"100 Years of Zionism" has been a misnomer for the last
100 years. Zionism is a national movement of at least 2,500 years,
at least since the Babylonian exile in 586 BCE. Its goal is the
reestablishment of the Jewish people's national sovereignty on
their land, the Land of Israel, and the reconstituting of their
lives within the framework of their national heritage and culture.
The Jewish people actively pursued Zionism throughout all the
past 25 centuries. They did so in several different ways. One
way was by means of armed uprisings against foreign occupiers
and their various religious and cultural oppressions. Another
way was by clinging steadfastly to their land, even after the
destruction of the second Temple. As a matter of fact, the phrase
"returning after 2,000 years" is, at best, mistaken
and misleading, since throughout all those years, when many Jews
were indeed in Galut, there was always a vibrant, creative Jewish
community present in their own land.
The better known vehicle of active Zionism, however, was the constant,
unceasing aliyahthe physical returning of Jews home. There was
not one century in all these yearsuntil this very daywithout
Jewish aliyah. The latest, misleading phrase about "100 years
of Zionism" was created partly out of ignorance, but also
with intended misinformation. The aim is to dwarf Zionism into
a recent, modern movement alone, and cut it down to size and timeframe
comparable to the socalled "gradual Palestinian national
Actually the last hundred years of Zionist movements is just another
integral link in the 2500 yearlong, unbroken chain of Zionism.
One can talk about the 100 years of Modern Political Zionism,
or Herzlian or Ahad Ha'amian Zionisms, of Socialist Zionism, and
so on. But one cannot, and should not, talk in all honesty about
"100 years of Zionism" alone.
The 19th century was filled with Zionist activity. And this was
before Herzl and before Bilu and before the socalled "First
Aliyah." There were the Hovevei TsionLovers of Zionwho
supported Jewish settlement in Israel; there were Rabbis, like
Kalischer, Mohilever, and Alkalai, who called for, and worked
for, the settlement of Jews in Israel; there was aliyah of Chassidim
and Mitnagdim, and just many private, simple Jews who went with
their families to settle in Israel, because of their ageold Zionist
yearnings. There were also those in Israel, who left Jerusalem
to start new settlements like Petah Tikva, or those Jews who founded
Nes Tsiona, Rishon L'tsion, and other settlements.
The 19th century was also the century of Haskalahthe Jewish
Enlightenmentwhich, while letting secular knowledge into the
closed Jewish communities, also opened the way to assimilation
and abandonment of the Jewish heritage by the younger generation.
Many of the young eventually found their way into Socialist and
Communist movements, hoping to help build a better and more just
and tolerant world, and of course hoping to be accepted as equals
in these progressive movements.
Reality disappointed them and kicked them in the face..all too
often. Their progressive comrades still saw them as "zhids"
and still participated in pogroms against the Jews. These young
Jews, however, were so desperate to be accepted and to belong,
that they were willing to close their eyes and excuse any insult,
any indignity, any pogrom. So much so that some even said: "Never
mind the pogroms. The Jewish blood will be the grease on the axles
of the revolution." When things got worse, some of these
young Jews turned to Zionism to find a land of their own in which
they could establish the great messianic dreams of Socialism and
Communism. This was the beginning of Socialist Zionism, which
actually developed at the turn of the century and hitched onto
the Political Zionism of Herzl. The major wave of this Socialist
Aliyah constituted the socalled "Second Aliyah." (It
seems strange to speak of a "First Aliyah" or a "Second
Aliyah" in the 19th and 20th centuries, if you consider that
Zionism's actual First Aliyah was the return of the Jews from
Many of those who came in this group of Socialist Zionists still
had the solid foundation of Jewish heritage, which they received
at home, despite their rebellion against it and rejection of it.
Yet their ideology was that of a secular Socialism and Communism,
in which they believed with a perfect faith... It was this ideologyand
not their Jewish heritagewhich served as the foundation for
their resettling the Land of Israel, and it was this ideology
which they transmitted to their next generations. Even the regular
public schools, among whose teachers were many members of the
Socialist movements, were not considered pure enough for the indoctrination
of the young generation, and so a special network of "workers'
party" schools was established. The results came all too
swiftly, and today we are reaping the whirlwind.
We have Israelis who are totally disconnected from their Jewish
heritage, and even from the rest of their people. Israelis who,
while speaking the Hebrew language, are as assimilated as any
assimilated Jews anywhere else in the world.
To these assimilated IsraelisZionism is dead. We have Israelis,
among them Member of Knesset Yossi Beilin, one of the chief architects
of the Oslo process, who proudly announces that he would not mind
if his child married a nonJew. To him, the future of the Jewish
people, as a unique people, does not matter, and thus for him
and others like himZionism is dead.
We have Israelis, like the Polish immigrant Shimon Peres who,
as Foreign Minister of the State of Israel, said to another Israelialso
an olah "go back to where you came from!" Apparently
to him, as to others of his ilkZionism is dead. We have Israelis,
such as the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who talks about
the Land of Israel as "a piece of real estate." To him,
and others like minded, Zionism must be dead. The sad thing is
that, most likely, true Zionism was never really alive for them.
Because to them, having a state, and a government, and any land
of any size, is the end of their Zionist dream.
They are left searching for new content and meaning in life. And
so, on the one hand, they clutch at materialism as a new goal,
and dream of Israel becoming the "Singapore of the Middle
East." On the other hand, in the good old tradition of assimilated,
pseudoliberalism, they try to prove to the world how good and
deserving they are, by fighting for any real or apparent underdog,
and being ready to sacrifice, sellout, and attack their own people,
in ways which would put the worst antiSemites to shame.
