the Messiah's very rationale, after all, is to arrive when he is still needed), this statement points, through paradox, to human responsibility. The Messiah will come, but only after antecedent conditions are met, in our concerns, by the State of Israel. What these conditions might be, and whether or not they are themselves dependent upon prior or coincident activity by the Nation of Israel in the diaspora, are altogether essential questions.
Today, the survival of Israel as a State depends entirely upon a terrible and ironic awareness, that genocide against the Jews is not only still possible after the ingathering of exiles, but especially possible. This is the case because Zionism's 1948 solution to the "Jewish Problem" has also become, in the missile age, a source of new and perhaps unprecedented danger. Genocide and war need not be mutually exclusive, and certain State enemies of Israel could, in the not-too-distant future, unleash unconventional (chemical/biological/nuclear) attacks that "intend to destroy" the Jewish People who live in the State of Israel. Such attacks are all the more likely because of a sorely misnamed "peace process."
Curiously, and in stark contrast to warnings contained in the opening sentence of Kafka's parable, Israel's leadership appears not to take notice. It does, of course, devote substantial time and energy to Oslo-mandated surrenders, but the results of such devotion have been a catastrophe in the making. It has also, of course, been involved in controlling terrorism, and in countering the potentially genocidal preparations now underway in Iran, but has certainly failed to see the grim connections between these dangers. As a result, Jerusalem fails to meet the conditions needed for "redemption." The Messiah will come, we recall, but only after the State of Israel fulfills its responsibility to itself. Moreover, this condition will be more easily met to the extent that the worldwide Nation of Israel can assist leaders of the State of Israel to make appropriate preparations for defense and security.
What sorts of preparations would be "appropriate?" Because the technology of mass destruction is spreading rapidly among its many enemies, and because survival cannot be assured by means of deterrence, missile interception capabilities, or diplomatic settlements, Israel must always prepare for preemptive strikes against enemy hard targets. Known as anticipatory self-defense in the language of international law, such strikes, should they be needed, could be all that remains between the Third Temple Commonwealth and annihilation.
International law is not a suicide pact. The right of self-defense by forestalling an attack appears in Hugo Grotius' THE LAW OF WAR AND PEACE. Recognizing the need for protection against "present danger" and threatening behavior that is "imminent in point of time," Grotius indicates that self-defense is permitted not only after an attack has already been suffered, but also in advance, where "the deed may be anticipated." Or, as he says a bit later on in the same chapter: "It be lawful to kill him who is preparing to kill...."
A similar and authoritative position is taken by Emmerich de Vattel.
"The safest plan," he argues....
...is to prevent evil, where that is possible. A
Nation has the right to resist the injury another
seeks to inflict upon it, and to use force and every
other just means of resistance against the
aggressor. It may even anticipate the other's
design, being careful, however, not to act upon
vague and doubtful suspicions, lest it should run
the risk of becoming itself the aggressor.
Significantly, as we are concerned here with uncovering meanings of survival for the State of Israel, Grotius and Vattel parallel the Jewish interpreters, although the latter speak more generally of interpersonal relations than of international relations. The Torah contains a provision exonerating from guilt a potential victim of robbery with possible violence if, in self-defense, he struck down and even killed the attacker before he committed any crime. In the words of the rabbis, "If a man comes to slay you, forestall by slaying him."
Israel can, therefore, make provision for security that is both tactically required and legally permissible. But to what extent, if any, can the Nation of Israel assist the State of Israel in this task? Most importantly, Jews in the diaspora must learn to understand that Israel is unquestionably the single most endangered State on Earth, and potentially the object of the most grievous human rights violations ever committed in the Middle East (i.e., a genocidal war against the Jewish State). Armed with such an understanding, the worldwide Nation of Israel could begin to act upon realistic assessments of the "Peace Process," replacing naive faith in "reason" and "confidence building measures" with a productive dedication to law and power.
The State of Israel exists for the Nation of Israel; not the other way around. The State of Israel is merely the vessel that must safeguard the Nation of Israel. In exalting the vessel, in elevating the State of Israel above the Nation, the governing authorities in Jerusalem now jeopardize the entire Nation of Israel. This defiling exaltation of a vessel cannot be consistent with Jewish survival. It must not be allowed to continue.
