‘The Balfour declarations, Wilson’s Fourteen Points, and the League of Nations mandate legitimized the quest for nationhood of all nations with a self-conscious identity.’.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Issues of religion and state, delegitimization of Israel and the Iranian nuclear threat were at the heart of discussions at the World Zionist Organization’s congress in Jerusalem on Thursday, marking 100 years since the Balfour Declaration.
“120 years since the Zionist Congress was held in Basel, here in Jerusalem we are commemorating the Zionist Congress in hope that it will inspire the young hearts as that congress did,” said Silvio Joskovicz, head of WZO’s department of education, at the event at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, which drew hundreds.
“The issues, dilemmas and questions that stand ahead are different from those that came to Basel 120 years ago – to our delight! But we gather here, as in the past, to make sure that issues that are at the doorstep of contemporary Zionism will be addressed by the younger generation – just as they were in Basel 120 years ago,” he added.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who sat on a panel about Zionism, said: “After the Balfour Declaration, an important discussion developed about the establishment of the state.
It is important to know where we came from and where we are going.
We who live in Zion are committed to preventing assimilation. Ahad Ha’am said that more than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat kept the Jews, and this applies today more than ever.”
In a comments addressing the rift between the government and progressive Diaspora Jews over subjects of religious pluralism, Ariel said, “In the State of Israel, the Chief Rabbinate is the one who defines the law.
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Our Reform and Conservative brothers are dear to us, but they will not dictate to the State of Israel how to conduct itself and what Judaism is.”
During the same panel, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz said Zionism helped people connect over the cultural aspect.
“One of the greatest gifts that Zionism has won is the revival of the Hebrew language,” Gantz asserted.
He said, however, that the “feelings of the people must be strengthened not just in words. They have to be given the feeling that they have economic hope here and then they will be partners to the Zionist enterprise.”
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz focused on Israel’s enemy Iran.
“These days, when quite a few organizations and regimes are trying to undermine the eternal Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, it is more important than ever to be proud of who we are, in the long path we have taken and in the justice of our path,” he said.
In every generation, the terrorist on duty tries to destroy the Jewish state and fails. And in the current generation, that job is manned by the Iranians... we will never allow Iran to have nuclear weapons and if the world does not stop Iran, Israel will. And I say this in accordance with the opinion of all officials, as intelligence minister. We have many capabilities and whoever threatens us will pay the full price.”
Construction Minister Yoav Gallant echoed this, describing the country’s biggest challenge as the “Iranian storm.”
“The Iranians send dangerous arms everywhere. Not only do they create a problematic nuisance for Israel, and try to harm us on all fronts, they are producing economic capabilities as well as nuclear weapons.
When a superpower like Russia is involved, we must strengthen our ties with the US, keep the peace in the region and prepare for a situation of confrontation with Iran,” Gallant said.
Avraham Duvdevani, chairman of the World Zionist Organization, said: “The greatness of the congress that took place today, on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, is that it serves as a reminder to the younger generation in Israel – to take responsibility and to work for the good of the Zionist existence in the state. This is the real key.”
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