Constitutions and Reconstitutions of Judaic Statehood

The polity of Israel in its incunabular period of nation formation was a theocracy (better: “theonomocracy,” or rule of divine law) evolving under the universal sovereignty of G-d, whose existence was apodictic and whose presence intimate. The biblical constitution bestowed in the wilderness via Moses the lawgiver was established by Joshua the conqueror immediately upon the Israelites’ possession of the Promised Land.

From the outset, the Torah for Israel was the centrepiece, source of unimpeachable authority, and embodiment of divine law. Once repatriated to their ancestral homeland, and despite being in possession of such an injunctive pandect, Israelites struggled for physical survival among external adversaries even while internally rived by tribalism, rendering them unable to organize as a united polity, let alone found a Torah-oriented nation-state.

Once the land was settled, partly by means of conquest (as depicted in Joshua) and partly by peaceful reintegration among neighboring peoples (as depicted in Judges), Israelites were at greater liberty to turn their attention to matters of governance and political entities. Helpfully, means of internal conflict resolution had previously been introduced during Israel’s prolonged desert sojourn when Moses had appointed some 78,600 judges over the people, whose men numbered 600,000 [Exod. 12:37, 18:25]. But justiciable disputes between individuals were one thing, tribal interests another.

After Joshua’s death, much of tribal Israel’s turmoil resulted from the absence of a Moses figure, someone who combined lawgiver, prophet, and political leader. As a unique personage, especially in his role as lawgiver, Moses was ineluctably a revolutionary; all other prophets, however, from Joshua to Malachi, were not revolutionaries but reformers. The Judges, who succeeded Joshua, were military heroes, civic leaders, and regional notables, but rarely achieved a national following until their culminating exemplar – the prophet Samuel, whom the tribes collectively esteemed and heeded [I Sam. 2:26, 3:19-20].

King or Prince?

Necessity facilitated Israel’s amalgamation from tribal confederacy to nation-state, which polity would fatefully transition from a pure theonomocracy to a constitutional monarchy. Citing the threats from neighbors and the waywardness of Joel and Abijah, Samuel’s venal sons, the elders of Israel at Ramah demanded of the aging prophet a king [I Sam. 8:5-22]; audaciously, the chosen people now wished to do the choosing, despite Samuel’s portentous warning that they would come to regret it [I Sam. 8:18]. Henceforward, this momentous encounter – which the anti-monarchist prophet Hosea would later refer to as “the days of Givah” [Hos. 10:9] in a reference to King Saul’s hometown and capital – would be emblematic of the disloyalty Israel displayed in asking for a king, construed as evidencing their failure of faith.

Signaling the subordinacy of a worldly monarch to the divine sovereign, G-d averred that Saul was to become a “prince” (נגיד) [I Sam 9:16], and indeed Samuel privately anointed Saul “prince” [I Sam. 10:1]. But the prophet then did something well beyond inaugurating the institution of Israelite monarchy via symbolic formalities: Samuel, before all the assembled tribes of Israel in Mizpah, orated and indited a constitution for this new monarchy [I Sam. 10:25]. Though its contents were not adumbrated in scripture, its strictures doubtless were biblically derived and validated. In short, Israelite monarchy came into effect with explicit and specific constitutional restrictions.

Even as Saul was coronated at Gilgal, the people already repented of their demand for a king [I Sam. 12:19], recognizing it as a species of evil. Yet Samuel was quick to clarify that the abandonment of G-d, and not the institution of monarchy, would be the real evil, and that G-d would concede monarchy to Israel so long as it faithfully served the divine will. In other words, the Israelite polity may be a monarchy, but it must be a Judaic state.

While foremost among the monarchic restrictions is the principle of king (מלך) as subaltern to G-d, the King of Kings, there are other seminal limitations enshrined in the biblical constitution that circumscribe the monarchy and deprive the one who reigns of free rein, chief among these being the tripartite paradigm of national leadership (i.e. prophet, high priest, monarch). The Torah delineates and legitimates the institutions of governance, as well as their interrelation and interdependence. In its rudiments and fundaments, the Judaic state organically combines religion and politics since the principles and precepts of the Tanakh are all-encompassing.

In Judaism, the high priest represents the people to G-d, while the prophet represents G-d to the people; ergo, a Judaic state would not be a theocracy in the modern sense (a nation ruled by a coterie of priests or religious clerics), but only in its original sense (a nation ruled by G-d). Like the high priest and prophet, the monarch was G-d’s worldly instrument, and could not implement the royal prerogative in contradiction to the divine will.

When King Saul faltered in his obedience to divine instruction as imparted by the prophet Samuel, the latter informed the former that G-d would appoint another “prince” [I Sam. 13:14]. Judaic statehood was not imperiled, nor was the monarchic institution, but the monarchy was to be placed under new management, as it were, demonstrating the innate instability of kingship and precariousness of power. As Hosea has it, G-d derided Israel’s trust in mortal rulers: “So now, where is your king, to save you in all your cities? Where are your judges, of whom you said, ‘Give me a king and leaders’? I gave you a king in my anger, and in my fury I took him away” [Hos. 13:10-11].

Reluctant as ever to anoint a monarch, Samuel in Bethlehem anoints David for the first time [I Sam. 16:13], with a horn of oil, as G-d’s elect; Judahites in Hebron anointed David for the second time [II Sam. 2:4,7], as ruler of Judah; and all the elders of Israel in Hebron anointed David for the third and final time, as king of Israel [II Sam. 5:3]. Yet once again, tellingly, David was to become “prince” over Israel [I Chron. 11:2]; G-d plucked David from the obscurity of shepherding to be “prince” over Israel [I Chron. 17:7]. Solomon was twice anointed king, and “to be prince” [I Chron. 29:22]. From Judah comes “the prince” [I Chron. 5:2]. The subordinacy of monarchy to divinity is reaffirmed even during Israel’s golden era. While in scripture the terms “king” and “prince” are, admittedly, sometimes used interchangeably, there is nonetheless a subtilized sense of bait-and-switch, of kingship as the lure, princeship the reality.

This almost imperceptible nuance is perhaps most exposed when once again the monarchy is, at least partially, to be restarted: the prophet Ahijah of Shiloh foretells to Jeroboam ben Nebat that G-d is to make him king over Israel [I Kings 11:37], only to reveal to Jeroboam post factum that G-d had elevated him to become “prince” over Israel [I Kings 14:7]. Later, the prophet Jehu ben Hanani tells the military officer Baasha that G-d elevated him from the dust and made him “prince” over his people Israel [I Kings 16:1-2]. In response to King Hezekiah of Judah’s tearful prayers on his deathbed, G-d healed the monarch, the “prince” of His people (נגיד-עמי) [II Kings 20:5].


