At first, this may seem a bit strange. Even totally whacked out. But if you are intimately aware of what is happening, what Saudi Prince al-Faisal told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd actually makes some sense. To put it in a sentence, al-Faisal told Dowd about the enlightened ‘liberal’ trends in Saudi Arabia, and compared them to Jewish conservative ‘extremism’ in Israel.
If we are speaking in purely objective terms and have a static picture view of reality, al-Faisal sounds nothing less than insane. Saudia Arabia is without a doubt the most religiously extreme country on the face of the earth. It is illegal to be anything but Muslim there, and no other houses of worship besides Mosques are allowed to be built. The treatment of women is absolutely horrid, since they can’t so much as leave their houses without a male escort, and they have virtually no human rights besides being allowed to breathe free of charge.
Israel is, of course, a modern liberal democracy (more or less) where people can actually worship whatever and however they want. What a quaint idea. So how can al-Faisal be so nutty as to actually say that Israel is an ultra-conservative ultra-nationalist bastion of Jewish extremism while Saudi Arabia is as enlightened and liberal as the spirit of Thomas Jefferson himself?
What Faisal was actually talking about were trends. Saudi Arabia, in his words, is “moving in the direction of a liberal society, while Israel is moving into a more religiously oriented culture.” Now, never mind what’s actually going on in Saudi Arabia. I couldn’t possibly care less about that dry desert oil swamp. What’s important is that even the Arabs are starting to understand that fundamental change is just starting to grip the Israeli Jewish consciousness, and Faisal understands it even before the Jews do.
Recent polls in Israel make it quite clear that the Jewish Nation is starting to wake up and regain a sense of itself. Over 80% of Israeli Jews fast on Yom Kippur, almost everyone lights a Chanukkah Menorah, Mezuzahs are put up on basically every house, Brit Milah is pretty much universal, the percentage of those who abstain from Chametz and eat matzah on Pesach is in the 70?s, and over half consider themselves Jewish before Israeli.
People, if not generally aware of this, are at least not all that surprised when they hear it. The Jewish people are moving from a collective consciousness of “we must be accepted by the nations,” to “we are actually separate from the nations.” This is already happening, slowly, but the tipping point will be reached soon, and when it does, I predict an avalanche of Jewish national catharsis will be released in a huge wave.
Al-Faisal is not the only one who sees what’s happening. There are some perceptive political commentators in Washington DC that see it, too. Consider Bernie Quigley, who recently wrote this in “The Hill,” a publication that reaches the steps of the US Congress:
One writer, responding to last week’s article on Israel, convincingly made the point that Israel is about to undergo fundamental change with the rise of Moshe Feiglin and his Jewish Leadership faction within Likud, which he says are on the verge of taking control of Likud at the upcoming Central Committee election. This will be the next-to-last step in moving Israel toward a Jewish State and independence from America. Feiglin would become the first religious/Zionist prime minister of Israel.
Meaning, the national consciousness is beginning to spill over into the political arena. Faisal said it this way, “What is happening in Israel is the opposite; you are moving into a more religiously oriented culture and into a more religiously determined politics and to a very extreme sense of nationhood.”
Mostly right I’d say, but where Faisal is wrong is that Israel isn’t moving to a religiously determined politics. It’s moving towards a Jewishly determined politics, and there’s a big difference, because Western thought stems primarily from Jewish thought. Let me explain by quoting Quigley once again:
Feiglin, an Israeli-born military officer who will speak in New York in two weeks, has a gritty, authentically Jewish appeal in a state where leadership has long shown greater natural affinity for New York’s West Side than the Holy Land. And he does have a way with words. “The only time I will ever remove my yarmulke,” he has said, “is when the state of Israel demands that it be worn.”
“We are breaking away from the shackles of the past,” Prince Faisal said. “We are moving in the direction of a liberal society.”
Good for Saudi Arabia, if it’s true. As for Israel, I’d say she is breaking away from the shackles of the present, and moving in the direction of a Jewish society.