Friday, March 7, 2014

The Contemporary Meaning Of Masada

I've been thinking about the contemporary meaning of Masada for Israeli Jews while reading Ari Shavit's book My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.

Masada, in brief, involved a sect of Jewish rebels who, after their fighting their way into Masada, ultimately and finally chose mass suicide, men, women and children, rather than face inevitable Roman conquest.

Jewish history is replete with attempts to destroy as many Jews as possible, culminating in Holocaust genocide, the meaning of which continues in the modern ongoing existential threat posed to Israel by her neighbouring enemies.

Given the Holocaust as a culmination of Jewish history carried forward by the continuing concrete and real danger of national extinction, Masada, I argue, finds its contemporary meaning in Israel seeking to protect itself existentially with its nuclear arsenal.

So Ari Shavit writes, "But the debate was neither moral nor ethical. In the Israeli siege-republic of the 1950s and 1960s, the memory of the Holocaust felt very close, as did the existential threat. Both of these factors underpinned the general agreed-upon moral justification regarding the right to acquire a nuclear option."

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