Our sages instruct that whenever the Jewish Nation disavows its uniqueness under the singular province of God, great danger is at hand. Accordingly, the role of the current State of Israel should not be to "fit in" with all of the other states, but rather to guide the Jews toward a place beyond politics, beyond the ordinary. Recalling words of the Talmud, "The People of Israel are not subject to `fate'....," but their survival does require them to distinguish what is truly important from what is manifestly a facade.
From its very beginnings, all Jewish Law has been viewed as an expression of God's will. Biblically, the law is referred to as the "word of God," never of humankind. God is the sole authentic legislator, and righteousness lies in observance of His law. The absence of righteousness places at risk the lives and well-being of both the individual and the entire community.
For ancient Israel, law was always the revealed will of God. All transgressions of the law were consequentially offenses against God. The idea that human legislators might make law independently of God's will would have been incomprehensible. Indeed, as God was the only legislator, the sole function of human authorities was to discover the law and to ensure its proper application. According to Talmud: "Whatever a competent scholar will yet derive from the Law, that was already given to Moses on Mount Sinai."
It follows from all this that in the Jewish tradition, the principle of a Higher Law is not only well-established; it is the very foundation of all legal order. Where the law of the state stands in marked contrast to this principle, it is altogether null and void. In certain circumstances, such contrast positively mandates opposition to the law of the state. Here, what is generally known as "civil disobedience" is not only lawful, but genuinely law-enforcing.
What sorts of circumstances are we describing? Above all, they are circumstances that place at existential risk the very survival of the State. In such circumstances, which have already been identified in Halachic Opinion by Prominent Rabbis in Eretz Yisroel Concerning Territorial Compromise, the matter is one of Pikuach Nefesh and it demands apt forms of resistance. Israel cannot endure strategically without the heartlands of Judea and Samaria. As the Torah is a "Toras Chaim," a Torah of life, Jewish authorities in the State of Israel are "forbidden, under any circumstance," to transfer Jewish land to Arab authorities.
The writer Hillel Halkin, fearing that the state of the Jews might one day be ruled by Hebrew-speaking Gentiles (a fear already widespread among American Zionist thinkers like Maurice Samuel and Ludwig Lewisohn) once wrote: "I do not believe that a polity of Israelis who are not culturally Jews, whose roots in this land go no deeper than thirty years and no wider than the boundaries of an arid nation-state, has a future in the Middle East for very long. In one way or another...it will be blown away like chaff as though it never were, leaving neither Jews nor Israelis behind it." And in a more recent essay the same writer observed that the actual hatred of Judaism by a very large portion of Israeli intellectuals, including those who now create a theoretical legitimacy for certain policies in Israel, has become a hatred of Zionism.
Halkin's fears were and still are well-founded. Under the Barak Government, Israel continues to be transformed not only into a polity that is more and more detached from cultural Judaism, but into one that positively undermines both Judaism and Zionism. Lest this argument appear to be an exaggeration, the reader need only recall that segments of the Israeli Left now offer Hitler a posthumous victory. Seemingly unsatisfied with turning over the Land of Israel to enemies who are still sworn to destroy the Jewish State, these individuals launch unimaginable verbal attacks upon some of their fellow Jews. Describing the Haredi orthodox in terms that might have been drawn from Der Sturmer, these writers, "intellectuals," Knesset Members and public figures reveal an historically unprecedented level of self-loathing.
Unfair? An exaggeration? Let the reader judge. Here are some of the ways in which the most pious Jews have recently been characterized by certain members of Israel's Jewish Left. Collected by Dr. Arieh Stav, the distinguished editor of NATIV in Israel, they include the following direct quotations:
"Dogs tied up in the back yard barking psalms all night."
"Forces of darkness of our age."
"A deadly plague"
"Forces of darkness and kidnappers of Souls"
"Barbarians, the Black Front...representing the magical, bewitched and most primitive...whose schools are colleges of darkness."
"The darkest and most horrible phenomena (sic) of our age."
