Many right-wing Jews who are now deeply religious started as atheists. I’m not even talking about those Russian Jews who have a typically Slavic yearning for a higher idea. Zealous communists before, they have become equally zealous believers now.

Jewish patriots seek a firm ground for their ideology, which is why Avraham Stern embraced Judaism. Those who didn’t left shallow roots: the children of Herzl, Ben Gurion, and Zhabotinsky are all assimilated.

Humans have a natural urge to believe in something; beliefs form societies. The Pagan communists, notably Stalin, died for their deities. Ancient Roman pagans fought for money. It isn’t easy to convince Jews to fight for the sake of glorious tradition or cultural heritage. After the wars of survival seemed to be over in 1973, it became very hard to build a national consensus for subsequent military operations. Jews need a good reason to stay in Israel, a Hebrew-speaking Brooklyn, rather than move to America. Nothing but religion provides a sustainable answer.

Some patriots become religious because Judaism is the best, probably the only way to confirm their beliefs and intentions. Nationalists demand that we hold on to Jerusalem and Judea, but why? Judea’s only importance to us is religious. Arguments for military necessity are labored: as the missiles’ range increases, a few more miles of depth ceases to protect. Judaism is the most straightforward way to answer the detractors: instead of writing very dubious apologia such as The Case for Israel, it suffices to assert that God gave us this land and obligated us to conquer it upon return from the Exile (Deuteronomy 30).

In ancient times, there was a bandit named Yiphtah. The son of a Jewish father by a concubine, he fled the family house and started a highly successful gang. At one point, Amonites issued an ultimatum to his paternal tribe of Gilead: give us back our land, which the Jews have occupied, and let’s live in peace—otherwise there will be war. Exactly the choice Israel faces now. Yiphtah offered several political justifications for holding onto the land, notably the expired statute of limitations. But recognizing the weakness of his arguments, he finally resorted to a foolproof argument: whatever land God gave us will remain ours. Not because we have conquered this land, but because God gave it to us. In logical terms, Yiphtah argued from authority, the ultimate authority in this case. He went to war and won it. So it is today: whether the West Bank is liberated or occupied, Jewish rights there are open to legal debate. If God gave Judea to Jews in 1967, the argument is closed.

Religion cements Jewish identity like nothing else. The children of the most prominent Zionist patriots assimilated, but the grandchildren of religious Jews remain Jewish.
Perhaps a few people were convinced by the miracles which God performed for Israel: salvation from the Holocaust, escape from the Russian holocaust in 1953, the UN vote for Israel and subsequent military victories, Arafat’s refusal to accept Barak’s offer of Jerusalem, and many others.

Myself, I was more than convinced in theism by many miracles, including the magic and witchcraft I observed during my years of interest in the occult.
Rational minds can come to religion by properly studying the Hebrew language. It is artificial, consciously designed rather than naturally evolved, as we can see from its mathematically precise grammar, the root cells, and other technical qualities. It is hardly possible that a genius linguist went out of his cave on a sunny morning four thousand years ago and designed this wondrous language. The Hebrew they teach you in Israeli schools is abominable slang.

The Torah lays out an astonishingly coherent moral and political theory (see my essay, The Ethics of Free Society). I’ve studied political philosophy and other religions, and none of them comes close to the Torah in coherence and subtlety. I know many editors, and the Torah is not a product of editors; its meticulous wisdom, where disparate statements reinforce each other and never contradict, is beyond humans.

And on the top of it, Pascal’s wager seems reasonable: Live as if God exists, for if he doesn’t you lose nothing.