by Joshua Einstein
In a piece published Wednesday, October 3rd Avi Goldblatt makes the articulated case for why Zionism is “Over”
. He does so by ignoring the fact that The Jewish Agency for Israel, what some in the post-Zionist world call “legacy” organizations, is about to take a bold step into the Diaspora by investing $300 million in Israel education and advocacy. Moreover, for someone who seems to be making the case for global Jewish community as a value over Israel he ironically uses the loaded term galus (exile) rather than the moral neutral term Diaspora.
Mr. Goldblatt goes on to expound on the history of the Zionist forefathers and the predictions they made that fell flat – principally that all the Jews did not make aliyah and that anti-Semitism still exists. That hindsight is 20/20 seems to be lost on him.
The miracle of the Zionist endeavor, a living and breathing Jewish State after over two thousand years without one, is truly amazing. The Zionist movement has always been multifaceted, multilayered and multi-streamed both ideologically and from a practical perspective. From the beginning there were Zionists who wanted to settle any piece of land for a Jewish refugee and those whom insisted on biblical Israel. In fact, an area in western Kenya that was offered to the Zionists by the British colonial office in what is now known as the Uganda Plan was considered by the early Zionist movement for settlement and rejected.
Ideologically, while Mr. Goldblatt may be correct in implying that there was a core focus on aliyah and ending anti-Semitism, there were many different Zionist streams. From Political Zionism, Labor Zionism, to Religious Zionism all had somewhat different societal critiques and goals. Political Zionism may have been concerned only with ameliorating the situation of the Jews but Labor and Religious Zionism had much wider aims. In fact, though different in ideological type, both streams shared a similar word view in which the Jewish national emancipation served a larger goal of a utopian or messianic positive end times. For the Labor Zionists, the situation of the Jew was historically unique and had to be addressed prior to the global workers revolution. For the Religious Zionist the exile of the Jews had to be ended by the Jews themselves in order to hasten the coming of the Messiah.
That the messiah did not arrive and that there was not a global workers revolution does not invalid or negate the contributions of these two streams within the Zionist movement. Nor does it mean we must stick with their definitions of Zionism. In fact, in 2001 a new Zionist stream was born called the Green Zionist Alliance – the group made its entrance into the Jewish world in order to focus on preserving the natural beauty of the land of Israel. Green Zionism, that we should be stewards of the Land of Israel and care for its environment, represents a potential revolution within Zionism.
To American expatriates Zionism meant making Aliyah, to the State of Israel it means supporting Jewish education around the world, to everyone in the Diaspora it should mean supporting the State of Israel. Creative Israel engagement, support in the corridors of power, and relationship building between the Diaspora and Israel – that’s Zionism today and it’s just begun.
Joshua Epstein lives in Hoboken, where he was a founding resident of the local Moishe House. Joshua has worked in the Jewish nonprofit and political arena’s. In 2002 he attended the 34th World Zionist Congress as an alternate delegate.