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Abraham, Part 1: Are 'Secular Israelis' Really Secular?

Soon after Abraham enters Canaan, the leitmotif makes a brief appearance when God tells him: “Unto thy seed will I give this land.”

Abraham’s response:

and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

In this and a similar case later in Genesis where God speaks to him and Abraham responds by building an altar, what is notable is that Abraham’s reaction is spontaneous and unmediated. The Jewish religion has not yet emerged; there are no synagogues, no common prayers and rituals for Abraham to follow. He answers God on the spot, in the way he knows.

Again, it reminds me of the “secular Israelis” of today — many of whom go to synagogue rarely or even never, but whom I often hear addressing God (Elohim) in various emotional modalities. Or, in a different form of the phenomenon, a song based on Psalm 121 has recently become a major hit and anthem in Israel; you can see it here with close to half a million views.