The Periodic Renascence of the Priesthood

Despite the Torah’s early designation of Levites as Israel’s pedagogical caste or educator class, throughout most of the monarchies of Israel and Judah the figure of the high priest was largely relegated to lesser prominence in terms of national leadership, and this lamentable absence was acknowledged by contemporaries. The prophet Azariah ben Oded explained to King Asa of Judah that Israel long lacked a “kohen moreh,” a teaching priest [II Chron. 15:3]. Early in his reign, King Jehoshaphat of Judah sent two priests and nine Levites (accompanied by five ministers) to teach Torah throughout all the cities of Judah [II Chron. 17:7-9].

There were also certain notable exceptions to the rule of priestly abeyance. After the ouster of Queen Ataliah of Judah, and partly in response to her egregious abuses of power, the high priest Jehoiada established a duple compact: a religious covenant between G-d and the king (Jehoash/Joash) and the people of Judah, and a political covenant between the king (Jehoash/Joash) and the people of Judah [II Kings 11:17; II Chron. 23:16]. This was a sequel to, and perhaps even an improvement upon, the prior constitution instituted by Samuel in Mizpah. Another noteworthy exception to the general lack of priestly leadership also serves as the best example of separation of powers in Judaism: when King Uzziah of Judah entered the Temple to burn incense on the inner altar, thereby transgressing divine law, he was resisted by the high priest Azariah and 80 other courageous priests, then punished instantly with leprosy on his forehead [II Chron. 26: 16-21].

In 538 BCE, upon Judah’s return from Babylonian Captivity, partial though it was, the tripartite leadership paradigm was promptly restored (mutatis mutandis, given that, as the autonomous province of Yehud within the Eber-Nari satrapy of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, Judah had no king, rather a provincial governor) when the prophet Haggai imparted the divine message to Zerubavel, Davidic prince of Judah, and Jeshua the high priest [Hag. 1:1]. The priestly duty of instruction was renewed [Hag. 2:11], and Zerubavel’s political rule divinely assured [Hag 2:21-23]. Later, the contemporary prophet Zechariah was divinely instructed to take gold and silver to make two crowns: the golden crown for the Davidic scion Zerubavel, and the silver crown for Jeshua the high priest; the high priest was to attend the ruler and between them would be “the counsel of peace” (עצת שלום) [Zech. 6:9-13]. The prophet thus reconciled high priest and prince while affording the prince the higher authority (by which act the prophet intrinsically reserved for his own leadership role the supreme position among the three).

A Senate of Sages

In the second stage of return, that of spiritual renewal, Ezra the scribe (who became the teaching priest par excellence) and Nehemiah the governor worked in tandem to formally reinstate the Torah as the constitution of the Jewish people by reading it publicly before the Judahites assembled in Jerusalem [Neh. 8:1-18]. The close partnership between Ezra and his younger counterpart Nehemiah did not, however, universally negate the inherent tensions between Israel’s discrete leadership roles. Four times Nehemiah asked G-d to remember him for good, and twice he asked G-d to remember for ill Sanballat the Horonite and the latter’s allies, including Noadiah the prophetess and the wayward priests.

Yet few among Judah’s primarily political leaders who followed Nehemiah were as religiously involved as he was, and the Knesset HaGedolah, which institution Ezra established, gradually assumed the national leadership and continued to guide the people even when the Judean monarchy was restored under the Hasmonean dynasty and when the high priesthood regained prominence in the Hellenistic and Roman eras. The Knesset HaGedolah, later known as the Great Sanhedrin, was a senate of sages, both legislature and supreme court. While nominally headed by the high priest as nasi (president), the institution was innovative because it was meritocratic, its conciliar instructors being religious laymen more often than priests.

Exceptions aside (since several prominent sages over the generations were also priests), the teaching priest gave way to the rabbinic scholar-sage. And when prophecy departed from Israel after Malachi, when kingship was abolished after the Hasmoneans and Herodians, and when the high priesthood (and priesthood generally) was obviated by the destruction of the Second Temple, only the sages remained among Israels leadership. It was the sages, with or without a Sanhedrin, who salvaged Judaism after the Great Revolt (66-73 CE) and Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE), who directed the national life of Jewry throughout 1,813 years in stateless exile.

Modern Times

In contrast to the founders of the Second Commonwealth, and to the various religious revivalists before them (e.g. Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoiada, Hezekiah, Josiah), the fathers of the modern State of Israel did not renew the biblical covenant, publicly read the Torah, or revive the age-old tripartite leadership paradigm. The historic events of 1948 did not include any renascence of the national institutions of kingship, high priesthood, or prophecy, though the offices of Prime Minister, Chief Rabbi(s), and State Comptroller function to some extent as approximate surrogates.

While the State of Israel is in large part modernitys secular (and formerly socialist) iteration of Jewrys whilom polities, and is governed by a series of Basic Laws instead of a formal constitution, let alone the biblical constitution, the Torah is still ingrained in the Jewish state, which may yet evolve into a Judaic state.

If it does, in a second stage of its statehood, increasingly adopt and adapt the ancient blueprint for Israelite society, enacting a biblically informed constitution combined with the sophisticated processes of modern democracy, it may give rise to and legitimate a new, hybrid form of governance, democratic theonomocracy.

Maccabean Leadership Models

Originally indited in Hebrew but surviving only in the form of an ancient Greek translation, I Maccabees is both history and a tripartite biography of Jewish leadership, covering over 40 years of eventful affairs in which courageous and tenacious rebels surmounted overwhelming odds and overthrew imperial occupiers who persecuted Jews and sought to suppress Judaism. The book was written by an unknown Judean author between 134-63 BCE, likely around the year 100 BCE. As a religious history modelled on biblical historical works, it limns a series of remarkable figures striving valiantly for religious freedom and national liberationThe Brothers Maccabeeespecially Judah, Jonathan, and Simon.

Rather than a continuation of I Maccabees, the independent II Maccabees is a partially parallel digest of the Maccabean Rebellion, beginning and concluding its central narrative earlier than the preceding account and covering a period of about 15 years (corresponding to the first 7 chapters of I Maccabees). Originally indited in Greek, it summarizes 5 books previously written by a certain Jason of Cyrene and its style is more Hellenistic. The work is directed toward the Jews of Alexandria, Egypt, and seeks to enlist their solidarity with their Judean brethren in Jerusalem. Its date of composition is sometime after 124 BCE.

