What does a Zionist living in Israel learn from Zionists living in the Jewish Diaspora? Dr. Yossi Turner, associate professor of Jewish Thought and director of the Zionism working group at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, discusses what first led him to pursue the study of Zionism in Israel and in the Diaspora. Does the experience of being a Jewish majority versus being a Jewish minority impact Zionist ideals?
As a Jewish Zionist from the depth of his soul and an ordained rabbi, who is involved in all of the contemporary streams Judaism; as one who made Aliyah from the US 39 years ago; and as scholar who’s been researching and teaching the various facets of Jewish peoplehood and Jewish culture in Israel and the diaspora (past and present) for many years, I have a suggestion to make to Mr. Verdiger. I suggest that when speaking about the needs of Jewish existence, he show more humility, be more respectful of the truth and be wary of basing his world-view on stereotypes.
In my book Ideology and Landscape, which is about reinterring Zionist leaders in the homeland, I devoted a chapter to the reburial of Baron Edmond de Rothschild in Ramat Hanadiv. He and his wife Ada (Adelheid) were reinterred there in April 1954 in an imposing public ceremony. An Israeli battleship brought the coffins from Marseille to Haifa, and from there they were transported to the majestic burial estate south of the Carmel.
In one part of the military cemetery in Jerusalem stands a lone and unusual gravestone, marking the grave of David Raziel, Commander of Etzel (also known as the Irgun, a Zionistparamilitary organization that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948). Not many are aware that this is Raziel’s third resting spot, after he was first interred in a British military cemetery in Iraq and later moved to a Jewish cemetery in Cyprus.
On Chanukah in the year 1897, shortly after the First Zionist Congress was held, Theodore Herzl wrote an article called “The Menorah,” in which he compared himself to the shamash that lights and wakes Jews of all affiliations. Recent research on Herzl and his family points to the bond between Judaism and Zionism that was the cornerstone of his Zionist thought. Herzl was not raised as an Orthodox Jew nor did he become such, yet the shift in his attitude towards Jews of different stripes represented a move away from the assimilationist stance of his youth, when he was alienated from Judaism.
With our return to sovereignty our eyes look towards the legislating body, the Knesset. We demand to find a legal way to end the injustice suffered by the Hebrew woman for generations […] and to allow neither legal nor civil discrimination (Ada Maimon). Ada Maimon, 50 Years of Women’s Workers Movement 1904-1954, Tel Aviv 1956, pp. 218-219. Ada Fishman and her brother, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Fishman, changed their surname in 1949 to Maimon, used henceforth in this article.
The coupling of the words Zion and Zionism reflects the aspiration to connect the bond between the Jewish People, past and present, and the Land of Israel (poetically referred to as ‘Zion’) to its modern national future as promised by the Zionist idea. This connection was already fixed during the development of nationalist thought in the days of Hibat Zion (‘Love of Zion’), in literary and publicist writings, but gained strength with the rise of the Zionist idea, which transformed the yearning to grace the earth of the Holy Land (Zion) into the establishment of a modern, sovereign national state (Zionism).
The Days of Awe, or High Holidays, constitute one of two beginnings in the Hebrew calendar. The second beginning of the year is marked in the spring at Passover, Holiday of Freedom.
All the Jewish festivals are tied up with one another as commemorating Creation, a cosmic event from which all life in the universe originated, and as commemorating the Exodus, an event of national significance to the Jewish people in particular. But it can be argued that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur represent more the cosmic aspect of traditional Jewish existence, while Passover, Shavuot and, to an extent, Sukkot represent more the national particular aspect.
As a Zionist and a religious Jew, I see God’s hand in the rebirth of the Jewish state, and the subsequent restoration of ancient Jerusalem and the Temple Mount to Jewish sovereignty. In fact, while most religious Zionists believe that the State of Israel marksthe beginning of the burgeoning of our redemption, my sense is that this rebirth and restoration are the totality of the promised redemption foretold by the prophets of yore, for which Jews have prayed for 2000 years.
These days, as the topic of the rift within the Jewish People pervades the media (less so the street), it behooves us to recall the early days of Zionism. The pioneers of secular Zionism perceived their movement to be a unifying force that created a common language for Jews of all ethnicities and beliefs.