Dear TEE community,

This past Tuesday marked a subdued seventy-sixth Israel Independence Day. For many American Jews, the continuing war in Gaza has compelled us to face a contradiction, present from the early days of the Zionist movement, between Israel as a Jewish state, reflecting Jewish values and practice, and Israel as a state for the Jews, a guarantor of Jewish security and preeminence.

For most of Jewish history, our people were without political or military power. In contrast to Christians and Muslims, we did not have to grapple with the ethical challenges of making war or conquering other people. I count myself as among those Jews who have been slow to truly acknowledge and comprehend the implications of how the past three-quarters of a century have changed that equation.

My own attempts to think about these issues more deeply have led me to learn more about what Jewish authors past and present have to say about what it means to have a Jewish state. During this week’s shabbat services, I will be sharing some of these writings. I hope that our conversation might enrich and clarify our own thoughts on these complicated and difficult, but vitally significant, questions.

Rabbi Drorah Setel