Initially, in response to the Hellenizing decrees and sacrilegious acts of Syrian-Greek (Seleucid) emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Hasmonean patriarch Matityahu and his sons tore their garments, wore sackcloth, and mourned. Then they put away grief, vowing not to swerve from Judaism either to the right or to the left, come what may. They withdrew into the wilderness of the Gophna Hills, living in forests and caverns, eating wild plants, making their way secretly among Judean villages, rallying their kinsfolk. Soon they recruited 6,000 loyalists, organizing them into a trained and mobile guerrilla force. They attacked imperial Seleucid soldiers and Hellenist traitors abetting the enemy using surprise and the cover of night, capturing advantageous positions and inflicting numerous reverses on their foes.

On his deathbed, Matityahu singled out Simon for his sound judgment and appointed him his successor, and appointed Judah as general for his might and bravery. Perhaps on Simon’s advice, Judah assumed command of the revolt and together the Maccabees, as they came to be known, “fought for Israel with a will.”

Following the example of their fervent father Matityahu, a zealot in the spirit of the high priest Pinhas and prophet Elijah, The Brothers Maccabee devoted and even gave their lives in the cause of their ancestors and countrymen, resisting an empire through intrepid leadership and willpower. Theirs were victories both martial and moral. Despite the occasional katabases, the Maccabees repeatedly proved resilient and resourceful. The following précis highlights their generational exploits as steadfast stalwarts in defense of tradition and homeland:  

Eleazar (a.k.a. Avaran) (d. 162 BCE) The bold Eleazar proved his mettle in the battle of Beth Zechariah, charging through the Seleucids’ thick phalanx toward a royally caparisoned elephant that he presumed carried the young Antiochus V Eupator or his regent Lysias. The elephant was taller than all the others arrayed by the Seleucids, and Eleazar managed to scatter the enemy from before him in order to dart in beneath the beast, stabbing it fatally with his sword. But the elephant collapsed on top of him, and Eleazar died on the spot. He took a daring risk by attempting to target the enemy leadership, but ended up sacrificing himself in a hasty move that factored into the Judean battle loss. Eleazar was the first Maccabee brother to fall.

Judah (Yehudah, a.k.a. Maccabee) (r. 166-160 BCE) The mighty Judah overcame a series of Seleucid military commandersApollonius, Seron, Gorgias, Nicanor, Lysiassent by Antiochus IV Epiphanes and his successors. He marshalled and exhorted his army to be strong, rousing them to courage, instilling in them the righteousness of “fighting for our lives and our laws.” Judah always led from the front. Like Moses, Judah organized and delegated leaders to oversee men by the thousand, hundred, fifty, and ten. He dismissed the fearful from his ranks. Undaunted, he inspired confidence in his fellows regarding their intimidating enemies, adjuring them to “not be afraid of their numbers” and “not flinch at their attack.” He disciplined his men not to plunder when further battle urgently awaited them. At the first opportunity, Judah led his brothers and the entire army to Mount Zion (Temple Mount) to purify and dedicate the sanctuary, which lay desecrated and partly ruined. He selected priests to remove the abomination of desolation (the pagan altar of Baal-Shamin), dismantle the profaned altar of sacrifice, and fashion a new altar and new sacred vessels. He did not usurp the authority of a prophet but, in December 164 BCE, did institute the celebration of the rededication of the sacrificial altar and Temple for 8 days annually on 25 Kislevthe festival of Chanukah (in 160 BCE, he also instituted the short-lived Day of Nicanor holiday annually on 13 Adar, the day before the Day of Mordechai/Purim). He built high walls with towers round Mount Zion, stationed a garrison to protect the Temple, and fortified Beit Tzur to the south against the Idumeans. He rescued persecuted Jews in Gilead, rallying stragglers as they were brought into Judea. He sought alliance with Rome in order to consolidate his position. Abandoned by over two-thirds of his army before overwhelming enemy numbers, Judah fell in battle at Elasa (near Beit Horon), and “his memory is blessed forever and ever.”

Johanan/Joseph (Yohanan/Yosef, a.k.a. Gaddi) (d. 160) The oldest brother, Johanan commanded a division of fighters under Judah and later was sent by Jonathan to lead a convoy into Nabatea to request their assistance, but he was ambushed by the raiding sons of Jambri of Medeba, captured, and killed.  

Jonathan (Yonatan, a.k.a. Apphus) (r. 160-142 BCE) Appointed by the Judeans, Jonathan succeeded Judah despite being the youngest brother. Whereas Judah was a masterful military strategist and tactician, Jonathan was politically astute and adroitly played one Syrian contender for the throne against another. After defeating the great Seleucid general Bacchides with Simon’s help, Jonathan negotiated peace terms and a prisoner exchange. He recovered Jewish hostages from the Seleucids, obtained the removal of foreign garrisons, and refortified Jerusalem. He was appointed high priest by Alexander Balas circa 153 BCE and was later recognized in this role by Demetrius II and confirmed by Antiochus VI. He raised troops and manufactured arms in quantity, but was savvy enough to make a favourable impression upon Balas and King Ptolemy of Egypt when they convened at Akko. With the help of military intelligence, he won an important victory over the forces of Demetrius II at Ashdod, and routed the Seleucids at Hazor despite lacking timely military intelligence. He renewed the alliance with Rome, as well as with the Spartans. He not only enlarged the territory under Judean control but secured peace within its borders. Jonathan proved gullible, however, and was lured by a treacherous Tryphoa Seleucid usurperinto a trap at Akko, costing him his freedom and the lives of a thousand of his men. He soon died a prisoner at Baskama, northeast of the Kinneret.

Simon (Shimon, a.k.a. Thassi) (r. 142-134 BCE) Wise and patient, Simon succeeded Jonathan and lent his support to Demetrius II, who regained the Seleucid throne. Both Demetrius II and his successor Antiochus VII Sidetes recognized Simon as high priest, military governor, and ethnarch of the Jews. With their political independence restored, the Judeans approved Simon’s titles and his hereditary rule was established. Simon renewed the treaty with Rome and ushered in an era of stability and prosperity. He fortified and provisioned Judean fortresses, reconquered Jaffa, Beit Tzur, and Gezer, and expelled the die-hard holdouts from the Akra citadel in Jerusalem. “He established peace in the land, and Israel knew great joy. Each man sat under his own vine and fig tree, and there was none to make them afraid.” Tellingly, Rome and Sparta initiated the renewal of their treaties with Judea during Simon’s tenure. Like Jonathan before him, though, an aged Simon proved credulous in his dealings with the mercurial Seleucids. Antiochus VII Sidetes turned against the Jews, and Simon’s son-in-law Ptolemy, ambitious and currying favor, lured Simon and two of his sons into a deadly banquet at the desert fortress Dok, overlooking the plain of Jericho. Only Simon’s son Johanan Hyrcanus, who had not been present, survived to perpetuate Hasmonean rule.

