It’s taken as read, isn’t it, that as Jews we stand for and support our national homeland, the only place in the world where we can BE Jews, live as Jews and not fear showing anyone our identity. We are all Zionists now.
Zionism is our modern day cultural inheritance, a movement that drove the first pioneers to make such deep sacrifices and has cost the lives of countless of our soldiers and young people since the dream became a reality in the geopolitical world. Zionism, the hope of and for a nation, a place we can all finally say is home. But is that what Zionism is? If so, has Zionism lived up to expectation? What was the actual reason behind it? To ‘merely’ recreate a homeland and then sit back, satisfied that the ‘job was done’? What did we think we were building or recreating? What would be the foundation, the cultural and spiritual Erbgut upon which ‘new’ Israel would be built? And as we ponder now, after Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, has the dream been realised?
Israel, our nation, has come of age. We have taken our place amongst the nations of the world, become even a leader amongst them in certain areas. Israel is known today for its technological advancement, GM crop sciences and software innovation. It also lays claim to having the ‘capital’ of the homosexual world, of having a social and economic underclass that needed to demonstrate in the streets last year for change, and a growing trend of migration to countries where it is ‘easier’ to live.
If Jewish renewal is to take place then we must begin to take a firm hand to the rudder of Zionism. If Zionism ‘merely’ means the ownership and habitation of the Land by Jewish communities, families and individuals then it should be consigned to history as a successful movement. Israel belongs to us again and this should be celebrated. If however, Zionism means more than that, then its aims, aspirations and goals need to be refined to ensure that the dream of the first pioneers continues to live on today. And what should that dream mean today?
At the recent World Zionist Conference in Chicago these questions were being hotly debated. On being asked what Zionism meant, one young person responded ‘ (it is) a commitment to building something special. It’s not just about supporting a Jewish state or even about loving the country, but a dedication to really turning it into a light to the nations’ (as quoted in IJP p21 Feb 22 2013).
If our definition of Zionism allows for our nation to do no wrong, then we shall fail to fully realise the depth of renewal which Zionism should embody. Returning to our Land was the first step, not the last. Physical residency is the start of a full spiritual return to Hashem, an initial creative event that triggers a brighter glow to our national light and calling. Zionism is a ‘job in hand’ not a job completed. Israel means something, Zionism means something, being Jewish means something, but these meanings only combine to form a vision of national spiritual renewal when we once more return to our G-d with repentance and humility. Israel, as the real, physical, tangible and visible manifestation of the Kingdom of G-d on earth, should reflect its Founder and Creator. Israel IS different.