And from two different Members of Knesset:
"Leeches, snakes, suckled on the same evil urges As Nazism, greedy and domineering, evil and primitive, corrupt, parasites, ambitious."
"A horrible evil, a black devil."
Finally, Arieh Stav quotes one of Israel's best-known writers:
"A band of armed gangsters, committing crime against humanity, sadists, pogromchiks and murderers."
Coincident with such self-destructive feelings are the developing correlates of the "New Middle East," a region wherein a new enemy Arab State is now being carved out of the still-living body of Israel. Here we witness, among other things, the transformation of Israel's capital into the capital of Palestine and the re-diasporization of Israel's Jews before the coming catastrophic war.
Can the Barak Government, having inherited "Oslo" from Rabin and Peres and Netanyahu, protect its citizens? Clearly, the Peace Process has already been transformed, for Israelis, into a Terror Process. Soon, as the territories become Palestine, the Peace Process will also become a War Process. Here, deprived of its essential strategic depth, Israel will have become an increasingly tempting object for aggression by certain enemy states. In view of what is already known about enemy state nuclearization, including Iran, and about ballistic missile developments in these states - developments that can never be effectively countered by anti-tactical ballistic missile systems - the War Process could even be ignited against Israel by unconventional war. It is with these grave dangers in mind that Israeli opponents of the Peace Process must now engage again in essential civil disobedience.
Jewish Law rests always upon two principles: the overriding sovereignty of God and the derivative sacredness of the individual person. Both principles, intertwined and interdependent, underlie the reasoned argument for civil disobedience in Israel. From the sacredness of the person, which stems from each individual's resemblance to divinity, flows the freedom to choose. The failure to exercise this freedom, which is evident wherever a response to political authority is merely automatic, represents a betrayal of individual legal responsibility.
What are the likely costs of such a betrayal? Above all, they include increased loss of life and expanded human suffering. Failing to exercise their obligations as free citizens, Israelis who stand by passively as the Barak Government proceeds with a Terror Process/War Process are effectively complicit in the deadly consequences of their betrayal.
Civil disobedience in Israel can save lives. This path does display the highest imperatives of free citizens in a free society. To the extent that it can stop and even reverse the Peace Process, it can reduce the number of Israelis who now die regularly at the hands of Arab terrorists and those who might still perish as a result of newly probable aggression by certain Arab states and/or Iran. There is, then, a manifestly concrete benefit to civil disobedience in Israel. This is not merely an abstract matter of theory and jurisprudence. It is a distinctly flesh and blood matter of national self-defense and survival.
"...he will come only on the day after his arrival." What can we learn from such a paradoxical conjunction of terms? First, it is apparent that as the Messiah will come "only when he is no longer necessary," the "day after his arrival" will be a day when he is not needed. But how shall he arrive after his arrival? Perhaps an answer lies in assigning two different, although related, meanings to the same word, an answer supported by Kafka's sequential reference to "come" and "arrival" rather than "arrival" and "arrival" ("...er wird erst einen Tag nach seiner Ankunft kommen...."). Here, the day of Messianic arrival is a day when he will be needed; the day on which he will come - the day after - is a day on which he will not be needed. This day after, moreover, will be a commemoration of human preparations undertaken earlier, preparations without which Messianic arrival would not have been possible. Examined in light of Israeli security and survival, this suggests that the day on which he will come will be a time after Jerusalem has made the previously discussed provisions for safety based upon power, a time when the Jewish State has fully learned to ask the question of the Roman Stoic, Cicero: "For what can be done against force without force?"
Second, it may be that Kafka was familiar with an old saying that is the basis for many Jewish legends: on the day of the destruction of the Temple, the Messiah was born. Creating an inseparable connection between historical catastrophe and redemption, this saying expresses meaning through paradox, but not the same paradox offered by Kafka. While this legend links suffering with renaissance, it does not tamper in any way with time and chronology. Our parable, on the other hand, rests upon a fundamental inversion of calendars and clocks, or at least upon the ascription of multiple meanings to particular words.
Yet, it is possible to determine connections between Kafka's "...he will come only on the day after his arrival" and legend's juxtaposition of calamity and redemption. If, as we have already suggested, the day after Messianic arrival will be a day following productive and lawful affirmations of Realpolitik, this will be a day that precludes rather than succeeds calamity. This would mean that the only apparent connection between Kafka's parable and Jewish legend is the self-conscious and complete rejection of the latter by the former.