I & II Maccabees make clear Judah’s central concern for the welfare of the Jewish People and for the common good. In warfare, Judah could act pre-emptively and vengefully: The Hammerer struck mightily. Yet he was also inclined to diplomacy and during his campaign in Gilead he offered or accepted peace terms whenever reasonable opportunities presented themselves. He invoked God and frequently recalled Jewish history to his fighters to hearten them against the always daunting odds. Above all, Judah recurrently encouraged and exhorted his forces to remember all that they were fighting for, and to trust in divine favor. He was motivated as “a man who had devoted himself entirely, body and soul, to the service of his countrymen, and had always preserved the love he had felt even in youth for his people…”.

Jonathan and Simon evinced skill on the battlefield and deftness in the political realm, conducting successful negotiations and assuming responsibilities while insisting on their national rights. They engaged in diplomacy when possible, waged war when necessary, and displayed loyalty according to their international treaties. Unlike Judah, however, Jonathan and Simon did not maintain the separation of power between political ruler and sacerdotal leader, and although the Hasmoneans were Jewish priests originally from Jerusalem and could trace their descent to the priestly Jehoiarib line, they were not next in the priestly line of succession. The rightful heir was Honya/Onias IV, who had previously fled from Judea after the accession of Alcimus (Eliakim) to the high priesthood so as to establish a temple in Leontopolis, Egypt circa 154 BCE. Thus the Hasmonean brothers incurred resentment both for assuming the high priesthood out of turn and for the worse offense of arrogating to themselves the de facto kingship (their familial successors Judah Aristobulus and Yannai Alexander would claim the de jure kingship), which properly belonged only to the descendants of King David. For these reasons, therefore, both the high priesthood and kingship of the Hasmoneans were to some extent tainted with illegitimacy, which engendered what is believed to be their negative depiction in the Essenes’ Dead Sea Scrolls. Nonetheless, Jonathan and Simon rebuilt and refortified Judean sites and earned the enduring gratitude and fealty of the Jews—fighters and civilians alike—even above and beyond that which Judah had enjoyed.

Not all who would lead were of the same caliber as The Brothers Maccabee; even in their own day, there were would-be heroes “not of the same mold as those to whom the deliverance of Israel had been entrusted.” Likewise, not all rebels were equally zealous for the Torah and ancestral ways: underlings who had accepted bribes from besieged adversaries were dealt with severely. Moreover, the popular Hasidean party (forerunners of the Pharisees) which had joined the Maccabean army were prematurely satisfied when religious freedom had been reclaimed, but the Maccabees understood that without their national sovereignty reestablished, Jewish freedoms would forever be subjected to the capricious whims of this or that foreign occupier.

When a hostile Antiochus VII Sidetes sent Athenobius to Jerusalem to reprimand Simon Maccabee for “occupying” Jaffa, Gezer, and the Akra citadel in Jerusalem, threatening war unless these were surrendered or steep extortion payments were made for them, Simon responded calmly with the wisdom for which his father Matityahu had commended him decades earlier: “It is not any foreign land that we have taken, nor any foreign property that we have seized, but the inheritance of our ancestors, for some time unjustly wrested from us by our enemies; now that we have a favorable opportunity, we are merely recovering the inheritance of our ancestors.”

During an epoch of deep mourning throughout Israel, when “the very land quaked for its inhabitants and the whole House of Jacob was clothed with shame,” The Brothers Maccabee arose to meet the challenge of their age and uphold the faith of their forebears, each making the ultimate sacrifice in order to restore freedom of religion and national independence to the Jewish People.

The Truth About Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria

For 50 years now, Israel has endured censure from global bodies and foreign countries for its construction and development of Jewish communities in the ancient Israelite tribal territories of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and western Menasheh, a.k.a. Judea & Samaria, referred to by the international community as the “West Bank”.

These Jewish communities are routinely condemned as illegal and illegitimate under international law and wielded as a political tool with which to tarnish Israel’s reputation. However, this position glaringly fails to take into account elementary history, Jewish indigeneity to the Land of Israel, and the applicability of international law.


Judea & Samaria form the heartland of the homeland of the Jewish Peoplethe Land of Israelwhich Jews have inhabited for 4,000 years.


  • Since the era circa 2000 BCE when the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs first settled and constructed in Shechem, Beth-El, Ai, and Hebron (a.k.a. Mamre/Kiryat Arba), Jews have been an autochthonous people throughout the area.
  • Judea & Samaria consist of the ancient Israelite tribal territories of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and west Menasheh.
  • Jewish predominance in the area ended as a result of the Jews being besieged and starved, slaughtered, sold into slavery, exiled, and expelled by their imperial Roman conquerors and occupiers following The Great Revolt (66-73 CE) and The Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE).
  • Arabs only became a major presence in the area following the Islamic conquests of 634-636 CE under Caliph Umar’s imperial Muslim armies led by Khalid ibn al-Walid, Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, Amr ibn al-A’as, and Shurahbeel ibn Hasana.


Judea & Samaria never constituted an independent Arab state under sovereign authority.


  • After being conquered by Sultan Selim I, these areas were controlled by the Ottoman Empire from 1516-1917, ruled as sub-districts of the province of Damascus from the imperial Ottoman capital at Istanbul.
  • Following the War of Independence of 1948, Jordan illegally occupied Judea & Samaria from 1948-1967 and prohibited Jews from living in these areas, contravening the Mandate for Palestine adopted by the League of Nations in 1922.


Jews finally reclaimed Judea & Samaria in the defensive Six Day War of 1967.


  • In June 1967, with belligerent Arab armies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq poised to exterminate Israel, Israel launched pre-emptive strikes and within a week had achieved stunning victories which included regaining its historic heartland.
  • As the aboriginal people of the Land of Israel, Israeli settlers are repatriating and repopulating the historic land of their forebears.


The Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV), an international treaty adopted in August 1949 in the wake of Nazi atrocities and signed by Israel in 1951, was designed to protect civilians and regulate the rules of war, not to adjudicate or arbitrate disputed territories.


