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by Obadiah Shoher


Israeli society is deeply split. On one hand, many believe that preserving Eretz Israel within the boundaries of the Promised Land is the Jew's utmost obligation. That opinion is valid, since it is based on Torah, and some degree of adherence to the scroll is that which makes Jews Jews. Others, mostly secular-minded but some deeply religious as well, believe that no territory is worth the life of a single Jew, since the commandments were given for life, not for death.

Both parties have many other valid arguments. While adherents of the Eretz argue that only acquiring all the Promised Land fulfills the nation's destiny, their opponents just as reasonably point to the practical impossibility of attaining that goal in the foreseeable future after Sinai went back to the Egyptians. Conquering Jordan and Iraq to the Euphrates is a long way off. If the covenant promise cannot be fulfilled now, why kill a lot of people and spend a lot of money for the territories, which have no value in themselves and, except Sinai, lack significant defense value? Opponents of the Eretz-now goal believe that economic growth unhindered by war would be a better source of national pride, prevent emigration, and attract Diaspora Jews to Israel.

The Israeli government vacillates between those views. One cabinet builds a tremendously expensive Bar-Lev line to protect Sinai forever; another gives up the land, biblically and strategically important, for paper guarantees. One cabinet encourages and finances settlements; the next dismantles them. Such wild swings of policy indicate the relative balance between two visions of Israeli goals and the impossibility of bringing them together.

That is only natural, since anybody's worldview is just a set of axioms. Some people believe that the size of the Holy Land the Jews control is more important, while others believe that preserving life and its quality take precedence. It is almost futile to argue about axioms, which are matters of conviction.

A country, however, cannot have two mutually exclusive policies. Under pro-expansion governments, even those who do not want more territory have to fight and die for it, as well as suffer economically. Under conciliatory governments, biblical partisans watch helplessly as the government gives land away. In the long run, nobody is happy with the government. But all involved want a coherent leadership that shares their ideals, and that goal can be achieved.

In ancient times, two Jewish entities, Israel and later Galilee, formed an economically viable, cosmopolitan state. Judea, centered in the barren hills, was content with a subsistence economy, jealously guarded religious purity, and a national consciousness. In our time, history repeats itself. Zealots flock to kibbutzim and other settlements, where the priority is not economic development but preserving certain ideological goals and values — which many Israelis do not share. Their military and fiscal obligations to the state are also different. Everything is in place for a split into two states.

Judea would encompass the contested territories, with the aim of eventual expansion into Sinai and all of Eretz Israel. Although Judea would not be economically self-sustaining in industry, she would get the lion's share of material support that pours into Israel from Jews around the world. Judea could defend herself without great expense and depend on Israel and the West for last-resort protection against major aggression.

Being a profoundly religious state offers advantages that secular nations do not possess. Judea would be free to clear out indigenous inhabitants. Following biblical guidelines, she could use measures otherwise unacceptable in the modern world — though the nations that decry them were themselves established in fire and blood.

As Johann Tilly put it, "States create wars, wars create states." Even ostensibly humane states fight all the time: the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Falklands Islands, Spain and Morocco over an island, the United States and Cuba in Grenada, the Coalition in Afghanistan and Iraq. Third-world countries fight to establish boundaries. Only six decades have passed since the bloodbath of two world wars, not enough to change the mentality of nations. And it did not change: the Americans bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and only fear of reprisal prevented them from doing the same in Korea. The French and their allies slaughtered millions in Algeria and Indochina. Russia has killed thousands in the dispute with breakaway Chechnya. The same nations that suffered the First World War's devastation marched straight into World War II. Current restraint springs from the fear of escalation, not humane scruple.

Judea can forget the notion of civil rights and obey religious law. Unlike Israel, she can afford to stop non-Jewish immigration, directly or through inter-marriage with gentiles, and limit non-Orthodox conversions and other Reformist practices, which, though compatible with modern secular values, significantly water down the Jews' religious identity.

Judea could become a classic theocracy, organized along the lines of pre-kingdom Israel ruled by the judges, giving rabbis the judicial functions of the late Second Temple period onward. She could use Talmudic law, instead of contemporary legislation.

