Towards a Peoplehood Based 21st Century Zionism

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 25 – “Towards a Peoplehood Based  21st Century Zionism” – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.]

In December of 2018 a unique gathering took place at the Palo Alto JCC. Some 100 leaders and activists from the U.S and Israel gathered under the auspices of Zionism 3.0 and Zionism 21 to discuss 21st Century Zionism. The following core principles were introduced:

  • Peoplehood is the binding formative ideal of World Jewry and Israel.
  • Israel is the state where the entire Jewish People exercises its right to selfdetermination.
  • Israel and World Jewry are two centers equal in their significance for Jewish destiny.
  • A vibrant Diaspora is a Zionist imperative.
  • Z3 and Z21 are crosspartisan ideas and movements, encompassing the full diversity of Jewish life and expression.

We decided to dedicate Peoplehood Papers 25 as a platform for broadening and deepening the conversation on the Zionism of the 21st century. Some of the questions we have hoped to explore were:

  1. Z21 and Z3 are being created and taking shape against a background of a crisis between American Jewry and Israel. While the above “corrections” represent a constructive approach, will they resonate with young Jews, on both sides of the ocean, who are for the most part not interested in these issues? Is there room to include additional principles that will reinvigorate the Zionist enterprise and inspire young Jews?
  2. To frame a vibrant Diaspora as a Zionist imperative is to come full circle back from the early Zionist intent. How will Israelis view it? Will it impact the centrality of Israel? What will be the more practical implications of this dramatic shift in perspective?
  3. Framing peoplehood as the binding formative ideal of Israel presents the State as ultimately an instrument of the people. Do Israelis see it that way? Can they see it that way?
  4. Do either Israelis or world Jews see Israel and World Jewry as two centers equal in their significance for the Jewish destiny? What are the implications of this statement to the way decisions are being made regarding the future of the Jewish people? Where should the conversation on the future Jewish destiny take place? Should institutions or platforms that address these issues be created?
  5. Furthermore, if the two centers are equal in their significance for the Jewish destiny, how do we address the growing gap between them?
  6. What will it take in educational terms to make Israelis gain a new appreciation for the cultural creativity of Jews throughout the world?
  7. If Z21 and Z3 succeed, what will the Jewish world look like?

This diverse collection of articles opens the scope of the conversation. It addresses both conceptual, ideological and practical issues. All writers seem both aware of the complex challenges Zionism faces in the 21st century and share concerns for the Jewish future. Maybe the strongest and most hopeful message they send is that we need to actively engage the People in the conversation and in dialogue. That both the Peoplehood and Zionist conversations should be crowd sourced. That charting our course in the 21st century should become both a collective project and process.
Israel’s 71st Anniversary is both an opportunity to celebrate and to envision its future. What does a peoplehood-based Zionism of the 21st century look like, and how do we respond to the challenges of the times?

I want to thank our article contributors for advancing the conversation, the Oshman Family JCC that launched Z3, the Reut Institute that initiated Z21 and Taube Philanthropies for supporting this publication.

Shlomi Ravid

The complete set of essays comprising this edition is in the process of being published individually on eJP.