Recently the World Jewish Congress held a conference in Jerusalem at which famous Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky gave the keynote address. In it he maintained that people need both to be free and to belong. If people lack liberty it leads to tyranny. If people lack identity it leads to decadence, lives that are trivial and meaningless. The Hebrew nation received both liberty and identity at the time of the Exodus, which shows that they are not necessarily opposed but can complement each other.

Europe may be beginning to see this. Since the end of the Second World War, European liberal intellectuals generally have opposed national identity as leading to conflict. Hence their tendency to oppose the State of Israel, a national state of the Jews. There are signs this opposition to national identity is beginning to change, e.g. German Chancellor Merkel stating that multiculturalism has failed.

An edited version of Mr. Sharansky’s speech can be found here , about twenty minutes into the radio program.

Articles by Shmuel Ben-Gad

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