An influx of fresh ideas into the body of the Talmud, updated to accommodate present reality, would benefit the tradition and spark renewed interest in it. Judea's official language would be the beautifully powerful biblical Hebrew, not the modern garbled substitute.

Israel could withdraw from the contested territories, enjoy peace with her neighbors, and concentrate on rapid economic development. That would win her some international respect. Israel could become the dominant regional economy, replacing Switzerland, the United States, and Russia as the source of financial, technological, and military commodities and services. Western powers will not compete with her for hegemony in a Middle East plunged in incessant wars after Muslims lose the common enemy.

Relieving Israel of her military expenditures will let her work to recapture Jewish prominence in banking and trade, fundamental research and technology, and the arts.Dividing Israel into two states would not cause enmity among Jews, rather, it would eliminate the enmity currently brewing in Israel where whatever policy the government chooses displeases about half the population. The division would let either state "specialize" and limit its liability. Israel would not be responsible for Judea's expansionism, while Judea might disregard the economic consequences of its decisions.

Imcompatible objectives

No Arab army threatens the survival of Israel in the 1948 borders. The people who want to expand the country to its biblical borders cannot make others fight for that goal. It is wrong to get people killed or to make them suffer economically for something they do not believe in. On the other hand, the faith in the Promised Land, on which Jews have survived for over two millennia, should not be destroyed by democratic political decisions. Israel should divide the house and give both incompatible viewpoints a place to live.

Division into coherent, homogenous communities would undermine any state if taken to the extreme. Yet many minorities long for self-determination, and some majorities would be only too happy to get rid of them. But look deeper. In any community, be it a family or a country, people continuously choose between living together or alone, between enjoying and benefiting from other people and finding them bothersome. The community persists only so long as the benefits outweigh the costs. When accommodation is easy, as in Catholic-Protestant Germany and French-British Canada, the state is in no danger, though religious differences can become acute. In Israel, however, accommodation is costly: kill and die for somebody else's ideals or forsake your own dearest principles. Given the strategic benefits and the political irrelevance of a division, there is no reason to live together. Jews could choose Israel or Judea, and live and work happily to realize their dreams.

Judea might engage in annexation

As in ancient times, Judea's population would be stricter about religion, willing to risk their lives and pay taxes to fund a war. Judea would seek to expand and not hesitate to answer the terrorists in kind. Judea would likely aim to conquer not only Palestine but also Jordan and parts of Lebanon. If she moved quickly and re-settled the present populations without prolonged suffering, the Western powers would accept reality after a time.

Annexation has judicial precedents. Jews accepted Israel's borders the United Nations set in 1947 as a temporary compromise. The United Nations refused to recognize the country's de facto enlargement, which took place in 1967. The United States ignored the United Nations resolutions, biased by special interests and accommodating insignificant members. The United States again disregarded United Nations cautions regarding Iraq in 2003 and invaded. Its dismissal of the U.N. is laudable, since it rejects the unworkable notion of one country, one vote, and reasserts the balance of power. United Nations votes do not reflect the realities of the balance of economic, demographic, or any other power, and Israel should jump on the bandwagon to discredit and disable the United Nations. Judea would have precedent for disregarding the United Nations partition and the post-1967 resolutions, which demanded a return to the original borders, and pursuing her interests with force. If international law does not benefit Israel, why should she pay it any attention?

Judea's probable religion-driven policy might be beneficial in yet another respect. People respect deep religious convictions, however alien they are, provided they conform to generally accepted moral conventions. Judea's coherent policies would command more respect than the half-hearted Israeli democracy, if only she slips not in bizarre fundamentalism.

Redressing the conflict in religious terms makes sense for Israel by making Israeli policy coherent, comprehensible, and defensible, as well as eliminating foreign pressures for a peaceful settlement. Leaders of Christian countries urge political settlement with Palestinians more forcefully than religious compromise with Muslims. Arabs are cynical about religion. Arab societies are undergoing the secularization the West has embraced since the eighteenth century, confronting modern culture and empirical science, which argue against some religious moral precepts. Religious parties rarely claim more than 20% of votes. Muslims might care less about the religious dispute than nationalist war. Arabs would find a country with rigid religiously inspired policies more comprehensible than liberal, democratic Israel's.

