For those who care about the future of the State of Israel and the Jewish People, To Unify A Nation: My Vision for the Future of Israel is a great and quick read. I read the entire book this past Shabbat in which Knesset Member Rabbi Dov Lipman outlines an inspiring vision for the Land and People of Israel in just under one hundred pages.
After reading To Unify a Nation I was left dreaming about the promising potential that lies in Israel and recalling fondly why I made Aliyah in the first place.
While Lipman’s book is eternally optimistic, it deals with Israeli society’s greatest challenges. He boldly addresses racism and the dignity of man, the role of religion in society, accepting all Jews, sharing national responsibility, Jewish pride, and the centrality of the Bible in Israeli society. According to the American born Knesset Member who is also an Orthodox rabbi, these values are all necessary ingredients for creating national unity in the Jewish State.
The book repeatedly calls for Jews to exhibit tolerance, spirituality, and solidarity. Lipman explains that, “I realized that polarization caused by extremism and isolationism in the religious community may be the greatest internal threat to the future of the Jewish people. All of our classic sources and basic logic dictate that the key to our success as a nation is unity.”
Knesset Member Lipman is uniquely qualified to address his English readers having grown up in a suburb of Washington D.C. and immigrating to Israel in 2004. Amazingly, he became a member of the Knesset in 2013, only 9 years after moving to Israel, proving to be a role model for all recent American immigrants to Israel.
In To Unify a Nation, Lipman illustrates his points with numerous heartwarming stories and personal anecdotes. His description of participating in demonstrations outside the Soviet Embassy in Washington calling for the release of Soviet Jews, was particularly powerful. He tells us that he internalized “the Talmudic teaching, ‘all Jews are responsible for one another’ is not just meant to be a nice, feel good saying. It is meant in its literal sense. Jews throughout the ages, from Abraham, who risked his life to save his nephew, Lot, to the Entebbe rescue mission, have put this value into practice.”
One of my favorite passages in To Unify a Nation provides a model for the way that all Jews should respectfully treat one another. MK Lipman tells the story of the famous Jerusalem rabbi Aryeh Levin. One day Rabbi Levin saw a young Israeli soldier walking in the holy city while on leave from his military service. Rabbi Levin invited the IDF soldier into his home for a drink and to hear what the young man was up to. The young soldier bashfully told the elderly Rabbi that he did not feel comfortable coming since he was no longer very observant and did not even wear a kippa on his head.
“Rabbi Levin, wearing his black hat and long black coat, took the soldier’s hand into his own and with a smile on his face he said: ‘Don’t you see? I’m very short. I cannot look above your head to see whether you are wearing a kippa or not. However, I can see your heart and your heart is big and kind. You are also a soldier placing your life at risk for all of us in Israel. Please drink tea with me-your “kippah” is probably bigger than mine.”
Dov Lipman deeply understands the complex challenges that the modern State of Israel faces and articulates a compelling and compassionate vision for addressing them. To Unify A Nation urgently calls for our often fragmented Israeli society to start respectfully seeing the good in each other as a first step in national healing and progress. By implementing Lipman’s passionate vision, Israel can proudly take its place as a model country for the entire world and a true “light unto the nations.”