  • From the normative Jewish/Israeli perspective, Judea & Samaria were areas liberated, not occupied, in 1967 and therefore Section III of the Fourth Geneva Convention does not pertain.
  • Jews possess the legal right to settle in Judea & Samaria.
  • Section III, Article 49 (1) of the GCIV states: “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.” ( Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949. Since Israel regained control over Judea & Samaria in 1967, locals Arabs have not been forcibly displaced and today they number approx. 2.78 million alongside approx. 371,000 Jews.
  • Section III, Article 49 (6) of the GCIV states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” (Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949. Jewish inhabitants of Judea & Samaria are not forcibly implanted therein by Israeli governments, but reside there voluntarily.
  • “The provisions of Article 49 (6) regarding forced population transfer to occupied foreign territory should not be seen as prohibiting the voluntary return of individuals to the towns and villages from which they, or their ancestors, had been forcibly ousted. Nor does it prohibit the movement of individuals to land which was not under the legitimate sovereignty of any state and which is not subject to private ownership. In this regard, it should be noted that Israeli settlements in the West Bank have been established only after an exhaustive investigation process, under the supervision of the Supreme Court of Israel, and subject to appeal, which is designed to ensure that no communities are established illegally on private land.” (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Israeli Settlements and International Law.” (Nov 30, 2015.
  • While Israel does not accept that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies de jure, it has stated that on humanitarian issues it will govern itself de facto by certain GCIV provisions.


Jewish communities in Judea & Samaria are explicitly recognized as subject to exclusive Israeli jurisdiction within bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.


  • These agreements affirm that settlements remain under Israel’s remit “pending the outcome of peace negotiations, and do not prohibit settlement activity.” (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Israeli Settlements and International Law.” Nov 30, 2015.


Numerous Israeli settlements have been re-established on sites formerly home to native Jewish populations, in an expression of the Jewish People’s profound historical and ongoing connection to its homeland, the cradle of Jewish civilization.


  • A significant number of settlements are situated in loci where previous Jewish communities were forcibly expelled by Arab armies or militia, or slaughtered, as was the case with the ancient Jewish community of Hebron in 1929.


The only illegal or unauthorized (under Israeli law) settlements in Judea & Samaria are those Jewish outposts established without Israeli building permits.


  • Outposts are small settlements usually consisting of less than 1,000 residents, some of which were established on state lands and others on private Arab land. Estimates of the number of outposts range from around 50 to over 100, depending on the classification of an outpost as a standalone entity or a settlement neighborhood.
  • In recent years the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has determined to retroactively legalize at least some outposts on state lands and to dismantle those on privately-owned Arab property.

Stage Two Statehood: Anticipating the State of Israel’s Coming of Age

Accounting for the State of Israel’s survival into the 21st century exercises the mind, given the external threats and internal deficiencies it has had to cope with from the outset. The state’s congenital defects are myriad and generally stem from the staunchly secular, socialist vision of many of its founders.

Israeli politicians regularly intone the mantra that Israel must be both Jewish and democratic, and most privilege democratic over Jewish. Yet Israel’s electoral system and parliamentary impotence make a mockery of democracy and excommunicate the state’s Judaic character.

Democracy entails elections whereby people are canvassed for consent, but Israel’s fixed party lists absolve members of the Knesset from accountability to their constituents. When the entire nation is a single constituency without candidate districts or voter ridings, the interests of the electorate are not represented and the purported representatives are beholden to party leaders, not voters. And the low electoral threshold means the Knesset is glutted with special interest parties cobbled together into coalition governments that thereby wield disproportionate national influence.

Moreover, prime ministers populate their cabinets with rival party leaders and elites, resulting in a plural Executive branch of government that constrains peremptory actions, often causing petty infighting among ministers and even the disintegration of governing coalitions. Furthermore, a cabinet constituted with MKs means there is no arm’s length separation of the Legislative and Executive branches of power. In addition, Israel still has no formal constitution, only a series of sporadically enacted Basic Laws, and does not accept the constitution of the Jewish peoplethe Torahas the foundation for its state charter. So much for the democratic nature of the State of Israel.

The Judaic nature of Israel is arguably in worse shape. Due to their entrenched secular, socialist ideologies, those steering the ship of state since its inception have largely refrained from instilling Judaic character into national institutions. Absent the compass of identity and the helm of heritage, over the decades Israel’s leadership has made numerous gratuitous concessions without reciprocation and has surrendered sacred lands and holy sites to its sworn enemies as part of the fatal charade known by the misnomer of “peace process”. Identity infirmity in a region crowded by strident neighbors mired in a medieval mentality is an invitation to annihilation, even if only through piecemeal accords for which Israel employs goodwill diplomacy and its foes ill-willed or martial diplomacy, i.e. warfare waged by other means. Without a profound and expansive understanding of Jewish patrimony, Jewish posterity is imperiled. Israel’s palpable absence of ethno-national authenticity makes it prone to foreign pressures and to misguidedly engaging in political self-immolation. 

There are remedies to Israel’s institutional ills, though reform will be inadequate where overhaul is necessary. One key remedy would be to establish a bicameral legislature: the lower house, the “Knesset” of 120 elected members, would possess an administrative and legislative capacity and be open to Jews and non-Jews alike, thereby enshrining the democratic aspect of the state, while the upper house, the “Great Sanhedrin” of 71 appointed members (rabbinical sages appointed based on merit), would possess a legislative and judicial capacity and be open only to the most respected Judaic legists, thereby ensuring the Judaic aspect of the state.

Re-instituting the Great Sanhedrin of 71 rabbinical sages as the legislature’s curule body, equivalent to a Senate or House of Lords, would bolster world Jewry’s sense of renewal and signal the supremacy of Israel’s Judaic character. Historically, the Great Sanhedrin was a council and court concerned foremost with religious law and adjudicating cases. Nonetheless it had different powers in different epochs, including political and legislative powers, and always maintained a legislative component even strictly within religious affairs, as in its issuing of takkanot (innovative laws) and gezeirot (preventative laws).

Re-establishing the Great Sanhedrin as a Senate would only modestly modulate its mandate. A reconstituted Great Sanhedrin would serve as a combined legislature and magistrature/judicature overseeing the Knesset, offering sager counsel to lawmakers of the lower house while acting as guardians of Israel’s Judaic nature in line with the rich teachings of the Torah, Talmud, and authoritative halakhic codes, in addition to operating within the discrete realm of Jewish religious affairs by issuing rulings and deciding cases of utmost import for world Jewry according to Judaic law. Both the upper and lower houses in Israel’s legislature would be able to introduce bills, but only a majority (whether simple, absolute, or extraordinary) of the Great Sanhedrin could enact a bill into law. An authoritative Great Sanhedrin, along with local courts (battei din), would also obviate the need for a Chief Rabbinate, an institution imported into the State of Israel from the Diaspora, which has proven all too often to be prone to controversy and scandal.

