“The Two Israels” refers to the modern State of Israel and the United States as two separate and different legacies of “The Hebrew Republic” – a political concept developed in the middle of the seventeenth century, during the Age of Enlightenment. “The Hebrew Republic” regards the Hebrew Bible as a framework for republican self-governance incorporating principles of free will and “natural law,” among others.
The Hebrew Republic greatly influenced the American Founders, many of them well-read scholars of political philosophy. Many were also descended from the American Pilgrims, who had cited the Hebrew bible for guidance on living good lives, named towns after biblical locations, named their children Hebrew biblical names, and self-identified with the Hebrew narrative. During the first American century, a great many political speeches of the day cited Old Testament references.
Zionist and American values stress the role of their respective nations to be exemplars of individualism, morality, goodness, excellence, and prosperity. They stand as standard-bearers of western civilization, in stark contrast to post-modern moral relativism, the rejection of individual human rights and freedoms, domestic and foreign antagonism towards western civilization. Both Israel and the United States present their unique lights against the darkness of anti-humanistic barbarism.
The project acknowledges the historic influences of the Hebrew national narrative, including shared “Judeo-Christian” values, as these informed the thinkers of the Enlightenment and the American Founders – and served as the basis of western civilization. American exceptionalism is not based upon conquest but upon serving as a beacon of freedom and civil society, characteristics which also apply to the nation of Israel in its ancient and current forms.
The Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers of the United States described their homeland as “New Israel,” and compared themselves to the ancient Hebrews. This project relates the vision of America to the “shining city on the hill” to Israel’s mission to be a “light unto the nations.” It will include articles and information resources to inform and engage in conversation and debate.
As distinct legacies of the concept of the ancient Hebrew Republic, what can both the U.S. and Israel learn from one another’s concepts of governance, citizenship, freedom, rights, and national character? What does “New Israel” mean to you?