Here’s a wonderful piece by Jonathan P. Katz, a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, at New Voices, called “Apocalypse Now: Preparing for the Potential End of Jewish Statehood.” Katz states that he comes from the heart of the Jewish community and is for two states and implies that he is a Zionist, but he is prepared to abandon all these attachments in the face of reality, and because he finds nationalism so objectionable.
Two excerpts. First, his great opening:
Attention: I am doing something that is heretical across much of the Jewish spectrum. Very heretical – for two-state JStreet-ers, for your right-wing grandma at synagogue Kiddush, and certainly for anyone remotely associated with StandWithUs and other organizations dedicated to apologetics for the Occupation.
I am preparing for the potential end of Israel as we know it. I am preparing for the potential end of Jewish statehood.
I do not mean “Exile 2.0” or some sort of apocalyptic genocidal nightmare. What I mean is the replacement of the current political system with something in which the region might be governed in a binational state, or some other form of government in which Jews are no longer the absolute majority (or hegemonic). Jews would stay, but would not rule alone.
Either way, this is not a popular preparation. And it might be a bit surprising to some that I would do this – as someone involved in religious Jewish life on campus, someone with many close relatives in Israel, and someone who speaks Hebrew quite fluently and reads Ha’aretz every day. (Though I would argue that I am not so unusual given the normal readership of Ha’aretz.)
What propelled me to begin my preparations in the first place? Well, some of it is that favorite catchphrase of the right: “facts on the ground.” The settlements do not seem to be going anywhere…
And this is the ending. How he is preparing himself mentally for the eventuality:
I have also found that it is important to not fall into nationalist rhetoric and the realm of feelings it creates. In a Jewish universe where Yom Ha’atzmaut [commemorating Israeli independence] gains more synagogue funds than Shavuot, it is easy to fall into a fantasy of Israel as the pinnacle of Jewish achievement. But in order to prepare for a different paradigm, one must distance oneself from that feeling – lest the crash of reality be too disappointing. Thus, rather than simply leave things at “look at all the cool things Israel makes,” I have also started to remember to counter that with other forms of pride. Furthermore, I have started to avoid many nationalist events – I have attended exactly one thing for Yom Ha’atzmaut in the past eight years. (I consider Yom Yerushalayim to be terrifying.)
And so I’ve started the slow preparation for the case that Israel is no longer a Jewish state. Would I be completely prepared? Probably not – a restructuring of the political situation in the Holy Land, even in the “best case scenario,” would completely upturn the Jewish communal landscape and the way American Jewry perceives itself. It is not so easy to undo seventy years of one system. But starting the process of looking at a strange and different potential Jewish future is something that I think will help with the big change that may be down the line.
Who cares if it is heretical?
This syncs with my belief that the most disputed territory is between American Jews’ ears. The upturning of the Jewish communal landscape involves the fact that Israel was the world’s answer to the Jewish question in Europe, one of the great perplexing social questions of modernity, and guess what, it wasn’t the answer. Getting Jonathan Katz up to the microphone means that the Jewish state might end with a whimper not a bang; i.e, by preparing Jews for this eventuality, there will be a soft landing, and the outcome won’t be Algeria.
Update: Thanks to commenters for pointing out that I’d translated Independence Day as the commemoration of the Holocaust. Apologies.