What is zionism


Longing for home

The connection of the Jewish people with the "Promised Land" begins according to the Jewish view in the Bible: with the divine promise of the land to Abraham and his descendants. Historically, the people's relationship to the land can be dated back to the 6th century BC, to the time of the Babylonian exile.

It is true that the Hebrews, Israelites, Judeans and Jews always called their country Israel. But this name has an abundance of synonyms. One of them is Zion, after Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

In the Diaspora, the Jews expressed their wish to return to the Land of Israel. For most of them, Zion was a pipe dream, coupled with a longing for the Messiah.

From the political to the religious movement

In the 19th century, with the spread of anti-Semitism, rationalism and national consciousness in Europe, several groups emerged that saw a solution to the problems of the Jews in an actual return to Eretz Israel and the establishment of their own state. The Zionism movement is a collective term for many different ways of thinking, interpretations and ideals.

They shared the opinion that a state of Israel is not only an end to the flight from anti-Semitism, but above all a self-realization. The establishment of a national unity had to go hand in hand with a discovery and renewal of the Jews themselves.

The first prominent representatives of this attitude were the socialist Jews. Moses Hess became an advocate of the Zionist idea. In 1862 he wrote "Rome and Jerusalem. The Last National Question", in which he proposed a socialist state in Palestine as the solution. From this idea two of the larger groups within the Zionist movement emerged: socialist Zionism and labor Zionism.

In 1862 the German Orthodox Rabbi Zwi Hirsch Kalischer published the text "Drischat Zion". In it he writes that the redemption of the Jews and the hoped-for return to their homeland can only be achieved through initiative and self-help. That was the decisive impetus for the establishment of religious Zionism.

Preference for cultural emancipation

The Zionist movement of social self-emancipation grew there where emancipation through equality was inconceivable, especially in tsarist Russia. The most prominent figure in this group was Jehuda Leib Pinsker. The early Eastern European association Chibat Zion was also affiliated.

Another sub-grouping of Zionism was the cultural-linguistic variant. The writer Achad Ha’am ("one of the people" or "layman") alias Ascher Ginsberg and others criticized the politicization of the solution approaches.

In their opinion, self-fulfillment in one's own country had to be cultural in nature. In addition, the language of the Jews should also come to life again. The forerunner of this development was the "resuscitator" of the Hebrew language, Eliezer Ben Jehuda.

Theodor Herzl as the leader of the movement

The emergence of political Judaism was decisive for the movement's success. The head of this group and the entire movement was the Viennese journalist Theodor Herzl. He realized that the Jews were still viewed as strangers despite efforts to integrate themselves to the point of abandoning themselves.

In 1897 Herzl organized the first Zionist Congress. Delegates from all over Europe came to Basel at his invitation. Heart united them and formed a common movement.

Many years passed, not without great discussions and arguments. There was intense discussion as to whether the Jews should or could found their own state elsewhere than in Palestine. No fewer than 33 possible solutions were proposed.

In particular, the proposals to found the Jewish state in the open spaces in Argentina or Uganda caused the greatest waves. The pragmatic Herzl and political Zionism were in favor, but suffered a vote defeat at the 6th Zionist Congress in 1903.

In 1947, 50 years after the first Zionist Congress, the United Nations finally decided to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. A year later, in 1948, around 600,000 Jews again founded an independent Jewish state: Israel.

Today the Zionist movement and its organizations serve to maintain and maintain a democratic, modern, green land for the Jews - in the place where their ancestors lived: in Eretz Israel.

WDR | Status: 04.06.2020, 09:06