Is not, however, Judaism a religion of peace? It is not. Christianity is, if only theoretically, but Judaism is a religion of realism: love neighbors, do not oppress aliens, and fight enemies vehemently. Jews praise Moses for killing an Egyptian attacker, Joshua for ostensibly exterminating the Canaanites, Maccabees for fighting Jewish Hellenizers, and cheer the Purim crowd that killed en masse and looted the hostile civilians. Torah, indeed, prescribes helping an enemy to unburden his fallen donkey. That, however, is an altogether different enemy — a neighbor whose conflict with oneself is superficial, not rooted in incompatible interests. Judaism is uncompromising to the Jews' enemies; Israeli politicians accommodate them.

Technical details of establishing Judea

Israel might create Judea from her territory along the border with Gaza. That territory would proclaim itself a state and seek United Nations recognition, which would be granted since at that point Judea, infringes on no one's land. Then Judea would invite settlers and offer them citizenship. Next Judea would overpower under the pretext of stopping the ongoing violence. Israel would have no reason to remove Jewish militants from another state, and Palestine wouldn't be able to ask for foreign help, since military build-up would provoke Israeli preemption. Military stronger than the opposing Gazans, Judea would expand more easily than Israel before 1948. Israeli politicians, lackeys of the West, will try to prevent Judeans from occupying Gaza, but in the face of Arab counter-attack enough Jews will support Judea. Some religious Jews won't support Judean acquisition of Gaza, a place of limited biblical importance. They might find a common interest with the Israeli government in proclaiming Judea in East Jerusalem. Many countries recognized Israeli jurisdiction over united Jerusalem, and cannot question her right to cede a part of her territory to another state, Judea. Arabs would have a harder time demanding East Jerusalem, since that would amount to abrogating a state, not merely adjusting the Israeli border. Judea will handle the politically incorrect issue of removing Arabs from Jerusalem, and reinstate Jewish access to the places of worship.

At the very least, the Jews can found Judea in any small settlement across the border from Israel, preferably at a point where Israelis rectified the border to Palestinian demands and are not happy with the outcome. The settlers may renounce their Israeli citizenship to escape Israeli jurisdiction and prevent their forced removal from Judea by loyal Israeli troops. If the removal is attempted, the settlers may threaten collective suicide or bring enough supporters to make government violence not feasible. The tactics of concentration was impossible for large settlement in Hebron or for the network of villages in Gaza, but could be implemented in a single small place. Fifty thousands armed and zealous Jews assembled in one town could effectively oppose their removal. Palestinians, much less than Israelis, would risk a confrontation certain to cause negative publicity. After Israel will de facto accept the Judean settlement, the Jews may start enlarging it at the expense of the Palestinians.

Jews readily fought the British to establish their state, but existence of Israel undermines their resolve. Only when zealous Jews grow hostile to liberal gentilized Israel, will they establish Judea. Israeli leftists might well enjoy ridding the country of the adherents to Judaism, and turn a blind eye to their exodus to form Judea. The money Diaspora Jews now send to Israel would mostly go to the more religiously zealous Judea. Judean lobbyists could make a much stronger case to wealthy Diaspora Jews than Israel's leaders can now, since most would favor the religious revival. Israeli policy is controversial. Aid being critical to Judea, few would refuse. True, some secular Jews scorn ultra-Orthodox Jews, but their skepticism would vanish once Judea imposed her agenda and forced international opinion to accept it. After the normalization of Jews, comes the normalization of Judaism. When the ultra-Orthodox have their own state, coherent, motivated, and powerful, they will command respect if they avoid grossly violating human rights. Arab money began flowing to Islamic fundamentalist groups once they became militant and effective. Many people are tired of weak democracy and mutual accommodation and long for action. Radicals rarely lack financial backing.

Jews may adopt the Muslim tactics of moderates sponsoring radicals. A Palestinian state may be a terrorist outcast, but Saudi Arabia, which pays for it, is internationally respected. Saudis achieve their goal of Israeli military attrition through Palestinian proxy, poor enough that it does not care of economic consequences of its policies and nationalist enough to be respected and protected by the world. Judea would be Israeli's proxy for expansion.

