Even Israel's Kibbutzim are Becoming Religious
Traditionally socialist and secular Israel's Kibbutzim find religion.
December 14, 2013 - Audio, 11.25 MIN
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While the Western world is turning away from God and religion, it is surprising to read a headline on Israel's left wing Ha'aretz news site saying: "Once bastions of secularism, Israel's kibbutzim find God". While the Western world has began to have the "Atheist Church", why would Israel's bastions of secularism rediscover God?
The Kibbutz was the original collective community, based on ideals of Zionism and socialism. They played a very important role in the building of the modern state of Israel. Kibbutzim worked on a basis of communal living and the vast majority were entirely secular. The oft heard phrase that Israel is a secular nation, finds its roots in the Kibbutz and the secular state that came in many ways from the Kibbutz movement. The famous Israeli general Moshe Dayan was the second child born on the first Kibbutz called Degania. The early state of Israel and the Kibbutz were in a way synonymous. Today the communal, socialist Kibbutz is a thing of the past. Nevertheless the secular kibbutz has continued to exist.
Israel has been becoming more religious over the years and to use the old phrase that "Israel is a secular nation", is completely out of date and out of touch with reality. Almost exactly 4 years ago, I did the Bible in the News on an opinion piece in Ha'aretz which had the title, "Let's face the facts, Israel is a semi-theocracy". The writer argued that Israel was already a semi-theocracy based on the facts that:
1. Only 44 percent of Israelis define themselves as secular and many of these are 'traditional', which means, in his words, "religious, but just a little".
2. Eighty-five percent of Israelis hold a Passover seder.
3. Sixty-seven percent fast on Yom Kippur, known to many as the day of atonement.
4. Almost every boy in Israel today has a bar-mitzvah.
5. In Israel there are no civil marriages or divorces, and there are almost no secular funerals.
6. The Western Wall is holy to almost all Israelis and the fact that Israel won't give up "holy" East Jerusalem is also based on religious faith.
In that Bible in the News I wrote that: "Many people are stuck back in the early days of the state of Israel, the days of the socialist secular kibbutz." So when I read this week that even the Kibbutzim are becoming religious I took notice.
Here is how the Ha'aretz article on Kibbutzim finding God describes the change:
"Two relatively recent developments may explain the change of heart among many kibbutzim and their willingness to reexamine their fraught relationship with Judaism. One is the collapse of the socialist model that dominated kibbutz life until the 1980s, and the other is the changing demographic of these communities, as more and more city dwellers seeking a better quality of life, many of them from more traditional backgrounds, have built homes in new neighborhoods established on kibbutz land.
"Beit Hashita is a case in point. “Until about 10 years ago, I had no connection to religion or tradition,” recalls Yonish. “But then the kibbutz was privatized and new people started moving in. After socialism collapsed, it seemed to me there was no glue to bind us together the way there used to be. I began to ask myself what do we have in common with the 200 new residents who’ve moved here, and the one thing I could come up with was Jewish tradition.”
"But it was something very personal, he acknowledges, that initially triggered his change of heart. “When my daughter got married and moved to England, I understood that just being an Israeli is not enough to tie us to this place,” he says. “That’s when I started going around the kibbutz and telling people, ‘Friends, we’ve run too far away from our roots.’”"
The fact is that either the land of Israel attracts you or repels you. You cannot separate the land from it's Hebrew language, literature. history and culture. When the Jews returned to the land it brought them back to the Hebrew language and with the language the literature - which first and foremost is the Hebrew Bible. The history of the Jewish people is inseparable from the land, in the ancient ruins, cities, valleys and mountains. Archeology is everywhere speaking of the great events in Israel's history; the forefathers of the nation, Abraham, Issac and Jacob; the great kings like David and Hezekiah; battles fought and lost and even yielding ancient copies of Hebrew literature like the Dead Sea Scrolls. When you come to Israel, you come to the Bible - you can't help it.
As the Jews have returned to the land and shook off the dust of the exile, they have inevitably become reconnected to their language, literature and history, which all lead in some way to the Hebrew Bible.
Eliezer Ben-Yehudah, the man who is called the father of modern Hebrew, the one who revived the language, was a secular man. In the book, "Hebrew Reborn" by Shalom Spiegel, he wrote of Ben-Yehudah:
"In his bent toward, extremes, Ben Jehuda became a non-religous Jew. He did not even hesitate to state that he, his wife, and his children belonged to no creed, and championed the idea that Judaism was to be built up on the purely mundane idea of folk, language, and homeland. Indeed, he saw a holy war against religion and tradition as a duty of the Hebrew renaissance. A very grave error on his part, balanced by the dark fanaticism of the rigidly pious, who excommunicated him repeatedly, refused to bury his wife and child, and even had him thrown into jail by slandering him to the Turkish government. Bitter strife, such as is possible only between brethren! He never divined, in the defiant obstinacy of the zealots, constructive forces from which his own life work was nurtured. Just as they could hardly have surmised that this heretic, through his unwearying service to the Hebrew word, unconsciously aroused the religious forces latent within it. For there is no such thing as creedless Hebrew. He who conjures up Hebrew at the same time involuntarily opens sluices for the obstructed springs of an ancient religious civilization. Though he may not welcome them, neither can he rid himself of the spirits he has called up.
"So, too, against his own will and intention, will the life work of Ben Jehuda, who thought to command the destinies of the Hebrew language, succumb to the ineffaceable runes of religion within the language. Which will do his life work no harm, but rather give it deeper significance. Unwittingly, he has become more than the mere renewer of spoken Hebrew."
Like Ben-Yehudah the Kibbutz tried to come to Israel and disregard religion and the God of Israel. But they are being forced in that direction, which the language, literature and history inevitably lead toward. The Hebrew Bible itself predicted that it would be this way, when the Jews returned to the land of their forefathers, Hosea 3:4,5.
"For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days."
Israel today may be a nation that is being drawn to the Hebrew scriptures and to their ancient historical roots, but this is not to the pure truth of the word of God. Today there are many forms of Judaism - none of them the truth - with everyman doing that which is right in his own eyes. Instruction in the things of God is required. This is spoken of in Jeremiah 3:14,15.
" Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: and I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding."
Israel needs teachers to show them the way of truth. Isaiah the prophet speaks of these teachers in chapter 30 - a prophecy for the latter day. Isaiah 30:19-21
"For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left."
Today we see a searching and yearning for truth and for the God of Israel developing in the nation. A teachable disposition is a prerequisite for hearing the truth. Open ears and hearts are required. Seeing the nation of Israel turn away from Godlessness and secularism is a notable sign of the times and we should rejoice in it. Israel will of course become much more religious than it is today. The prophet Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 31:34,
"And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
If Israel is being prepared for the return of Jesus Christ to be their King, are we prepared? That is the question for us to consider! Come back next week God willing as we continue to watch the Bible as it determines the course of world events in relation to the kingdom of God. This has been David Billington with you.
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