Q & A with Daniel Gordis on The Promise of Israel
"I wrote The Promise of Israel because I felt it important that people the world over realize that what ultimately happens to Israel won’t just be about Israel." Daniel Gordis
Q. Why, in particular, do you believe evangelical Christians should read this book?
A. Evangelical Christians have long believed that God’s plan for Israel will ultimately benefit the entire world. My argument in The Promise of Israel is that by changing our perspective and seeing Israel not as being stubbornly resistant to universalism, but rather as a model that other culturally centered states might follow, the entire world will, indeed, benefit. My purpose in writing this book, as with every book I write, is to stimulate conversation and to present a different aspect of the Jewish state. In reading The Promise of Israel my hope is that more Christians will realize how important it is that they stand strong in their beliefs and at the same time glean a better understanding of the issues, which hopefully will strengthen their position and help them explain that position to others.
Q. What are you hoping your readers will take away from The Promise of Israel?
A. If I could achieve only one goal with this book, it would be to expand the conversation to include a third option: an open and free democratic government running a country in which a particular people’s heritage and religious traditions are accorded profound importance but are also asked to be in dialogue with the West. What I have in mind is what is called the nation-state or ethnic nation-state:
Q. Do you think there is any chance that Palestine might actually do as you suggest and look to Israel as a model to copy from instead of an enemy that must be ousted?
A. While it is possible that the Palestinians could do with a sovereign Palestine what the Jews have done with Israel, whether they will or not I do not know. But I do think that as the world debates the Middle East and as Israel is disparaged for what many think is its role in delaying Palestinian statehood, the international community would do well to ask this question: What will the Palestinians do with a state? Will they turn the bitterness of the difficult century they have endured into a thirst for vengeance, or will they, like the Israelis, sanctify the memory of their losses by energetically building for the future? I do not know what they will do, but I pray that they will embrace the possibility of a better future for them and the entire region.
Palestinians must now decide how they will balance a commemoration of the losses of the past with a drive to create a radically different future, and they must choose between the worlds of the Ottoman Turks and the British, between the models of Jordan and Israel. Will they use sovereignty to create a Palestinian version of what Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and many other Arab states already are, or will they embrace Israel’s model of cultural, moral and intellectual dialogue with the West? Will they replicate the closed Arab countries that already exist, or will they create a state that might transform the Arab world? Only time will tell.
Q. Why do you feel it so vital that Israel remain a sovereign state?
A. Without Israel, what would remain that would make Jewishness anything more than an
anemic form of ethnic memory of the sort that long-ago immigrants like most young Polish Americans or Irish Americans now have? What else in contemporary Jewish life provides an anchor for Jewish engagement, discussion, pride and activism? Throughout the history of mankind, Israel has mattered.
To be sure, what happens to Israel most directly affects the Jews who live there. But the reach is much, much broader than that. For Christians, Jerusalem is a spiritual capital. Jewish sovereignty over Israel represents far more than simple politics and the trading in of tradition for a more homogenized world. The Jewish state of Israel is the embodiment of Scripture. It is a steadfast reminder that God’s Holy Word is as vital and constant today as it was in the beginning.