Judea will be able to maintain a small army, enough to handle Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon. Israel would guarantee Judea's borders, even if they expanded, against aggression from Arab regular armies. In fact, Judea would generate unexpected military benefits. A theocratic state would not hesitate to use chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons instead of watching Jews die by the thousands in a protracted war. Judea will produce zealots ready to answer the Islamic asymmetrical warfare in kind.

Spiritual aspects of Judea

The creation of a theocratic Judea would save some Jews from ethnic assimilation. Judea may forbid non-Jewish immigration altogether or let in only Christians on temporary work permits who would be extensively screened to assure their loyalty. A desirable side effect of forbidding immigration would be the elimination of suicide terrorists, since no Arabs will be allowed. Fences and extensive Soviet-type border patrols would keep them from coming in illegally.

Judea's symbol should be the ancient, unique menorah, not the Star of David, which did not become a specifically Jewish symbol until the nineteenth century.

The capital of Judea, if not Jerusalem, should be called Zion, tapping into the energy of messianic expectations.

Judea's language should be biblical Hebrew, an artful language, superior to its modern surrogate, which insufficiently incorporates biblical lexicology and etymological conventions. Hebrew morphology is flexible enough to accommodate many new words while preserving the ancient roots and two-letter root cells. Reviving the simple, powerful, and beautiful biblical Hebrew would make the study of scriptures by gentiles livelier since it would reanimate meanings lost in translation. It is ironic for Israel, the last civilized country repressing reformist religion,to embrace reformist language, the Hebrew newspeak. The message of Torah is inseparable from its language. Restoration of ancient grammar must be paralleled by a return to guttural pronunciation. Israeli Jews no more live in a cold European climate and could safely pronounce gutturals in the original Semitic phonetics, as Arabs still do. The current situation, when Torah and prayers are recited in a garbled tongue, should not continue.

Public opinion, given to secularization under the euphemism of religious tolerance, will not let Israel repress Reform Judaism much longer, especially since its lax observance is attractive to secular Jews and their gentile spouses, and a strictly observant Judea would give Orthodoxy a home. As the Torah requires, Judea would have only one religion, and be more or less orthodox. A theocracy cannot honestly accommodate factions without slipping into religious superficiality or cynicism: deviation and toleration prop each other.

Religious jurisdiction

Judea would restore the Hebrew system of religious jurisprudence and establish rabbinical courts in the Diaspora. Because legalism permeates modern social relations, that step would restore Jewish self-awareness, re-asserting their difference from other people, now blurred by assimilation. Decisions of rabbinical courts are binding on every Jew under the threat of excommunication. Since Israeli law recognizes converts approved by Orthodox rabbis as Jews, excommunication should mean loss of status as a Jew, including descendants. Few Jews would ignore that threat. Rabbinical courts were hailed historically as reasonable and honest, and gentiles appealed to them for arbitrage in antiquity.

Imposing the authority of rabbinical courts would create a closed Jewish economy, since Jewish companies would prefer to deal with one another, just as secular businesses prefer to deal with others within a given legal system. A Jewish "business union" would gain competitiveness by acting as one in competition with other companies. Something like that economic support system was present at the micro-level in small Jewish communities before World War II, but now many prefer the minor benefits of dealing with outsiders to making sacrifices for the common good of Jews. Societies lose communal unity when economic and social pressures undo their internal interdependence. But Jews have a basis for interdependence: a common goal and purpose which, properly and continuously explained, could restore national unity.

With no ambition of becoming a major state and relying on Israel for protection, Judea could be a biblical theocracy built on religious-judiciary, not kingly-administrative, power. Since the law of Torah is exhaustive and administrative power an evil denounced in scripture, Judea could become a state of liberal ideals without legislative or executive functions.

Judean theocracy would be a free society for conforming citizens. Everyone would be free to emigrate upon reaching adulthood, and before thirteen, there are few responsibilities or obligations. In Israeli kibbutzim, adolescents often do not share their parents' ideals and move away as adults. Some Jews leave Israel. People leave ultra-orthodox families and communities. Dissenters would be equally free to leave Judea. People who found Judean policy too rigid would move out, while more religiously motivated people would move in, and the influx of immigrants would sustain and increase the population even beyond what fecund Orthodox Jews would breed.

