TheHOPE ~ התקווה
The New Vision 
for Israel & Zion


Israel Zangwill: 20.11.2013 22:40
CHOSEN PEOPLEs - Utopian writings - Jewish-Christian - New Israel - Israel

Zangwill's classic discusses the thorny issue of "The Chosen People".

Israel Zangwill: Chosen Peoples

The entire book in the Gutenberg Project

Section selected by Charlyne Valensin:

Again, as in earlier periods of history, the world lies in darkness, listening to the silence of God - a silence that can be felt.

"Watchmen, what of the night?" Such blackness fell upon the ancient Jews when Hadrian passed the plough over Mount Zion. But, turning from empty apocalyptic visions, they drew in on themselves and created an inner Jerusalem, which has solaced and safeguarded them ever since. Such blackness fell on the 103ancient Christians when the Huns invaded Rome, and the young Christian world, robbed of its millennial hopes, began to wonder if perchance this was not the vengeance of the discarded gods. But drawing in on themselves, they learned from St. Augustine to create an inner "City of God." How shall humanity meet this blackest crisis of all? What new "City of God" can it build on the tragic wreckage of a thousand years of civilization? Has Israel no contribution to offer here but the old quarrel with Christianity? But that quarrel shrinks into comparative concord beside the common peril from the resurrected gods of paganism, from Thor and Odin and Priapus. And it was always an exaggerated quarrel—half misunderstanding, like most quarrels. 104Neither St. Augustine nor St. Anselm believed God was other than One. Jesus but applied to himself distributively — as logicians say — those conceptions of divine sonship and suffering service which were already assets of Judaism, and but for the theology of atonement woven by Paul under Greek influences, either of them might have carried Judaism forward on that path of universalism which its essential genius demands, and which even without them it only just missed. Is it not humiliating that Islam, whose Koran expressly recalls its obligation to our prophets, should have beaten them in the work of universalization? Maimonides acknowledged the good work done by Jesus and Mohammed in propagating the Bible. But if the universalism they achieved held 105faulty elements, is that any reason why the purer truth should shrink from universalization? Has Judaism less future than Buddhism—that religion of negation and monkery — whose sacred classics enjoin the Bhiksu to camp in and contemplate a cemetery? Has it less inspiration and optimism than that apocalyptic vision of the ultimate victory of Good which consoles the disciples of Zoroaster? If there is anything now discredited in its ancient Scriptures, the Synagogue can, as of yore, relegate it to the Apocrypha, even as it can enrich the canon with later expressions of the Hebrew genius. Its one possible rival, Islam, is, as Kuenen maintains, as sterile for the future as Buddhism, too irretrievably narrowed to the Arab mentality. But why, despite his106magnificent tribute to Judaism, does this unfettered thinker imagine that the last word is with Christianity? Eucken, too, would call the future Christian, though he rejects the Incarnation and regards the Atonement as injurious to religion, and the doctrine of the Trinity as a stumbling-block rather than a help. Abraham Lincoln being only a plain man, was not able to juggle with himself like a German theologian, and with the simplicity of greatness he confessed: "I have never united myself to any Church, because I have found difficulty in giving my assent, without mental reservation, to the long, complicated statements of the Christian doctrine which characterize their Articles of Belief and Confessions of Faith." "When any church," he added, "will inscribe over 107its altar, as its sole qualification for membership, ... 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might, and thy neighbor as thyself,' that church will I join with all my heart and with all my soul."

Can one read this and not wonder what Judaism has been about that Lincoln did not even know there was such a church? But call the coming religious reconstruction what you will, what do names matter when all humanity is crucified, what does anything matter but to save it from meaningless frictions and massacres? "Would that My people forgot Me and kept My commandments," says the Jerusalem Talmud. Too long has Israel been silent. "Who is blind," says the prophet, "but 108My servant, or deaf as My messenger?" He is not deaf to-day, he is only dumb. But the voice of Jerusalem must be heard again when the new world-order is shaping. The Chosen People must choose - To be or not to be. "The religion of the Jews is indeed a light," said Coleridge in his "Table Talk," "but it is as the light of the glow-worm which gives no heat and illumines nothing but itself." Why let a sun sink into a glow-worm? And even a glow-worm should turn. It does not even pay—that prudent maxim of the Babylonian Talmud, Dina dimalchutha dina ("In Rome do as the Romans"). Despite every effort of Jews as individual citizens the world still tends to see them as Crabbe saw them a century ago in his "Borough":—

Nor war nor wisdom yields our Jews delight,109They will not study and they dare not fight.

It is because they fight under no banner of their own. But the time has come when they must fight as Jews—fight that "mental fight" from which that greater English poet, Blake, declared he would not cease till he had "built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land." To build Jerusalem in every land—even in Palestine—that is the Jewish mission. As Nina Salaman sings — and I am glad to end with the words of a daughter of the lofty-souled scholar in whose honor this lecture is given —

      Wherefore else our age-long life, our wandering landless,
      Every land our home for ill or good?
      Ours it was long since to join the hands of nations
      Through the link of our own brotherhood.


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