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Citizenship Based on Torah

Part IV: Understand It

This will serve as the fourth segment in a series of articles dealing with citizenship in Israel. In Part I we discussed the demographic dilemma, that there are almost as many Arabs as Jews in the Holy Land, and what this means for Israel. In Part II we discussed the Torah’s Position, reading passages from the Books of Exodus and Numbers. In Part III I offered you a glimpse into my Hebrew book, “The Constitution of Israel” ("חוקת ישראל"), posting a section of that proposed Constitution which deals with citizenship. In this part we will discuss the philosophical aspects of citizenship, before delving into those proposed Constitutional clauses and discussing their practical application.

The main idea, which in my opinion is a prerequisite for having our own state, is that we must first define and delineate its people, the citizens. In the ancient world nations were defined by families and tribal connections. The citizens of those states traced themselves back to their progenitors, as Israel does to its forefathers, the children of Israel (Jacob) being the Israelites. This definition has persisted throughout much of history, exceptions being made in the cases of imperialism, when empires wished to absorb and assimilate other peoples. Even today most nations have a general consensus as to who constitutes their natives, them usually sharing a common origin and being genetically related. They usually also share a common ideology or religion. For example, when you think of the French people, you don’t think of the Algerians and other Arabs. They make up an ever-growing percentage of the population of France, but they have different names and for good reasons.

The same thinking applies to the Jews of France. They might have French citizenship and they might have deep roots going back for generations, but they have a distinct identity and history which separates them from the French people. They could be leaders of French thought, enterprise, culture and art, and they could be political leaders and lawmakers in the French government and parliament, but their Jewish identity and birth separates them from the French people in ways that are hard to ignore. Even if they lived in what is today France long before there existed a distinct French identity, they could still not be considered natives of the land, for their roots and history trace back to other parts. Their identity had already been formed before and persisted, such that they were already marked as Jews and Israel, and this truth cannot be denied or forgotten in the presence of people who know them. They are Jews, clear and simple; it is known and accepted.

Although sometimes people do assimilate and lose their identity. How else could the French have emerged from the Gauls, Romans and Germanic peoples who gave birth to them? They speak a language that is based on the Roman Latin. They adopted the Roman religions and then became Christians. The same applies to those Jews who have assimilated and been lost from Israel; like a person who once had a name and an identity but then woke up a different person in a different land, as with amnesia, because he converted and was adopted by other people, and then his children were raised to be something else. Had Moses suffered the same fate and been absorbed into the Egyptian nation whose princess had adopted him, who knows what would have become of him or of Israel? There are many Jews who have been lost to the nations and there are also converts who have become a part of Israel. But this only clarifies the distinction, that whether you’re here or there, you’re not in the middle.

A French Jew with French citizenship, even if he were to be anointed king of France, if he’s Jewish he is not a Christian like most Frenchmen, and if he’s a Jew he is not a French native. He could be a great leader of the French people and bring them great renown, but he remains a Jew. Should the French turn against the Jews they will likely turn against him as well, or should the Jews turn against the French, he will be pushed against the wall. So long as his two identities remain aligned in spirit, he may succeed in balancing between the roles he plays, but should the two conflict, he will be pressed to one side. For example, say that the French eat pork with every meal, the Jew will feel out of place in their presence. Or say that the French are expected to work on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, the Jew will face a serious dilemma. He must either severely limit his Jewishness to become more like them or be singled out and isolated from them.

But what if the French became superstitious and adopted a new practice? What if all French citizens were required to bow down to or kiss the cross of Jesus upon seeing it, or at least three times a day? What if they believed that not doing so would bring a plague upon France or a calamity, and anyone who neglected to do this would be to blame? Calamities happen all the time, and the Jews would be directly held responsible. Even for a priest who sodomizes children, the Jews could be held accountable. It sounds unreasonable, but Jews are used to hearing such claims. Such a belief even resembles a time proven Teaching that is the main theme of the Hebrew Bible and a tenet of the Jewish faith. It is a Teaching that implies the following: If a Jew will eat ham with the French or work with them on the Sabbath, he will be held accountable for the calamities that befall his nation, and if he goes so far as to kiss the cross, he is as good as dead.

In present times, the Jews of France live peaceably with the French because both sides are accommodating. Instead, they have problems with the local Arabs, although it should be the opposite. The Arabs are our cousins, and they are a minority in France like us. They (the Muslims) are circumcised like the Jews, they don’t eat pork, they don’t have a trinity of God, and they don’t bow down to a human figure on a cross. We should be able to get along with them in France, but we can’t, because our peoples are at war in the Holy Land. We are at war because we are two distinct and incompatible nations, and we cannot live together in the Land of Israel. Our God will not accommodate their ways and their people will not tolerate us.

To be at war with one another, even across borders, in places such as France, and with Arabs who are mostly Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian, and who are unaffiliated with the Arabs in Israel, is really quite remarkable. The Arabs themselves are quite remarkable because they are a largely conquered, converted, and assimilated peoples. The Egyptians are not really Arabs and yet they are associated with the Arab nation. Most of the Arabs are Muslims, but there are also Christian Arabs, and even Jewish Arabs, though very few remain. The Arab identity predates the advent of Islam and they are even mentioned by the Hebrew prophets, for example Isaiah (13:20) and Jeremiah (3:2), as nomadic tribes. They were nomads who adopted a new religion beginning in 613 CE and emerged out of the Arabian desert to conquer many peoples and form a vast religious and political empire. That empire did not last long, but its identity persists, preserved largely by Islam and its religious texts.

The Arabs represent an imperial force and an empire that has fallen long ago, like Rome. Both persisted long past their time due in part to the religions they adopted, Christianity and Islam, monotheistic religions, like Judaism, tied in many ways to the Eternal God, Who has Granted them a renewed lease on life. Hence the Jews, who were the ashes of Israel scattered to the wind, get to fight the Arabs, who are the ghosts of a fallen empire, in far away and unrelated places such as France, where they curse each other in Vulgar Latin. And while all of this is very fascinating, and we now have a slightly better understanding of the French and the Arabs, what we should be discussing and defining is the Jews. We will do so in the next article, when we discuss how those ashes of Israel, scattered to the wind, should be restored as exclusive citizens of a great and holy nation, in accordance with the Torah.

Yshai Amichai is a father of six and the author of the Hebrew book, “The Constitution of Israel” ("חוקת ישראל"), and the English book, “The Upright One,” both of which will be made available to the public soon. You may contact him by email: yshaia@gmail.com