Historically, there was also a lesser Sanhedrin of 23 rabbinical jurists as well, and re-establishing this body as the supreme court of Israel would also remedy many ills currently plaguing the state. Israel’s current Supreme Court is the world’s activist court par excellence, overreaching into the purview of legislators at every possible opportunity and frequently negating the state’s Judaic content, thus threatening both Israel’s democratic and Judaic character. Such juridical over-extension is facilitated by the radically liberal Supreme Court’s ideological homogeneity and overt disregard for the will of the populace, much of which is religious or traditional. Unelected justices arrogating to themselves powers beyond their remit is a travesty of the first magnitude, an oligarchic threat to democracy.

In any nation the corporate good requires leadership that is coherent and resolute, which comprises a government, legislature, and judiciary rooted in the nation’s reason for being. Is Israel’s premise to be a democracy? Democracy is a method, not a vocation. It is important, but it cannot supersede Israel’s Judaic substance (in which many “democratic” elements are already enshrined). A nation’s allies extol strength and its adversaries exploit weakness. Resolving Israel’s identity crisis domestically would additionally go a long way in strengthening its international posture.

Stage One of Israel’s statehoodpolitical Zionisminvolved the preliminary in-gathering of exiles, the establishment of rudimentary national institutions, and fighting for survival in armed conflicts with neighboring aggressors. In Stage One, land and people (nation and nation-state) remarried, but the marriage has yet to be consummated.

Now pushing 70, Israel should confidently segue into Stage Two of its statehood, which entails a Judaic renascence so that the nation-state of the Jews naturally evolves into a Judaic state, a polity proudly embodying the exemplary morals, ethics, values, virtues, and principles of Judaism.

One of the ideal ways to do this would be to introduce a Declaration of Restoration, sequel to the Declaration of Independence, that would not be merely symbolic, but would entail a pragmatic agenda comprising long overdue measures:

  1. the enshrinement of a constitution governing the Judaic state, to whose letter and spirit all other laws must conform, which would formally replace the existing Basic Laws while incorporating them, with or without amendments, as necessary;
  2. the re-establishment of the Great Sanhedrin council of 71 rabbinical sages as the upper chamber in a bicameral legislature and the abolition of the Chief Rabbinate;
  3. the re-establishment of the Sanhedrin tribunal of 23 jurists to replace the Supreme Court; 
  4. the administrative redivision of Israel into electoral regions/provinces, counties, and wards/ridings/boroughs, from which Knesset members would be elected by constituent citizens to whom members would be politically and professionally accountable, including via a formal recall provision;
  5. the final indigenization of institutions such as the Jewish Agency (merged into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Immigration & Absorption) and Jewish National Fund (merged into the Israel Land Authority & Israel Nature & Parks Authority).

While today hybrid Israelpart Hebraic republic, part Judaic stateremains the Middle East’s target of choice, it may yet progress into a self-respecting, ergo respected, state, fulfilling its premise as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation and its purpose of serving as a light to the nations.

ISRAEL AT A CROSSROADS: Hebraic Republic vs. Judaic State

Hebraic Republic: A secular democracy with a Jewish majority.

Judaic State: A polity (with a Jewish majority) based on Judaism.


Recently, Israel’s High Court of Justice decided in favor of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality in its effort to expand venues open to the public on Shabbat, permitting mini-markets—164 convenience stores and kiosks—to operate on the Jewish Sabbath.

Israel’s Interior Minister called the ruling a “serious blow to the holy Shabbat and the character of the Jewish people”; the Religious Affairs Minister, referring to the High Court justices, averred that “they have no idea what the value of Shabbat is in the Jewish state….Unfortunately, in the Jewish state, the High Court has brutally trampled the Sabbath, and will not be forgiven”; and the Health Minister decried “the continuation of vulgar legal meddling with the values of religion and religious law”.

The landmark ruling sharpens into focus the paramount matter of the State of Israel’s character.

The Better Question

 If today the perennial question for Israel enthusiasts is, “What is the State of Israel first, Jewish or democratic?”, then the answer should be, “Wrong question”.

Staging a tension between these two attributes presents a false choice, a confused comparison of apples and oranges. But great consequence attaches to the fine distinction between a state that is Jewish (of Jews) and a state that is Judaic (of Judaism). In modern layman’s terms, should the Third Jewish Commonwealth, the State of Israel, be kosher or kosher-style?

Happily, there is an intrinsic incompatibility neither between democracy and Jewry nor between democracy and Judaism (which, in fact, features several important principles that we nowadays identify with Western liberal democracy).

Yet a number of frequently amplified (because overtly controversial) Jewish authors, including some careful to self-identify as Zionist, who regard the Israeli-Palestinian conflict effectively as a morally-equivalent agon between Jewish irredentists vs. Arab revanchists, would have the State of Israel exist as a Hebraic republic, which is to say as a secular democracy like any other except for its Jewish majority, and perhaps with the additional caveat of Hebrew as the official national language. The latter stipulations should not mislead anyone into believing that a Hebraic republic would be anything other than a state of its citizens, rather than a nation-state.

Lucid thinkers will have little difficulty recognizing the undeniable dangers of such intellectual malpractice: demographically, a Hebraic republic could in short order become an Arabic republic, governed and dominated by Arabs by virtue of their greater numbers, which means Jews would once again become a minority and no longer control their own destiny or ensure their safety (with the Hebrew language, by the by, swiftly going the way of all things). So the idea of a Hebraic republic, a.k.a. a Jewish state, is not merely deflationary with respect to traditional Jewish aspirations, but antithetic to the State of Israel’s raison d’etre and pragmatically self-eradicating.

Why would any Jew sound of mind propound such a notion? Frankly, those advancing the idea are often diasporic Jews from English-speaking countries (America, Canada, South Africa, etc.) who would remake the State of Israel in their own image and likeness, more suited to their tastes and ideologies which are invariably secular, socialist, multicultural, and radical. In specific cases, where the proposers hail from binational hotbeds such as Canada’s “distinct society” of Quebec or the onetime apartheid South Africa, there is evident historical-political baggage informing their calculi; sensitized consciences would have them steer the State of Israel toward maximal integration of minorities and the goal of ultimate cohesion at all costs, thereby immunizing the country against outside criticism, particularly criticism regarding human rights issues. Certain proponents of the Hebraic republic paradigm, for whom settlements in the heartland of the Jewish ancestral homeland are Israel’s addictive cocaine, for whom Judaism is somehow supremacist, are die-hard Marxists willfully disregarding the memo of a generation ago confessing that communism’s praxis was a gross failure and its theory discredited.

Some Israeli Knesset members, doctrinaires and politiques past and present, have likewise promoted Hebraic republicanism. Due to the particulars of their upbringing, they have primarily identified themselves as Israeli, not as Jewish, and as secular atheists or agnostics intentionally disinherited their religio-spiritual heritage, preferring instead to live within an ordinary country of no specific people, with no especial destiny, whose history might as well have commenced in 1948.