This is as it must be. If, in the past, redemption has sometimes been dialectically intermeshed with terrible catastrophe, in the future no such linkage is possible. Faced with altogether unprecedented powers of destruction, including chemical, biological and nuclear attack, the Third Temple Commonwealth must now place all redemptive hope in avoidance of such harms. Nurtured not by Apocalyptic legends that find promise in ashes, but by Messianic thinking that is centered on prevention, Israel can and will endure. Kafka's parable on "The Coming of the Messiah" is a useful fount for such thinking.
"...he will come, not on the last day, but on the very last." This final sentence of our parable is closely interwoven with the preceding sentences, culminating what amounts to a perfectly coherent, integral "argument." As Messianic arrival will be determined by prior fulfillment of human responsibilities - in our example, by the State of Israel's military preparations - and by steadfast avoidance of overriding threats to the Third Temple Commonwealth, he will come "not on the last day," the day when he is still needed and the day of his "arrival." Rather, he will come "on the very last" day ("...sondern am allerletzen"), the day when he is no longer needed. Understood as survival of the Jewish State, this means he will come when Israel has already taken care of itself.
This conclusion may seem vastly more consistent with the essential tenets of philosophical existentialism than with those of Messianic Judaism. Yet, the traditional Jewish view of a deliverer is hardly one of an outside "intervention," a view that would detach redemption from human responsibility. Instead, it is a view that ties Messianic arrival to compliance with particular moral codes and norms of ethical conduct. To the extent, therefore, that pragmatic Israeli preparations for security may be construed to exhibit such compliance, these preparations may be decidedly compatible with traditional views on the coming of the Messiah.
But is it reasonable to so construe such pragmatic Israeli preparations? In answering this question we come face to face with an antecedent issue, namely the extent to which Israel itself, as the Jewish State, can be consistent with Messianic redemption. If, after all, the fulfillment of Zionist expectations must oppose such redemption, Israel's survival is not only unsuitable as an expression of "the coming of the Messiah," it is fundamentally an impediment, an obstruction whose very existence thwarts the Nation of Israel.
To a point, this view is embedded in standard interpretations of the Jewish legends we discussed earlier. Since catastrophe spawns redemption, and since Jewish statehood precludes catastrophe, redemption cannot occur so long as Israel endures. Indeed, inasmuch as redemption depends upon "the experience of exile," or "homelessness," the State of Israel - a state that blocks coming of the Messiah - can be productive only where it ceases to exist.
Now that Israel is a fait accompli, it is hard to imagine a Jewish position that would willingly go so far to meet these particular Messianic preconditions. Yet, a debate did rage on the underlying issues before 1948, when Martin Buber and Hermann Cohen argued fiercely on Zionism and Messianism. Buber advanced the view of Exile as a tragic situation, while Cohen denied that Diaspora was Exile. In seeking an end to Diaspora, Cohen maintained, Zionists were negating the essential vision of Messianism. Buber countered that Zionism actually furthers the realization of Messianism:
Zionism opposes not the messianic idea, but rather the misrepresentation and distortion of this idea found in a considerable part of Liberal - Jewish, anti-Zionist literature. This misrepresentation and distortion glorifies, in the name of messianism, the dispersion, debasement, and homelessness of the Jewish people, as something unconditionally valuable and fortunate, as something that must be preserved because it prepares humanity for the messianic age.
How different is Hermann Cohen's assessment, which proclaims, "The ghetto mentality is not the ghost, but the true spirit of Judaism and of Jewish reality." Recalling Micha, "And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples, like dew from the Lord," (5:6, 7) Cohen expresses his "proud conviction" that Jews must "continue to live as divine dew in the midst of the peoples, and to remain fruitful among them and for them. All of the prophets place us in the midst of the peoples and their common perspective is the world mission of the remnant of Israel."
