Sixty years after the foundation of the State, Israel still identifies its citizens in terms of their country of origin or ethnic affiliation, but not as ‘Israelis’. Passports, identification cards and other official documents in Israel, identify citizens as ‘Spanish’, ‘French’, etc, but not as Israeli. And if they are Jews, they are identified as Jewish, regardless of where they come from.

“Out of its 120 nationalities,” writes Professor Uzzi Ornan, chairman of the Ani Israeli (‘I am Israeli’) Association, “the [Israel] Ministry of Interior fails to recognize just one relevant one – the Israeli nationality – despite the fact that other countries around the world most certainly do. To them, the citizens of Israel are of Israeli Nationality – it is as simple as that” (‘I am Israeli’ articles/0,7340,L-3592969,00.html). Recently, the Ani Israeli Association unsuccessfully filed a request with the Jerusalem District Court, asking it to order the Israel Ministry of Interior to list the petitioners as “Israelis” in all official documents.

Why, then, doesn’t Israel choose to identify its citizens as Israelis? Under Israel’s Law of Return (1950), every Jew has the right to immigrate to Israel. This right was implied in the 1948 Proclamation of the State of Israel, which reads: “The State of Israel will be open to the immigration of Jews from all countries of their dispersion” (Walter Laqueur, ed. The Israel-Arab reader. Penguin, 1970, p. 161-162). The Zionist Organization has as its basic aim the ingathering of all the exiles to Israel. Indeed, the political architects of Israel were not founding a multicultural nation-state, but a Jewish state where the majority of the citizens would be Jews.

Today Israel retains its identity as a Jewish state, a fulfilment of God’s purpose proclaimed by His prophets to regather His people to their homeland in the last days in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ to restore the kingdom (Ezek 37:21–23). And God’s purpose is confirmed in the State of Israel’s emphasis on Jewish, and not Israeli, nationality.

Israel at sixty: Why has the State survived?

Israel’s survival for sixty years is a matter of wonder to many. The following words introduced an article that recently appeared in The Australian Literary Review with the subheading: “The painful birth and tenacious survival of Israel have confounded all expectations.”

“That Israel is celebrating its 60th year as a sovereign state would astound many of the key actors in the international drama leading to its birth on May 14, 1948. The Arab leaders, who declared war on the Jewish population of Palestine the moment the UN resolved to partition the country in November 1947, and the anti-Semites who dominated British – and to a significant extent, US – policy on Palestine, were certain of one thing: Britain would depart by mid-May and the promised invasion by the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon would immediately follow. The Jews would declare independence but their state would be strangled at birth. Even senior Jewish leaders rated their chances as 50-50 at best.” (Mark Aarons, ‘More than the sum of its parts: the painful birth and tenacious survival of Israel have confounded all expectations’, The Australian Literary Review, 3 Sept., 2008, p.10).

Let us not cease to wonder at the clear evidence of God’s hand in the developments that have led to the establishment of Israel and its continuing existence despite the overwhelming odds against it. “He that scattered Israel” has gathered him, and continues to “keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock” (Jer 31:10).