 Déjà Vu All Over Again

As a people, Jews have seen this story before, more than once, in fact. Hebraic republicans share much in common with the Hellenist Jews who lived in Judea during the Hellenistic era (332-63 BCE), who began by attending the gymnasium and hiding their circumcisions, then escalated to sedition, repeatedly betraying their country and countrymen to foreign imperialists until the successful Maccabean Rebellion. Hebraic republicans are of the same ilk, too, as the German founders of Reform Judaism in the early 19th century who wished to remake the religion of their forefathers and foremothers in their own image and likeness to suit their newly enlightened tastes, for whom observing differently as private individuals was not enough, who instead wanted all Jews to observe differently and despite that drastically different observance to nonetheless be considered practitioners of genuine Judaism, notwithstanding all evidence to the contrary. The likes of all these engender a greater appreciation in traditional Jews for Christians, who at some point, at least, had the honesty of character and intellectual coherence to realize that what they were promoting was so far from the original instantiation that they would have to become a new and separate thing, and not pretend that they were still dwelling in the same time-honored tent as their forebears.

But the most important thing Hebraic republicans do not comprehend—or refuse to accede to—is the original reason for being of a state established by Jews: to constitute themselves in the Promised Land as a godly people whose mission is to attest to the divine and under divine sovereignty to perfect the world.


The Nature of a Judaic State


What, then, is a Judaic state supposed to look like? Is the State of Israel a Judaic state?

Fundamentally, a Judaic state must be inspired and guided by the constitution of the people of Israel: the Tanakh (Torah/Pentateuch-Nevi’im/Prophets-Ketuvim/Hagiographa), as interpreted by the Talmud and later generations of Sages. The Tanakh is taken and laid as the foundation of the structure that becomes the Jewish nation-state, not merely a state of its citizens. The Tanakh itself, however, cannot be the verbatim constitution of a Judaic state for two imperative reasons:


  1. a) The Tanakh prescribes social legislation, emphasizing the societal, not the political; it determines the makeup of Israelite society, not of an Israelite state, and is primarily concerned with religious principles, not political procedures. When it comes to the practical political affairs of electoral systems, methods of representation, legislative procedures and protocols, etc., the Tanakh is disinterested if not uninterested.


  1. b) The Written Law (Tanakh) was always traditionally mediated (except over time for sectarian Samaritans, Sadducees, and Karaites) by the Oral Law (Talmud), and so cannot be applied literally as is. Only a Tanakh interpreted by exegetical Sages over the course of the millennia could be deemed accurate, authentic, and authoritative.


The Tanakh’s intent is to provide a divinely devised blueprint for the construction of an ideal society, and the very fact that it focuses on fostering a society and not a polity suggests that the society is the core edifice, the state merely the scaffolding. A people requires a form of governance, not necessarily a state. This fine distinction is precisely what allowed the Jewish people to survive its many lengthy exiles as a nation sans its nation-state.

With few exceptions, such as the convening of an assembly of 70 tribal elders and the appointment of magistrates over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, the Tanakh leaves open the configuration of civil affairs at the operational level. Clearly, though, the nascent Jewish nation was led by singular figures: Moses, then Joshua. Should a Judaic state, then, be governed as a monarchy? Ideally not, but perhaps. Should it function as a democracy? Not necessarily, but probably. Democratic elements were enshrined in Judaism for nearly a millennium before classical Greeks devised their embryonic and highly limited form of democracy: popular representation, separation of powers (not to be confused with separation of religion and politics), decentralization and delegation of responsibility, an independent judiciary, women’s property rights, and so forth.

Put simply, a Judaic state is democratic because Judaic.


Historical Recap of Judaic Statehood

In its capacity as a nomothetic pandect, the Tanakh is replete with divinely ordained legislative edicts. Israelite society during the Exodus was governed by what the Jewish priestly historian Joseph ben Matityahu (Josephus Flavius) would in the Roman era, in his refutative Against Apion, term in Greek a “theokratia” (theocracy). God alone was the head of state (initially, more precisely, of the Israelite state-in-the-making). Moses—prophet, lawgiver, faithful shepherd—was politically the overworked head of government, an ecclesiastical authority of one, at least for starters. Bottom line: God was the ruler, Moses the mouthpiece.

Was this intended to be the political ideal for Israel? Joshua succeeded Moses under the same arrangement. Then the period of the Judges arrived, in which tribal elders who were regional notables arose to govern parts of the Land of Israel, in all likelihood several of them reigning concurrently in discrete districts as the popular need demanded. They were kinglets in all but name; one of them, the short-lived Avimelekh ben Gidon, assumed the royal title to boot. But then the tribal federacy that was Israel recognized the necessity for a national monarch who would rule them like other nations were ruled, in a united and stable polity better positioned to advance the national interests and defend against or deter its foes.

Thus did constitutional monarchy become a permanent feature in Israel and endure throughout the United Monarchy of Saul, David, and Solomon, as well as the foreshortened Kingdoms of Israel (d. 722 BCE) and Judah (d. 586 BCE). At times Israel existed as a Judaic state where Judaism was the law of the land—e.g. during the reigns of David and Solomon, during the traditional revivals of Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah—though most often Judaic law was observed in its breach by idolatrous sovereigns and backsliding inhabitants influenced by heathen neighbors.


Autonomy Replaces Sovereignty

From the return from Babylonian Captivity (538 BCE), and for the next 434 years, the Jewish people had no king. Jews were autonomous but not sovereign in the Persian era (539-332 BCE) and in the aforementioned Hellenistic era until persecution under the Seleucid (Syrian-Greek) ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes (r. 175-164 BCE) and his immediate successors. The Maccabean Rebellion restored sovereignty and established the Hasmonean dynasty of priestly rulers who eventually assumed the title of king or queen. Inasmuch as they ruled according to Judaic tradition, the Maccabee brothers (Judah, Jonathan, Shimon) reestablished, and the Hasmonean dynast Johanan Hyrcanus preserved, a Judaic state. The warlike King Yannai Alexander (Alexander Jonathan), by contrast, veered markedly from a traditionalist approach and cannot be considered to have sustained a Judaic state. The Hasmonean civil war between his sons Judah Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II was taken advantage of by Rome, which annexed Judea to its burgeoning empire, and once again Jewish sovereignty was forfeited. Judaic states briefly arose anew, however, in both the late Hellenistic era under Queen Shlomtzion (Salome Alexandra; 76-67 BCE), and in the Roman era under King Agrippa I (41-44 CE) then Shimon Bar Kokhba (132-135 CE). These were indeed golden ages for the Jews, especially considering what fateful events followed in their wake.