No concern with secular ethics

Judea would pay no attention to commonly accepted moral conventions. Following the Hebrew doctrine of just retribution, she would deal harshly with hostile aliens and bring terrorists and hostile Palestinians to justice. Following the Torah, Judea could enforce religious separation and resettlement of Arabs, something few secular states would legislate. She would prohibit intermarriage and prohibit other religions from setting up places of worship: after all, there are no synagogues in Vatican.

Talmudic law would rule a country without prisons, relying on timely punishment and very rare executions. Many people oppose capital punishment, not because they think particular criminals do not deserve death but because judgments are sometimes passed in error. The Sanhedrin's due process is so rigid that error is unlikely. A Jewish court accepts no circumstantial evidence. For example, if a person sees someone entering a house, hears screams inside, sees him coming out waving a knife dripping with blood, and there was a murder at that time in the house, the witness is disqualified, since he did not see the murder. Sentencing errors exist in any legal system, and possible errors, including capital punishments, under Talmudic law compare favorably with the myriad years Westerners collectively lose in jails on wrong verdicts and for unwarrantedly defined transgressions. The major problem with Talmudic law would be not the cruelty of punishments but rather the practical impossibility of convictions because of safeguards. This might require revoking the Talmudic protections introduced as a face-saving measure when Jewish courts in the Diaspora lacked criminal jurisdiction. The issue of justice is almost irrelevant in a deeply religious society like Judea, with no outsiders to hate and persecute. The Talmudic due process leaves execution for various deviations only in theory.

Judaic prohibitions of abominable things from pornography to idolatry do not infringe on freedom of expression. They are rather like the Western zoning laws. Jews will not be prohibited from watching those things elsewhere, but the Promised Land must be preserved ritually clean. This is the idea behind the biblical "expunge the evil" — not necessarily kill the perpetrator.

Judea will be intolerant, but even restaurants enforce dress code, states punish flag defamation, and few families allow swearing at home. Secular states enforce myriad ethical norms, such as about prostitution, gambling, drugs, public nudity, and many others, often by brutal, disproportionate punishment. Judea will be sufficiently small so that the dissenters can easily move out.

The government of Judea could do things secular Israel would not if she wants to be a state like any other. For example, modern war crimes legislation allows claims against the Vatican and other European powers for persecuting Jews, even in the Middle Ages, and provides for the restitution of property, too staggering to consider.

Instead of lauding the Nostra Aetate, Israel should only accept the Vatican's repentance according to the Judaic law — preceded by full restitution and a fine. The Vatican has no obligation to act by the Jewish law, but Israel has such an obligation. The Vatican may excuse itself in mere words, but the Jews should not accept, much less laud, such excuse.

The Nuremberg tribunal meted out justice for crimes against humanity, applying legal innovations retroactively. While criminal charges cannot be brought against the descendants of the original perpetrators, claims for property stolen from Jews and still being enjoyed by the descendants of the thieves are quite possible. European governments did not return all real estate stolen from Jews in World War II (or earlier) to Jews. The Vatican's wealth comes in part from looted Jewish property, and its libraries stock ancient Jewish books stolen during massacres. Europeans did not even return all synagogues to the Jews; Judea has every reason to claim the buildings.

Judea would take the heat off Israel

Throughout history, anti-Semites have used the actions of a few Jews, from Zealots to tavern-keepers, to incriminate all Jews. Today all Jews are accused of maltreating Palestinians. Creating Judea would let Israelis shift the blame from the Jewish nation to a state that pays no attention to gentile opinion. Israel, which would have almost no problems with Palestinians, would become a good neighbor.

With Judea siphoning off religious radicals, Israel could move away from theocracy. Jews who do not observe the whole of the Talmudic law may feel themselves not proper Jews, though keeping it precisely is virtually impossible under normal circumstances. Ignoring the rabbinical law identified with Jewishness pushes them toward atheism and away from Israel. Israel could adopt Sadducean Judaism, which expects obedience only to the Torah's explicit commandments to let people feel themselves fully Jewish.

This is a section from the book by Obadiah Shoher entitled Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict. You can download it for free at You have permission to email it to other people.

You can buy the paper copy for $9.50 at
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See also Obadiah Shoher's 2006 book Samson Option for the Blind Country, also downloadable at the website.

Thanks are due Ivor Silverman for sending this information to Think-Israel.


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