Needed: a Reconquest of Labor

Ha’aretz reports:

A Palestinian bulldozer driver went on a rampage in downtown Jerusalem on Tuesday, wounding at least 24 people, just weeks after a similar attack in the capital left three dead.

The driver was identified as a 22-year-old resident of East Jerusalem who held an Israeli ID card. Police sealed off possible escape routes into the predominantly Arab area of Jerusalem and were searching for two suspects who fled the scene, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Another day, another jihad-by-heavy-equipment.

A. D. GordonTime to ponder the words of A. D. Gordon:

We [the Jewish people] have become accustomed to every form of life, except to a life of labour–of labour done at our own behest and for its own sake. It will require the greatest effort of will for such a people to become normal again. — People and Labour, 1911

Now it is true that every people have many individuals who shun physical labour and try to live off the work of others… We Jews have developed an attitude of looking down on physical labour…. But labour is the only force which binds man to the soil… it is the basic energy for the creation of national culture. This is what we do not have, but we are not aware of missing it. We are a people without a country, without a national living language, without a national culture. We seem to think that if we have no labour it does not matter – let Ivan, John or Mustafa do the work, while we busy ourselves with producing a culture, with creating national values and with enthroning absolute justice in the world. — Our Tasks Ahead, 1920

The early kibbutzniks took Gordon seriously and learned how to farm, how to build, and how to defend themselves, things that most Diaspora Jews had forgotten. The Zionist idea that Jews would possess the land only when they were the workers as well as the owners of it was called “kibush ha’avoda“, the Conquest of Labor.

Israel is at a turning point today (see Daniel Pipes, “Samir Kuntar and the Last Laugh“). Lots of things have to change to get the country on the right path, but it wouldn’t hurt to start with a Reconquest of Labor.

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One Response to “Needed: a Reconquest of Labor”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    I agree here completely on the theoretical level. One of the most distressing realizations I had when I first came to Israel many years ago is that the ideal of Jews relying on Jews, on total Jewish self- sufficiency seemed to stop when it came to the hardest kind of low- paying jobs. Here there is something to say for the idea that in 1967 we in our great victory ‘lost something’. We received a very large pool of cheap labor and began to make use of it. It has hurt us deeply. and led to a clear violation of the ‘Zionist ideal’. But there is another question related to it. If we have a large minority population living in a Jewish state we are obliged to provide them opportunities for employment and material success in life. We cannot simply exclude them from jobs. If they flock into certain areas of work which Jews do not particularly want to do we cannot forbid them this. In fact we are obliged to treat them fairly.
    In any case – if one wants there to be Jewish labor only in a Jewish state- one will have to have borders in which there is a completely Jewish population. I actually would like to see something like this happen. But how one could draw security borders in which there was say less than five percent of an Arab minority is another question?
    To do this morally would mean ‘sacrificing ‘ land, and taking a different kind of security risk.
    As it is now however we are living in a very imperfect reality, and my suspicion is that we will be doing so for a long time to come.