I know I owe a post on Pesach and that will be coming along soon. In the meantime, being Yom Haatzmaut and all and having recently returned from Israel, I figure it’s time for some random thoughts on Zionism or at least some general attitudes towards it.
While most Jews I’ve met would claim to “support Israel” ideologically but as expected, this support is highly subjective and how it is conveyed is equally varied. Some support Israel financialy through donations, Israel bonds, trips, or purchasing Israeli products where possible. Others take part in ceremonies, programs, or parades demosntrating their solidarity with the Jewish state.
And of course, others actually move there.
I’ve spoken to olim about the Zionism of Americans and quite are cynical, some to the point of outright disdain. If you believe that Israel is that important to the Jewish people as a nation or as a religion, then why not move? As one person expressed to me, the real meaning of an America going to the Israeli Day Parade is like saying that Israel is a great country – for someone else.
Others have toned down the pro-aliyah rhetoric for pragmatic reasons; people don’t always respond well to sanctimonious rantings. Still there is some resentment at the pharisaical Zionistic propoganda from those who haven’t actually made aliyah.
The question I have been dealing with recently is if American Zionism inherently hypocritical. Can one honestly claim to be Zionistic without actively planning and/or preparing for aliyah or is this just another example of vicarious Judaism?
My current thinking is to distinguish between who and how Zionistic messages are being propogated. For example, I’m sure you’ve heard the hocker in shul pontificating as to what Israel ought to do to solve their security or economic crises. Or perhaps you’ve heard the Rabbis extoling the superior spirituality of God’s chosen land.
In these types of rantings, the lack of aliyah mitigates the intended message. Unless the hocker is an expert in history, political theory, or has some other expertise, then his right to an argument is likely based on a perceived connection with the State of Israel. However, were his connection to be serious, then aliyah should be in his short-term plans. Similarly, if the Rabbi truly believes in the ultimate kiddusha of Eretz Yisrael then why not move?
Where I think these discussions disintegrate is in the motivations of the participants. For example, people could be taking extreme positions to overcompensate for their own Zionistic shortcomings.1 Or like many conversations, people could just be motivated from simple ideological arrogance.2
What are the alternatives? Frankly I’m trying to figure those out myself. Humility would be a good first step, but we could use that all over. On the other hand, Israel is one of the few things about which Jews feel strongly. Perhaps muting such passion would have even more averse consequences.
I’m still working this out, but I’m open to suggestions.
1. At least Rabbis have the capacity to create their own religious justifications for not making aliyah such as they can do more and better work the Jewish people in America or elsewhere. Even so, the premise of this noble sacrifice is rooted in sheer arrogance that their work is that crucial to the Jewish people. Some Rabbis might be able to get away with this, say R. Avi Weiss perhaps, but these would be the exceptions.
2. Not to say you don’t find this among Israelis, but at lest they live there.