But the role of "divine dew" must certainly be re-evaluated after the Holocaust. Could Hermann Cohen affirm today that Judaism, because of its Messianic core, "is thoroughly a world religion?" Could he claim, some sixty years after the great tragedy of diaspora Jewry, that this Messianic core "cannot be impaired by historical reality, by misfortune, or even by the auspicious granting of equal rights?" Are "hope and trust" truly the correct path to Jewish survival? "Happy is he that waiteth," (Dan. 12:12), cautions Cohen, but how much longer shall be the wait? And who shall bear responsibility for harms suffered in the interim?
Although enormously painful to acknowledge, Cohen's argument, however unintentional, does point to the overriding irony of Zionist success. Seeking to solve "The Jewish Question" by creating a Jewish State, Israel has concentrated about one quarter of the world's Jews within a tiny space of extraordinary vulnerability. Moreover, as unconventional weapons technologies spread throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf areas, Jewish vulnerability within the Jewish State is likely to become greater than anywhere in the diaspora. In spite of Herzl's
dream that a Jewish State would resolve the "Jewish Question," there is today no more dangerous place on Earth for Jews, as Jews, than the State of Israel.
This extraordinary irony must not be minimized. Rather, it should be taken as the starting point for rebuilding the foundation of Herzl's "house," from the ground up, before it is razed altogether. ("We are here to lay the foundation stone of the house which is to shelter the Jewish nation." These were the very first words uttered by Theodor Herzl on August 29, 1897, at the First Zionist Congress in Basel). Now we require nothing less than a new Zionist Congress, one which will no longer need to create a Jewish State, but to preserve the existing Third Temple Commonwealth. We require such a Congress to save the imperilled State of Israel.
Israel's only real option for the future is to endure. Whatever the relative merits of the Zionism-Messianism debate earlier on in history, Jewish redemption today positively requires survival of the Jewish State. The destruction of Israel would represent great loss for the entire world. A world without Israel would be a world of darkness, a world of the sort forseen by the poet Yeats: "There is no longer a virtuous nation, and the best of us live by candle light."
Every Jew is familiar with Deuteronomy 30:19. "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your descendants may live." But in choosing life, there must be a prior anxiety about death. Without such anxiety, there can be no correct understanding of what is needed to endure. What is true for individuals is also true for entire states. As Israel now approaches its collective demise, the citizens of Israel - at least a very substantial fraction of these citizens - appear strangely smug about national permanence. Seemingly oblivious to the coming of Palestine and the associated eradication of Israel, these stubbornly "confident" Jews want no part of any national anxiety. As a result, they are unable to fulfil the most basic expectations of Torah (let alone common sense), that is, to "choose life."
Israel now suffers acutely from insufficient anxiety. Refusing to tremble before the growing prospect of collective chaos and disintegration - a substantially forseeable prospect including both genocide and war - this state is now unable to take the necessary steps toward life. What is more, because death is the one fact of life which is not relative, but absolute, Israel's blithe unawareness of its exceptional mortality deprives its still living days, however precarious, of indispensable absoluteness.
For states, as for individuals, confronting death can give the most positive reality to life. In this respect, a cultivated awareness of nonbeing is central to each state's pattern of potentialities as well as to its very existence. When a state chooses to block off such an awareness, a choice currently made by the State of Israel, it loses, perhaps forever, the altogether critical benefits of "anxiety."
Anxiety stems from the awareness that existence can actually be destroyed, that one can actually become nothing. An ontological characteristic, it has commonly been called Angst, a word related to anguish (which comes from the Latin angustus, "narrow," which in turn comes from angere, "to choke.") Herein lies the relevant idea of birth trauma as the prototype of all anxiety, as "pain in the narrows" through the "choking" straits of birth. Kierkegaard identified anxiety as "the dizziness of freedom," adding: "Anxiety is the reality of freedom as a potentiality before this freedom has materialized."
This brings the reader back to Israel. Both individuals and states may surrender freedom in the hope of ridding themselves of an unbearable anxiety. Regarding states, such surrender can lead to a rampant and delirious collectivism which stamps out all political opposition. It can also lead to a national self-delusion which augments enemy power and hastens catastrophic war. For the Jewish State, a lack of pertinent anxiety, of the positive aspect of Angst, has already led its people and Government to the codified surrenders of Oslo and to an altogether conceivable rendezvous with extinction.
