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King David—A First Things Essay

In a provocative and profound essay in this magazine (“A King in Israel,” May 2010), the late Michael Wyschogrod proposed that the Jewish state define itself as a democratic, constitutional monarchy. Israel, Wyschogrod suggested, should rename its head of state—the president elected by its legislature, who already plays a largely ceremonial role—and give him or her the title “Regent of the Throne of David.” This would not, he wrote, involve changing anything about the Knesset and other aspects of the political process. Without redefining its democratic nature, “Israel nonetheless can be declared a Davidic monarchy without a reigning king.” This symbolic action, Wyschogrod argued, “would build into the self-­understanding of the state of Israel the messianic hope of the Jewish people, while excluding a messianic interpretation of the present state of Israel.”

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