Time for Zionism 2.0 - opinion

We are all aware of the unsigned contract that exists between Israelis: If one runs into danger the other will rise to protect him.

A man kisses the ground as new olim arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport. (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
A man kisses the ground as new olim arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport.
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)

Of all the end-of-year headlines and images, one photo in particular caught my eye. Two days before 2021 came to an end, a planeload of olim landed in Israel – the last such flight of the year. Perhaps those watching from the sidelines will struggle to understand how in the midst of a pandemic, economic difficulties, tragedies, security threats and other issues, there are those who choose to move to Israel.

Yet, some 30,000 new immigrants made Israel their home in 2021. It is this picture of the last flight of olim in 2021 that encapsulates our story. For me, it is the photo of the year.

Most Israelis probably won’t agree with my choice of photo of the year. It is equally unlikely that many would agree that this photo represents the DNA of the story that we continue to create in Israel every day.

In December, 1947, the poet Natan Alterman wrote his immortal “The Silver Platter”, sealing his poem with the words:

“Then a nation in tears and amazement

will ask: ‘Who are you?’

And they will answer quietly

‘We are the silver platter on which the Jewish State was given.’

Thus, they will say and fall back in shadows

And the rest will be told

In the chronicles and generations of Israel.”

 The last aliyah flight of 2021 will land in Israel on Friday. (credit: YOSSI ZEIGLER) The last aliyah flight of 2021 will land in Israel on Friday. (credit: YOSSI ZEIGLER)

SINCE THAT time, we have told and created the Israeli story anew every day. The chronicles of Israel are a Zionist and democratic story, intertwined with laughter and tears, building and renewal, as well as a story scorched with blood and pain. The story is embroidered like golden stones from pieces of this land.

Our roots, which brought us here from East and West, are what created this unique human fabric that formed Israeli society. The State of Israel is an explicit miracle given to us on a silver platter. Over the years, it took shape, but instead of turning into one human fabric, the spirit of division and the focus on others has taken hold of our society: Religious vs secular, residents of central cities vs those who live in the periphery, Ashkenazi vs Mizrahi, and so on. Phrases such as, “First Israel” (a political attitude: that of the old Ashkenazi elites, who wish to see Netanyahu convicted and kicked out of the political arena, and represent only half of Israel) and “Second Israel” (representing Israel’s predominantly non-Ashkenazi population in the periphery) that were said by Dr. Avishay Ben Haim, Channel 13, have come to dominate the public discourse.

We have grown used to coming together in unity during moments of pain – we are all aware of the unsigned contract that exists between Israelis: If one runs into danger the other will rise to protect him.

Yosef Trumpeldor’s famous phrase, “It is good to die for our country,” has become part of our cultural heritage, but the time has now come to plant the phrase that should characterize the next stage of Zionism: “It is good to live for our country.”

On the 74th year of existence of the miracle that Alterman wrote about in his poem, the time has come to outline the foundations of Zionism 2.0.

The Zionist movement succeeded in bringing us to this land, but its conceptual basis is no longer a given in the 21st century. We must now turn our attention to defining the meaning of Zionism today.

An intrinsic part of the answer is how we characterize the Israeli experience taking shape in the modern era. And how this modern experience can be linked to a path that, looking back, runs through the apocalyptic memory of the Holocaust and the rebirth of Israel. It leaves the Diaspora experience behind, opening a new chapter in the chronicles of Israel.

Zionism 2.0 remains affixed to the legacy of the past, while being in tune with the present Israeli experience, and turns its eyes to our own future. As a society, this is the Zionism that we should pass on to our children: a contemporary Zionism that speaks to our youth - who are, after all, the future generation.

These fundamental questions engage me on a daily basis, and shape my outlook and the education I give to my children, the next link in the chain. They are, quite likely, the central reason that brought me to the Knesset.

One of the answers to these questions came to me during a visit to Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. After visiting the Hall of Names and looking at the photographs of my murdered people, where binders commemorate the testimonies of some six million victims, I walked out of Yad Vashem and toward the hills of Jerusalem, which appeared out of the madness.

I knew that from here we must take another step, since “a country is not only known for its actions, but also for what it is willing to carry with it,” as a German Jewish Holocaust victim once wrote. This is their will. We must take another step, this time out of power and confidence in the Israeli story that we have created.

My mother’s parents arrived in Israel exactly a century ago and brought with them 100 olim, my late father’s family arrived here at the end of the 14th century, and I proudly carry the name Roffe as the twentieth generation of that family in this land.

As a child, when I was asked what my background was, I found myself shyly trying to explain the roots of a family that moved from Germany to Padua, Italy and from there to the Greek island of Crete. Today, I proudly testify that I am an Israeli mix, my children are too and so are yours.

Our roots will always form the previous chapters in our story and will remind us of a reality of persecution and antisemitism that accompanied, and still does, so many Jews. However, the path ahead will be united and glow with the precious light of Israel.

The State of Israel is larger than the sum of its parts. The Zionist project has not reached its conclusion, and never will. Its path runs through the building of Israel – here and in the Diaspora. The project that began with the founding of the Zionist movement at the end of the 19th century is still being built in Israeli homes every day.

The writer is an MK and a publishing expert at the MirYam Institute. She was elected to the 24th Knesset on behalf of the Yisrael Beytenu party. She has served as a deputy local council head, and worked as a journalist and senior lecturer in academic institutions for 24 years.