Presently in Israel there are a split people. There are those
for whom Zionism is still very much a living, vibrant reality,
just as it has been for our people throughout the millenia. And
there are those who desperately strive to assimilate into an imaginary
"new Middle East" and/or into a cheap imitation of American
Western culture. They fight with vigor to turn Israel into a secular,
nonJewish state (and I am not speaking here of "Orthodoxy,
"but of heritage, culture, andidentity), hoping that by doing
so they will find favor in the eyes of the Arabs and the other
nations of the world. Having lost and given up on their Jewish
pride and identity, they cannot function within the family of
nations as Jews. They therefore attempt to "pass" by
inventing a watereddown, pareve, neutral identity as "Israelis,"
and in the process they cut off their noses to spite their race...
Although it may toooften seem otherwise, the fact is that this segment of Israeli society is definitely not a majority. But over the years they have taken controlone way or anotherof the media and of various key positions in the country. They have the gift of gab, and unceasing propaganda is their major method of distorting the true reality of the Jewish state. Besides deligitimitizing any population that is either Jewishreligious or Jewishpatriotic, they succeeded in imposing fear and a sense of intimidation on anyone who dares to express a differing opinion from theirs.
Zionism must fight not only external threats, but perhaps even
more serious threats from within. There is a concerted effort
to divest Israel of its Jewish identity. Amos Oz and other likeminded
intellectuals speak openly about preferring
a State of Jews rather than a Jewish State.
Just how bad is it? How low have we sunk? There have been many
stories regarding the incidents that occurred after the murder
of Yitzhak Rabin, involving leftwing incitement and action against
anything and everything Jewish, and anyone obviously Jewishlooking.
People were beaten because they wore a kippah; children were removed
from buses because they were too clearly Jewish. The epitome of
this sick behavior, however, was an incident in which an Israeli
soldier aimed his loaded rifle at the head of a Jewish child wearing
a kippah. What resulted was a horrified secular woman ran to place
herself between the gun and the child. This is not Zionism! This
is not the fulfillment of any Zionist dream! It conjures up much
more readily a picture of another kind of soldier, pointing a
rifle at a Jewish child, in a Polish ghetto. Yet it is precisely
because of this that Zionism in Israel has a future. It has a
future because, in its present form, Israel is still a dream in
the making. It has a future because it has not yet reached its
When in the State of Israel, Jewsobvious Jews, men with kippot,
beards, and sidelocks, and women wearing kerchiefs and long skirtswhen
Jews are hated, ridiculed, harassed, and physically attacked,
like Jews were treated in other countriesthe goal of Zionism
is not yet accomplished!
When during some of the ghastliest terrorist bus bombings, a Member
of Knesset reassures Arafat that the process will continue, no
matter what, and states on the radio to the nation that "We
need to remember, however, that the enemy
is the right wing..."the goal of Zionism is not yet accomplished!
When the land of our Fathers is treated as real estate, and traded
for something worth even less than the trinkets given to the Indians
for Manhattan Islandthe goal of Zionism is not yet accomplished!
When concerted efforts are made to obfuscate, to distort, and
to erase Jewish culture, Jewish heritage, and Jewish tradition
in the Jewish State, in its schools, in its media, in its daily
cultural lifethe goal of Zionism is not yet accomplished!
When Israelis are more concerned with becoming cheap European
and American "wannabes" rather than absorbing and continuing
their own, unique, ageold culture and identity, like every selfrespecting
nationthe goal of Zionism is not yet accomplished!
When assimilation is as bad as, or worse, than in any Jewish community
in the Diaspora, and it now becomes easy to fully understand that
"it may be easier to take the Jew out of the Galut, than
to take the Galut out of the Jew...," when
this is so, it is clear that the goal of Zionism is not yet accomplished!
Zionism is the future of Israel! Zionism is the future of Israel
because only in Israel can the Zionist dream be realized! Zionism
is the future of Israel because when it is realized, the People
of Israel will be a strong, proud, unique nation, fully ensconced
in its heritage and building upon it its own, unique life among
the nations of the world.
Zionism is the future of Israel because, to paraphrase an old
saying "More than the Jews kept Zionism going, Zionism kept
the Jews going!" Zionism is the future of Israel because
for millenia Jews took this on faith, and this faith was all they
had to sustain them through the worst and longest of exiles. We
are fortunate enough to be alive at a time in our history when
a portion of the dream has taken a concrete form: there is technically
an independent State of Jews in Israel. We cannot, we must not,
lose our capacity to continue to also keep faith with the rest
of the dream!
Zionism is the future of Israel because to all those of little
faith, who wrongly believe that Zionism can die or vanish on their
sayso, an answer was given a hundred years ago: David Wolfsohn,
Herzl's close friend and right hand, spoke at a Zionist banquet.
An antiZionist heckler called out: "All your Zionism hangs
by Herzl's beard. If you shave off his beard, there goes your
Zionism." To which Wolfsohn smiled and said: "You are
mistaken, sir. For just as with the beard, Zionism will immediately
start growing again!"
And Zionism is the future of Israel because, while it is a national
dream and a national endeavor, more than anything else, Zionism
is nurtured by the single Jew. The poet Naftali Hertz Imber intuitively
sensed this when he wrote in the last line of Hatikvah: "Ki
rak im achron hayehudi, gam achrit tikvatenu"for
as long as there is a single Jew left, our hope will never end!"
And there are many more than a single Jew left. AMEN
All those who are part of the Zionist dream and part of the Zionist
effort will also be part of the Zionist future. The others, those
who assimilate, those who desert, those who distort and dismiss
Zionism, will fall off naturally, along the way.
Therefore the question is not whether Zionism has a future.
It does! The question is only which Jews will share that future.
Rachel 7 is the screen name for the dedicated Zionist who
heads the Middle East Political Forum on AOL.