Confused about Zionism?

During an interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell, September 2010, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed “Zionists” for fostering hostility between the United States and Iran. Muslims generally also accuse the Zionist regime of conducting terrorist activities in the US and around the world, while blaming the Muslims for it.

 Too many people in this world have turned on Israel and Zionism with a vengeance.

Palestinians and their supporters have cleverly hijacked the definition of Zionism, and equated it with terrorism. Israel-bashing has become great sport, and even though words may not kill, they create increased confusion among uninformed Westerners.

 So what exactly is Zionism? Who is a Zionist?

 Zion (ציון‎) is a term that most often refers to Jerusalem and – by extension – the Biblical Land of Israel. The name Zion appears 154 times in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), texts dating back almost three millennia. It referred to a specific mountain near Jerusalem (Mount Zion), on which stood a Jebusite fortress of the same name that was conquered by David and was named the City of David. The term Zion came therefore to designate the area of Jerusalem where the fortress stood, and later became a metonym for Solomon‘s Temple. Zion was eventually used as a name for the city of Jerusalem, the land of Judah, and the people of Israel as a whole.

It is hard to tell the story of Zionism without going back to “lech lecha,” Abraham’s charge in Genesis to “go forth” to a new land, the land of Israel. Every time the Jews were forced to leave the Land, they started yearning to return to their beloved city, Jerusalem. You find some examples in the book of Psalms, which have been frequently recited and even remembered in song lyrics. That’s why the Palestinians didn’t want Boney M. to sing “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, ye-eah, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” (Psalms 137:1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm1g8FFRArc. The aspiration of returning to their homeland was held by Jews exiled to Babylon some 2,500 years ago – a hope which subsequently became a reality.

Zionism is therefore nothing else than the yearning of the Jewish people to return to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The yearning to return to Zion (biblical term for both the Land of Israel and Jerusalem) has been the cornerstone of Jewish religious life since the Jewish exile from the land two thousand years ago, and is embedded in Jewish prayer, ritual, literature and culture.

The modern term “Zionism” was coined in 1890 by Nathan Birnbaum. Modern Zionism emerged in the late 19th century in response to the violent persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe, anti-Semitism in Western Europe. It is the Jewish national movement of rebirth and renewal in the land of Israel – the historical birthplace of the Jewish people. Modern Zionism fused the ancient Jewish biblical and historical ties to the ancestral homeland with the modern concept of nationalism into a vision of establishing a modern Jewish state in the land of Israel.

The founder of the modern Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, dreamed in his visionary 1896 book “The Jewish State,” of the Jewish state as a liberal model for the world. “We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our own homes peacefully die,” Herzl wrote. “The world will be liberated by our freedom, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind.” In this passage, Herzl articulated the essential Zionist message that still holds true, and that echoes in the liberal nationalism of most Western nation states – that only through self-determination can utopian ideals be achieved, that a community first must unite and protect itself before it can become a force for good.

The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Zionism is based on the long connection between the Jewish people and its land, a link which began almost 4,000 years ago when Abraham settled in Canaan, later known as the Land of Israel. It was there that their spiritual identity was shaped. In Israel they first attained statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

There never was another state claiming Jerusalem as its capital. It is to the ancient homeland that Jews from all over the world still return to. Israel is not just another country. It is destined to become the fulfillment of Biblical destiny. Those with eyes to see can see that this is already beginning. The Jewish People have begun to return home from all over the world. The only peace process that will work is when Israel decides to become a nation that stands alone with her G-d.

“This country exists as the fulfillment of a promise made by G-d Himself. It would be ridiculous to ask it to account for its legitimacy.”Golda Meir, Le Monde, 15 October 1971

Zionism is not a political movement, it’s not a terrorist organization; –  it’s a move of G-D among his people!

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