What It Means To Be A Citizen Of Israel
What It Means To Be A Citizen Of Israel
Commentary by Sarah Ann Haves
that I will be a loyal citizen of the State of Israel as a Jewish and
democratic state.” These are the words that candidates for Israeli citizenship
will have to declare if the Israeli cabinet approves an amendment, on Sunday,
October 10, 2010, to the current Citizenship Law. The words “as a Jewish and
democratic state” are an addition to the traditional pledge.
that are eligible for the army will have to promise to defend the country. All
would-be citizens will have to agree to perform any civilian service asked of
Some Israeli analysts believe that the bill is pointed at Israeli Arabs. But,
considering that a majority of Palestinians want their future state to
encompass all of Israel and the
territories, the bill is also pointed at them. Any Palestinians that are allowed to live in Israel under a
final peace agreement will have to pledge their allegiance to the state of
Israel if the amendment is approved.
In a recent cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the State of Israel is “a Jewish state but it is also a
democratic state. It is the national state of the Jewish People in the
sense that every Jew can come here, from anywhere in the world, and make his
home. The Jews have a state of their own,” proclaimed Netanyahu.
Netanyahu also commented that non-Jews live in
Israel, and they deserve full equal rights in the Israeli democracy of this
Jewish state. “It is a democratic state, in the spirit of our Declaration
of Independence. I was born with this understanding about the
country. I have written about this. I have defended it in every
position I have held over the years. This is deeply ingrained in my soul
both as Prime Minister and as a citizen of this country. Therefore, what
we are doing expresses the nature and character of the State of Israel. This is what we expect of others and of ourselves. The expectation is
also valid for those who seek to join our country – and this is both proper and
natural, I would say that anything else would be unnatural and there is a great
struggle today to annul and blur Israel’s identity as the national state of the
Jewish People and say that it does not belong to the Jewish people in a
The fact that Netanyahu has had to repeat these
words, over and over again, both in peace talks with Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas, and in meetings with diplomats, indicates a serious
deterioration in Israel’s diplomatic relations with the international
community. After 62 years of modern statehood, Israel is still defending its
right to the Promised Land.
What has not been addressed, publicly, by the
Israeli government, is whether new citizens will be obliged to learn and sing Hatikvah,
the Israeli national anthem. No
changes have been addressed, but it is obvious that the anthem is meant,
specifically, for Jews returning to Israel from the Diaspora. The national
anthem does not address another people group becoming citizens of Israel.
Here are the poetic words of Hatikvah:
“As long as deep in the heart,
The soul of a Jew yearns,
And, forward to the East, to Zion, an eye looks
Our hope will not be lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
Zion represents not only God’s beloved city,
Jerusalem, but also represents the entire land of Israel to many Jewish people.
Palestinians, and most Israeli Arabs, however, believe the land of Israel
belongs to them and they do not acknowledge Israel’s biblical claims to the
city of Jerusalem and to Zion.
Some Israeli rabbis think that it is from the
earth of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem that Adam was created. It was here that
Isaac could have been sacrificed by Abraham on Mt. Moriah had the God of Israel
not intervened. This is where the Lord chose His Holy Temple to be built
according to students of the Old and New Testaments.
Jerusalem is the epicenter that draws Jews
and Christians from all over the world to come and worship God, which is a
fulfillment of the biblical scriptures.
Zechariah 8:20-22: “Thus says the Lord of Hosts: ‘Peoples shall yet come; inhabitants of
many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, “Let us
continue to go and pray before the Lord, and seek the Lord of Hosts. I, myself
will go also,” Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord
of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord.”
For the Jewish people, Jerusalem is not just
a capital city. Jerusalem represents the steady existence of a land and people
since biblical times. It is a city that encompasses the collective dreams and
hopes of the Jewish people. Jerusalem will continue to draw Jewish people back
to their homeland to inherit the land that the God of Israel has promised them.
The threat of Jerusalem being divided in a
final peace agreement with the Palestinians represents a concern not only for
Israelis but for Jews living in the nations who look towards Jerusalem as their
Declaring that Jerusalem must remain the
undivided eternal capital of the Jewish State is important for pro-Israel
supporters who are fighting against those seeking to de-legitimize the state of
Returning to Jerusalem is declared every year
by Jews living in the Diaspora who celebrate Passover. Jewish people look at
each other after the Passover Seder and say, in Hebrew: “Next year in Jerusalem”.
This brings to the forefront the identity of Israel
represented by Jews throughout the world. These words go to the depths of the
very heart and soul of a Jew.
Therefore, while the state of Israel attempts
to amend the Citizenship Law, it should also consider how it wants to deal with
the national anthem, especially in regard to new citizens who are not Jewish.
Hatikvah, more than the Citizenship Law, represents the heart of the Jewish
people – not only today, but also when the modern state of Israel was established
in 1948. It is this Jewish
national identity with God’s land of promise — the Jewish homeland — that is
being contested by the world today.
Psalm 137:6: By the rivers of Babylon, there we
sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the
willows in the midst of it. For, there, those who carried us away captive asked
of us a song. And, those who plundered us requested mirth, saying, “Sing us one
of the songs of Zion!” How shall
we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my
right hand forget its skill! If I
do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth – If I do not
exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting from Israel on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues affecting the nation.
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Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.