Fully 1,813 years of excruciating exile ensued for Jews as a people, a stateless nation with but a vestige continually lingering under dire conditions in its occupied nation-state. For almost two millennia Jews were dispersed and subjugated by foreign peoples, at worst at the mercy of violent others, at best guests of volatile hosts. It is, although, glaringly ignorant to assert that Jews exited the stage of history, and even Jewish polities emerged over the millennia in numerous surprising and far-flung locales: Adiabene (Assyria), Himyar (Yemen), Aures Mountains (Algeria), Khazaria (Caucasia), Semien and Sallamt (Ethiopia), Birobidzhan (Russia), and elsewhere. Some of these were not only Jewish states but Judaic states as well, although none of them comprised a majority of world Jewry nor were any in the ancestral homeland, the Land of Israel.


Importing An Alien Idea Born in Exile

Since the conversion of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century CE and the Edict of Thessalonica (380 CE) making Christianity the imperial religion, for centuries power was vested in an individual whose jurisdiction extended across borders physical and political: the Bishop of Rome, who was the fatherly Pope and priestly Pontiff (derived from the Roman high priest’s title of Pontifex Maximus). Separation of church and state was deemed necessary and preferable due to corruption of the Roman Catholic Church and egregious abuses of its jealously guarded powers. But this sacred cow of a concept should not be sacrosanct for non-Christians since it is a foreign import and is not universally relevant across time or space. Especially a Judaic state, whose original incarnations hark back to the ancient and classical epochs, should not today be artificially constrained by the dogmatic division between religious and secular domains in much later, non-Jewish commonwealths.

Christendom lacked the crucial separation of powers or leadership roles that Judaism featured from the outset: the prophet or prophetess was the moral/spiritual leader, the high priest the sacerdotal/pedagogical leader, and the judge, king, or queen the political/military leader. Each kept the other in check. While the high priest was the primary religious figure, all three would be correctly described as religious leaders and their duties often impinged on one another. Divine law incorporated religious, civil, and military matters. There was no such thing as a secular leader because there was no such thing as a secular state: priests were authorized to judge and to appoint tribal elders to adjudicate cases as well; the high priest assisted in the political task of allocating the Israelites’ tribal territories; kings consulted prophets, sometimes even by venturing to entreat them, to ascertain the divine will vis-à-vis political and military affairs; the king was adjured to indite a personal copy of the Torah from that of the priests and Levites and commanded to keep it close at hand and read from it daily all his life in order to instill humility, reverence for the divine, and obedience to divine law. Initially, the king was subservient to the high priest, who represented the Torah, but was later, in the wake of Eli the Priest’s wayward sons, given the right to appoint the high priest. Whereas priesthood and kingship relied on lineage, prophecy did not.

After the last prophet, Malachi, and the advent of Ezra the Scribe, a second Moses, the rabbinical Sages inherited the moral/spiritual leadership role of the prophets and expropriated the teaching role, biblically ordained for high priests and priests generally, during the Persian era. Thenceforward, in the absence of Jewish kings and prophets, high priests were compensated with increasing political clout, though this arrangement ceased with the destruction of the Second Temple. Since the subsequent fall of Bar Kokhba’s Judaic state in 135 CE, Judaism survived only by virtue of the preservation of the Tanakh and Talmud, all the while its practitioners consensually governed communally by a “sage-ocracy” in which merit (comprising breadth and depth of learning, wisdom, and rectitude) reigned.

As an idée fixe, separation of religion and politics is perhaps apropos nowadays for a multicultural/pluralistic secular democracy, a state of its citizens from all religious backgrounds or from none. In reality, though, even such ostensibly irreligious states routinely accept religion-creep, whether in their coinage, emblems, anthems, or leaders’ keynote addresses. But if Israel is not meant to establish a godless republic for statehood’s sake, then separation of religion and politics plainly does not pertain and will not avail.

As a polity with a peculiar heritage, the State of Israel is special; it requires a religious dimension and a political dimension, and at issue is the optimal orchestration and choreography of these complementary elements.

Today the State of Israel is a hybrid commonwealth, partly Hebraic, partly Judaic, no longer staunchly socialist as were many of its founders and national institutions. Both those who would have a Hebraic republic and those who long for a Judaic state are ready to herald the dawn of the State of Israel’s next stage; they only dispute the preferred nature of the nation’s evolution. So the question becomes one of direction: which way is Israel headed? Towards a Hebraic republic without special premise or purpose, or towards fulfilling the age-old promise of the Jewish people?

Anyone who earnestly yearns for a Hebraic republic is in luck, because one exists: the United States of America. Its patriot founders established, and their Puritan predecessors envisaged, a democratic commonwealth based on the biblical principles of freedom, justice, equality of persons, law and order, moral-ethical conduct, and the sanctity of life. At one point Hebrew was considered for the official national language of their New World start-up, and Benjamin Franklin proposed that Moses grace the emblematic Great Seal of the United States. The United States of America was imagined and realized in large part by devout Biblicists and fervent Hebraists of the Christian persuasion; Jews for whom this suffices should and do seek fulfillment within its borders.

But a Judaic state America is not, and was not meant to be: America strives to be exceptional; Israel was designed to be exemplary.


Israel’s Covenantal Character

Notionally, the polity of the Jews was designed to be sui generis: Judaic in its premise; democratic in its process. The objective of the Jewish people establishing an independent, sovereign commonwealth in the biblical epoch, and reestablishing the same in the Hasmonean period, was not to add just another ethnic nation-state to the bustling Near East, but to found the framework for a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Should the point of the Jewish people reestablishing a commonwealth in the modern era be to add just another secular democracy to the world, essentially identical to every other?

Whereas the advent of the Third Jewish Commonwealth in 1948 was seen as a remarkable resurrection by gentiles and secular persons, for most traditional Jews it signaled no less than divine validation and Judaic vindication, a triumph over history’s arbitrary vagaries and vicious vicissitudes. 

As of 2017, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, there are 14.411 million Jews worldwide; the largest global Jewish community of 6,484,000 or roughly 45% lives in Israel. Most Jews the world over—hardly renowned for their eagerness to agree—can nonetheless minimally assent to the following: Jews must be sovereign; they must control their own destiny and assure their own individual safety and national security; they must be able to observe Judaism freely, to the extent that they feel compelled to do so. With respect to the State of Israel, a polity that is foundationally and structurally more Judaic, and not less, that is true to itself by inheriting its heritage, and not abjuring it, is the best way to achieve all of the above criteria and strengthen Jewish identity, thereby serving the wider world as a light unto the nations.