Let us return to Kafka, to our illustrative parable. The coming of the Messiah, which we understand as Jewish survival within the State of Israel, requires antecedent preparations for protection and self-defense. To aid such preparations, Jews in the diaspora must first begin to see that plans to annihilate the Jewish State represent an assault upon themselves. The phrase "Death to Israel" is always uttered in the same breath as "Death to the Jews." One implies the other. To assume that the former can be detached from historical anti-Semitism that is spawned by politics rather than by theology is to validate delusion and to invite massacre.
From the beginning, Arab states have regarded Israel as the institutionalized manifestation of multiple crimes, and fit, therefore, only for destruction. A linguistic analysis by Yehoshafat Harkabi shows official Arab statements abounding with terminology that approves of "liquidation" and "extermination" of Israel and the Jewish people. As Islamic fundamentalists seek to wrest political control from secular authorities in Iran and the Arab world, the declared enemy is identified not as Zionists," but as "Jewish occupiers." In the words of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, a leader of the pro-Iranian Party of God, "The only way to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East is the return of all the Jewish occupiers to the lands from which they originally came." Islamic Jihad, the terrorist group claiming responsibility for multiple acts of terrorism against Israel, declares: "The war is open until Israel ceases to exist and until the last Jew in the world is eliminated....Israel is all evil and should be wiped out of existence."
In the words of al-Da'wa (The Mission), a fundamentalist publication, the status of Israel is identical to the status of the Jew. What, precisely, is this status? "The race (sic) is corrupt at the root, full of duplicity, and the Muslims have everything to lose in seeking to deal with them; they must be exterminated."
Historically, the Islamic world's orientation to genocide against the Jews has not been limited to idle phrasemaking. Even before Israel came into existence in 1948, on November 28, 1941, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin, met in Berlin with Adolph Hitler. The subject of their meeting was "the final solution of the Jewish Question." This meeting, which followed Haj Amin's active organization of Muslim SS troops in Bosnia, included the Mufti's promise to aid German victory in the war. Later, after Israel's trial and execution of Nazi criminal Adolph Eichmann in 1961, Iranian and Arab newspapers treated the mass murderer of children as a "martyr," and congratulated him for having "conferred a real blessing on humanity" by liquidating six million Jews.
What is Israel to do? Remembering that past is prologue, that "Death to Israel" is merely a new phrase for an old hatred, leaders of the Jewish State must not be deceived. Acknowledging that Israel's future is linked to its Jewish past, and that Jewish leaders bear primary responsibility for "the coming of the Messiah," they must seek safety by rejecting weakness. Seeing in Israel the historic plight of the individual Jew facing genocidal destruction - the Jew as macrocosm - Jerusalem must not forget that civilization is always an oxymoron and that civility among the barbarians leads only to death.
The Greek poet Homer understood that the force that does not kill right away - that does not kill just yet - can still turn a human being into stone, into a thing, while it is still alive. Merely hanging ominously over the head of the vulnerable creature it can choose to kill at any moment, poised portentously to destroy breath in what it has allowed, if only for a few more moments, to breathe, this force makes a mockery of the fragile life it intends to consume. The human being that stands helplessly before this force has effectively become a corpse before any lethal assault is even launched.
Israel is now this individual human being writ large. Throwing itself upon the mercy of genocidal enemies, it lies diminished and dishonored even before it is forced to disappear. Almost alone among the nations, this suppliant state incessantly quivers and trembles. Offering plaintive entreaties on its knees, Israel moves inexorably toward a new Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Unlike the Holocaust, this Final Solution - if it is not prevented - will be largely self-inflicted.
When Priam enters the tent of Achilles, stops, clasps Achilles' knees, and kisses his hands, he has already reduced himself to a hapless and unworthy victim, one to be disposed of without ceremony and in very short order. Realizing this, a gracious Achilles takes the old man's arm, pushing him away. As long as he was clasping Achilles' knees, Priam was an inert object. Only by lifting him up off his knees could Achilles restore him to a position of self-respect and to a living manhood.
