In his last post, Daniel Gordis wrote about the discourse surrounding Israel as a conflict of ideas about the nation-state. His blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
In my previous blog, I wrote that I hoped that “The Promise of Israel” might give new shape and direction to the conversation we’re all having about Zionism. That seems like a tall order for a book, I know. But we’ve become too cynical about the power of books and ideas to change the world. The Promise of Israel probably will not change the world; of that, I’m pretty sure. But books have done that in the past, and ideas are still formidable weapons. Our community of writers and readers ought to remember that.
In an era of nuclear weapons that can destroy the planet several times over, the notion that ideas are the most formidable weapon we have in our possession may sound strange. But it is true. Many of the world’s most important revolutions were spurred by a book or its central idea. Karl Marx wrote “The Communist Manifesto” in 1848; by 1905, Russia was rocked by revolutions that peaked in 1917 and overthrew the Czar. Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote his “Social Contract” in 1762; the French Revolution followed a mere 27 years later. John Locke wrote “Two Treatises of Government” in 1690; less than a century later, the American Revolution changed the course of modern history. Theodor Herzl wrote “The Jewish State” in 1896, and 52 years later, David Ben-Gurion stood in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948 and declared Israel’s independence. And all that those people did, essentially, was to write books and disseminate ideas.