Zionism as a civilization

Jewish sovereignty insists that Jews are not interlopers in the Land of Israel: this is the “Jewish national home.”

Zionist rally in Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Zionist rally in Jerusalem 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Zionism is not just supporting the State of Israel, it is the recognition of the historical connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. This connection is critical for understanding the state as the basis upon which a third Jewish commonwealth/ civilization is being created.
The most important factor in the creation of the state is the Shoah. It has shaped the consciousness of every Jew, in one way or another, and it is an open wound. The rise of Jew-hatred and its proxy, opposition to Israel, is a constant reminder that Jews are still vulnerable.
In response to the Shoah, Jews took three major directions.
First, there was an attempt – primarily by Hassidim and haredim (ultra- Orthodox) – to recreate the Jewish world that was lost.
Second was the creation of a sovereign state that would be able to rescue Jews and have the ability to defend itself.
The third response was to assimilate, in varying degrees; building secular or “traditional” Jewish lifestyles and culture, or, in extreme cases, abandoning any connection to Judaism and the Jewish people.
Zionism stepped into the breach by inviting everyone to participate – even, for many, without cost or commitment.
It became a substitute for Judaism, allowing identification with a Jewish cause that had meaning without demands or restrictions. It was not only a big tent, but the fulfillment of a dream, and even a model for redemption – so critical after the Shoah.
Paradoxically, however, Zionism’s success was also a source of Jew-hatred and jealousy – especially as Islamists, jihadists, etc., became more powerful, and Jew-hatred mixed with anti-Zionism and opposition to Israel’s existence.
Portraying modern Zionism as a response to the long history of Jewish persecution and vulnerability is understandable, especially in the aftermath of the Shoah. But Zionism is rooted in a more profound Biblical and historical basis which was expressed in the First and Second Temple periods, Jewish independence and self-determination with political and religious institutions.
These eras are marked as Jewish commonwealths, or civilizations; they could not have developed without Jewish sovereignty, a vibrant Jewish culture and a strong Jewish army.
As modern Zionism – self-determination of the Jewish people in its ancient homeland – developed in the 20th century it was based on three essential elements of civilization and national identity: land, language and literature – Eretz Yisrael, Hebrew and Torah, the Bible (Tanach), Talmud and subsequent Jewish-based writing on the subject.
In 1948, these elements coalesced in the establishment of the State of Israel.
This event was dominated by a war of survival, followed by many mini-wars which threatened the state’s existence. As a nation-state, Israel’s history has been seen through the lens of its politics, economic struggles and technological and medical achievements. But it is much more.
Israeli sovereignty and modern Zionism laid the basis for the third Jewish commonwealth: a political entity and Jewish civilization and culture. The revival of the Hebrew language was a major force for unifying many different groups of Jews. The discovery of ancient Jewish historical sites lends authenticity to Jewish texts and traditions and provides a connection to Jewish identity that binds Jews to the Land of Israel.
Committed to democracy and the values of Western civilization, Israel is a lone beacon of enlightenment in a dark sea of Arab/Muslim totalitarianism and repression. Shortly after the state was established, Jewish communities in every Arab state were uprooted; those who were not slaughtered escaped a systematic ethnic cleansing. This expulsion, however, although traumatic, was also part of a prophetic vision of Ingathering – and it continues.
Jewish nationhood and Jewish sovereignty, therefore, has created a new paradigm: it is basis for the third Jewish civilization.
Jewish sovereignty implies one state with sovereignty from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean with semiautonomous enclaves of Arabs who enjoy civil and human rights either as citizens of Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, or another country.
This conforms to international law as set forth in the League of Nations, British Mandate, UN Charter and international treaties and agreements. It ensures the security and stability of the region and is the only logical basis for future development of all inhabitants of what is called the Land of Israel, or Palestine.
Unlike all other forms of nationality, Jewish sovereignty is based upon a long and well-developed history, centered around the First and Second commonwealths that existed millennia ago. Jewish sovereignty is not just a political form, but the expression of social, religious and economic institutions upon which good government and democracy rest.
Jewish sovereignty is not about power, but principles and values shared by all enlightened countries. Based on authenticity – history, archeology and culture – it includes transparent, open and viable institutions. And it is based on a vision – not of domination, but of creativity and freedom. It is based on a society in which one can fulfill his/ her potential, rather than become a homicidal martyr.
Jewish sovereignty – the basis for Jewish civilization, the third commonwealth – is inclusive, yet rooted in Jewish history, traditions and culture – and Jewish law. That does not mean a halachic state – for which we are unprepared – but a state which respects and understands the Jewish legal system and the society which produced it. This is the basis for a Jewish renaissance.
We are, however, only beginning to understand the meaning and significance of Jewish sovereignty and Jewish civilization. Much work needs to be done by artists, writers, philosophers, jurists, academics and intellectuals. We need to think creatively how to make this work not only as practical solutions to everyday problems, but as a monument to human achievement and ingenuity. This is the challenge to new concepts of Zionism.
Jewish sovereignty, therefore, is the vessel in which a rebirth of Jewish civilization is nurtured and flourishes, and one that will enhance world civilization. It is not the symbol of power, but of Presence – of Shechina – the majesty of God.
PALESTINIANISM Those who object to extending Jewish sovereignty because it denies Arabs living in Judea and Samaria and many in Israel political self-determination, i.e.
statehood, fail to ask a simple question: will it be a force for peace, or war? Creating another Arab Palestinian state west of the Jordan River endangers the survival of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael. This reality cannot be ignored.
Independent evaluation by experts, such as the World Bank, according to which the PA is an economic failure and “unsustainable” is a wake-up call.
This assessment is in addition to the PA’s political and social failure, its glorification of terrorists, constant incitement and promotion of violence.
The obvious conclusion, therefore, is that the “two-state solution” as envisioned by those who created the Oslo Accords and those who still support it, is not possible.
Moreover, the descent of the Arab world into chaos, terrorism and instability directly threatens Israel’s security.
Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel is not only an alternative to this regional disaster; it is the basis for a realistic solution, one that offers affirmations of hope and inspiration.
For Arab Palestinians that means integration and equality in Arab countries, and/or peaceful coexistence.
Jewish sovereignty insists that Jews are not interlopers in the Land of Israel: this is the “Jewish national home.” Jewish sovereignty is the basis of ingathering of Jews from around the world and building a new civilization that will be a source of imagination and creativity, a model of human achievement, rekindling the flame of enlightenment that has guided civilization, and one that nurtures the destiny of the Jewish people in its homeland.