The term “Zionism” was first coined in 1890 by Nathan Birnbaum. The concept, though modern, is, as this article will unfold, an integral part of Judaism. The modern Zionist movement calls for a return of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael, their ancient ancestral Homeland for the renaissance and re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty there. Theodore Herzl was the visionary who expounded, promoted and toiled relentlessly to turn the idea into a reality. Herzl’s vision was to establish a Jewish state based on the Jewish principles of justice and equality as outlined in the Torah.
It is this strong connection between Judaism and Zionism which I will endeavor to highlight and emphasize. They are two facets of the same thought and belief system, two sides of the same coin.
The word “Zion” first appears in the Tanach which, as we all know is the holy book of Judaism. The Tanach is the only Biblical document that reaffirms the one and only covenant G-d has ever entered into with any people, the People of Israel, Am Yisrael. The word “Zion” is first mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:7 which according to modern day scholarship dates from 630-540 BCE. Initially, it referred to a specific mountain near Jerusalem. Later, it became a metonym for Solomon’s Temple. According to 2 Samuel 24:18-25, King David purchased the area of the Temple Mount from a Jebusite by the name of Arvana, the owner of a threshing floor who offered it to him for free. King David refused and insisted on paying full price in gold for it: "but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offering that cost me nothing.” Zion is the birthplace of the city of Jerusalem where the history of the people of Israel was written and where Judaism has its deep roots.
The term “Zion” is also synonymous with the Land of Yisrael as expressed in the last line of Hatikvah, the National Anthem of the modern day state of Israel and other ancient and modern Jewish sources. Zion, Eretz Yisrael, is one of the edges of a triangle called Judaism. The other two edges are the People of Israel (aka Jews) G-d and the Torah, G-d’s guidebook to His People. The three are interrelated and woven with the same golden thread that runs through the several millennia old Jewish history. Over half of the commandments in the Torah relate to the Land of Israel. They list the customs and practices of working the Land. The commandments also spell out the details of a Jewish way of Life and define the relationship between G-d, His people and the places He sanctified in Eretz Yisrael.
Even when they were exiled from their Land, it was always Zion that Jews were facing and yearning for in their prayers, liturgy and poetry. It was Zion that they were remembering and crying for when they were sitting by the rivers of Babylon. And it was Zion that they pledged to return to every year at the Passover table when they proclaimed and continue to proclaim: “לשנה הבאה בירושלים הבנויה”.
It was, therefore, only reasonable and consistent that the natural location to re-establish Jewish sovereignty would be in Zion, Eretz Yisrael, because of the Jewish People’s historical link to it. It also follows that the movement that calls for it should have its name, Zion, as part of it.
There cannot be an Israel, a Jewish state, without Zionism since there cannot be Zionism without Zion, an exclusively Hebrew /Jewish Biblical concept. Likewise, there cannot and there must not be Zion without Judaism being part of it. Judaism and Zionism are inseparable. One cannot, I am afraid, be a Zionist without being Jewish. One can, however, be a non - Jewish supporter of Zionism, for which many Jews are utterly and profoundly grateful.
Zionism devoid of any national and cultural content of Judaism, a key aspect and feature of this model, would reduce its significance greatly and turn it into just another ideological movement.In the same way that Zionism cannot survive without Judaism, Judaism, in Eretz Yisrael, in the modern State of Israel, cannot survive without Zionism. When I hear calls to remove Zionism from our modern day Hebrew lexicon, to do away with the term as it has "become anachronistic" and since we are now "in the Post Zionist era," I ask myself if we, Jews, have learned anything from our history.The removal or the weakening of one of these mainstays that have jointly forged and shaped modern day Jewish identity will bring an end to the Jewish state in its ancient Homeland in Eretz Yisrael. Together, Judaism and Zionism constitute the intertwined threads of the fabric of our national and spiritual essence, the elixir of our Jewish survival and the promise of our perpetual endurance as a nation, as a culture and as a civilization.