Here Israel and Priam part company. Israel's many enemies, animated by Jihad, will not act in the honorable manner of Achilles. Their aim is not the gracious revitalization of a pathetic and despised adversary, but rather the annihilation of that inert object by means of genocide and war. It follows that the Illiad offers certain important lessons for Jerusalem,but that these lessons must be based upon a brutally realistic appraisal of Israel's foes.
For whatever reasons, Israel under Barak has come to accept a view of itself that was spawned not in Jerusalem, Hebron or Tel-Aviv, but in Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, Teheran, Jericho and Gaza. Degraded and debased, this is the view not of a strong and powerful people, determined to remain alive, but of a conspicuous corpse-in-waiting, ingathered from exile only to make its relentless fate easier to inflict. After Auschwitz, after Belsen, after Warsaw, after Lodz, can there be any more hideous and humiliating expression of Jewish disaster than Israel's groveling, its desperate groveling, before Arafat?
Viewed from the standpoint of our governing parable, the standpoint of Israel's survival as a State and its associated nurturance by the diaspora, Israel's imperative rejection of self-imposed disaster is more than a tactical expedient. It is also a sacred duty. Of course, this duty must never be fulfilled via gratuitous harms inflicted upon enemy populations, or by any intentional attacks upon "soft" (non-military) targets. Rather, it requires preparations for preemptive destruction of enemy "hard" (military) targets, especially those weapons and associated command/control facilities now being readied for unconventional and genocidal action against Israel.
Israel's required preparations bring us back to time, a dominant leitmotif of our parable. Traditionally, philosophers have distinguished dimensionally between space and time, but today Israel forges a new conceptual unity. Surrendering Israel's space, one piece at a time, Jerusalem exhibits the ominous temporal interrelatedness of sequential territorial loss and imminence of military defeat. The more Israel's land is transferred to enemy hands, the less time Israel has to endure. Left to proceed with their misnamed Peace Process, the leaders of the Jewish State will discover too late that time is power, that the power of time is transmitted with the power of space, and that the powerful influences of time now accrue entirely and portentously to Israel's enemies.
The pertinent space-time power relationship has at least two complex dimensions. First, incremental territorial surrenders by Israel reduce the amount of time Israel would have to resist particular military and/or terrorist assaults. Second, such surrenders, considered cumulatively, provide time for Israel's enemies to await optimal strategic opportunity. In an apparent but inauthentic paradox, time now serves Israel's enemies by both its diminution and by its extension.
But it is not yet too late. For Israel, there is still time to recover, still an opportunity to transform time from a source of debility to a source of power. Israel's very existence is always emerging, it is always in the process of becoming, always developing in time. Never to be defined in fixed or static terms, this existence is always more or less durable, more or less problematic. To survive into the future, to ensure preservation of the Third Temple Commonwealth, Israel must now draw understanding from the ancient Hebrew experience of time as the essential flux of righteousness and strength. While the Greeks experienced temporality as the decline of order, the Hebrews identified it as the source of unlimited opportunity and even of messianic liberation and redemption. In this identification, of course, ancient Israel understood little concerning the coincident importance of political space.
There is something else. For Israel, the power of time is made manifest not only by its relationship with space, but also as the source of memory. By recalling the historic vulnerabilities of Jewish life in the world, and by recalling that others will not recall, Israel's leaders could still begin to undertake needed steps back from national dissolution.
"Yesterday," says Samuel Beckett in his analysis of Proust, "is not a milestone that has been passed, but a daystone on the beaten track of the years, and irremediably part of us, heavy and dangerous." Aware that tomorrow will be determined, in large measure, by "yesterday," especially by the memory of "yesterday," Israel has yet another chance (a chance not to be missed) to recognize that time is power.
In the end, the coming of the Messiah, contingent upon time, requires Messianic deeds. At this time in Jewish history, there is no better way to define such needs than from the standpoint of Israel's survival. Where they are meaningfully directed toward preservation of the Jewish State, of the Third Temple Commonwealth, Messianic deeds will be the authentic deliverer. Seeking to avert catastrophe, rather than to discover redemption in Apocalypse, those who commit such deeds can ensure celebrations in Jerusalem "not on the last day, but on the very last."