Dvar Israel: Shabbat, April 20, 2019





Are we living the dream? Is the Israel we are living in now the promised land that we all waited and prayed for thousands of years? Today we celebrate Hag Ha’Pesah, a holiday devoted to recalling our journey from slavery in Egypt across the dessert, receiving the commandments at Har Sinai to finally reaching and entering the promised land, the Land of Israel. I wonder are we living the dream that our ancestors as newly liberated slaves dreamt those many years ago? Are we fulfilling the vision that Herzl had 100 years ago? Are we fulfilling the dreams of those Jews that were murdered in Europe more than 70 years ago? Did we make the Zionist dream come true?


There are some who say that secular Zionism in Israel is dead or that it will die in upcoming decades. I believe Zionism is alive and well with a bright future ahead. It is easy to become pessimistic if all you are exposed to is biased media messages, but all you need to do is look to Israel’s youth and you will be afforded a different perspective entirely. Israeli teenagers today are so invested in the country. They care about Israeli politics, peoplehood, culture and the security of the state. Zionism is part of today’s popular culture. Zionism is a way of life, a hope, a belief, and a wish at the core of Jewish life and history. But if I try to answer the question did we reach the promised land and are we living Herzl’s dream, I’m not sure that there is one correct answer.  The answer may differ depending on who is answering the question. If you ask a religious Zionist, they might say that we still have a way to go before we accomplish the dream of the religious Zionism. An ideology that supports Jewish nationalism and the establishment of a state for Jews as right and obligation stemming from the Torah tying religiosity to Zionism and visa versa. If you would ask the same question of a secular Zionist, they might say that to some extent we have accomplished what Herzl dreamt about 100 years ago but that we still have some way to go until we reach that “exemplary society based on social justice and equality”. But I believe that religious Zionism and secular Zionism are merely opposite sides of the same coin and the two are one in the same. I believe in a Zionism that is based on unity, upon one united Jewish people and one united State of Israel. I believe that somewhere in our own journey through our dessert, we have lost our way. In the Zionist enterprise, there were always Zionists, religious, traditional and secular, who worked in partnership for the good of Klal Yisrael (the greater good of all). We need to return to that center in order to regain our path forward.


Before I came to Canada I believed that I was a “secular Zionist” but after being here for all of these months, meeting so many people all with different stories and different opinions, including some that I don’t agree with, after seeing how divisive the 2019 Israeli elections were to the fabric of Israeli society, I made a decision which changed the way I choose to identify myself. I’ve decided that I don’t want to be a part of any group that wants to categorize me or create dividing lines for me as a young Israeli or as a young Jewish woman. Instead, I prefer to simply say I’m a Zionist. That belief takes some from the religious side and some from the secular side but at its core is a unifying love of Israel.  As I said before Zionism is a hope, and a way of life. It is liberating. Sadly, I don’t feel that Zionism has worked to unify and liberate us and instead is has become a burden. We have turned Zionism into a thing that divides us when instead it should be a source of inspiration and connection between us. The past couple months that I’ve spent here in Canada have strengthened my belief that as Jewish people around the world, as Israelis and as members of the human race we must strive to focus on the things that bring us together while understanding and embracing what makes us different. From that point of strength, we can all work together toward a better future. Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameah.

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