As Israelis gathered on Mount Herzl Sunday afternoon to commemorate the 154th birthday of Theodor Herzl, Jeff Daube, director of the Israel office of the Zionist Organization of America, discussed the challenges facing the state of Zionism.
According to Daube, despite rhetoric to the contrary, Zionism is “better than a lot of doomsayers would like to frame it as.”
“If we look at the statistics in Israel, we see that most people are proud to be Israelis and to live here,” he said. “The overwhelming majority want to live here, so that is good.”
However, in terms of education, Daube cautioned that “we have a long way to go.”
“I think that students need to be taught their Jewish and Zionist history better – especially as it relates to our historic presence in Israel,” he said. “The reason for that is that when you speak with young Israeli Jews and ask them specific questions about the personalities and places that define Zionism, many lack Zionist literacy.”
The result of this lack of insight, Daube said, is the inability to articulate why Zionism is so essential in an increasingly anti-Israel global climate.
“I see anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism coming from three separate vectors which are oddly merging,” he said. “Muslim fundamentalist elements are now working with the extreme left, which is known as the Green/Red Merger, but now there is a third element of racist radical right-wing groups.”
The merger of “strange bedfellows,” Daube continued, creates “a toxic and perfect storm.”
“The only way to combat this is to break each group down separately,” he continued. “That is a tall order, but it is the only way to deal with this issue.”
Meanwhile, while Daube said Israel has realized Herzl’s vision of the restoration of the Jewish state, he observed that his mandate of Jewish unity remains elusive.
“We have not realized his mandate that ‘We are one people,’” he said, adding that it must become Zionism’s mission.
“We may not realize it completely, but we must strive for Jewish unity to see ourselves as one people because that’s how he wanted us to see ourselves,” he said. “Israel is a microcosm of the Jewish people and must set an example for the Diaspora.”