Don't Jews need their own country so that they can live safely and practice Judaism?

10/25/06

Dear Rabbi,

I am from Martinique (French West Indies) and I currently live in London.

Don’t you think Jews need a homeland? Because almost everywhere in the world Jews are targeted because they're Jewish. People say it’s because of the situation in the Middle East and they (the Jews) are targeted due to it. However, there was not a State of Israel before and Jews in Europe and the Middle East were also targeted then. I lived in France for quite some time and Jews, even 12 year-old boys, were beaten by young Muslims because they were wearing a kippah in public. They’re also targeted by Far Right organizations. I think Jews people need a land precisely to practice their religion freely.

Chantal D.

Yes, conditions during the Jewish exile have never been ideal for the practice of the Torah. Jews have always been targeted. But we Jews look to the Talmudic Sages and their later disciples for wisdom, and I would like to point out two important things they said about anti-semitism and persecution during exile. Firstly, Jews have been scattered in various countries throughout the world. This is no accident, it is Divine providence. See the Bible, Deuteronomy 4:27 and 28:64. If Jews were all in one place, it would be easier for an anti-Semitic ruler to destroy them all. But G-d made sure that when Jews were expelled and persecuted in Spain, there was a king in Poland who let them live freely. When Jews were being slaughtered in Europe, there was a land America where they were safe. During the centuries of Christian persecution, there was a Muslim world that was relatively tolerant. Therefore, we say it is a great mistake to make a homeland and gather all Jews to one place. This will only be possible in the Messianic Era when G-d will give us His open protection.

The second point relates to what you wrote that the Jews need a homeland to practice their religion freely. The historical record shows that persecution of Jews is actually less when they practice their religion than when they don't. In Germany the Jews had fully assimilated: they had non-Jewish names, spoke German, many were intermarried, they had high positions in the professions and government. And then came the Nazi movement with great anger to put Jews back in their place. Jews were barred from all important jobs. They were required to adopt Jewish names. They were forbidden to intermarry. Anti-Semites seem to like it better when Jews keep Judaism and keep separate from the non-Jews. Or, as we interpret it, G-d arranged the world so that if the Jews drift away from the proper path, they get reminders.

Besides all this, the Jewish exile (which is now almost 2000 years old) is not an accident but a Divine decree, and we have no right to change it on our own. Evidently G-d knows that this is best for us.