My journey in identifying with Zionism stems out of years of conversations around the dinner table with my family, ongoing trips to Israel, and countless hours spent reading about Israel and the Zionist movement, exploring what it means to be a Zionist and why one would choose to call themselves one.
I know that many people see Zionism as having run its course, and therefore see identifying with Zionism as irrelevant and outdated. However, I disagree. I believe that the Zionist movement is viable and has ongoing relevance, and has by no means completed its original mission. Therefore, to do away with Zionism would be a great injustice, and I continue to proudly identify with the movement.
My understanding of Zionism has evolved a lot over the years. I began in a place where I had very strong views the espoused a specific stream of Zionism, and anyone who didn’t fall in line with that was automatically out of the fold. But over time, I began to truly understand the different ways that people connect with Israel, and Zionism, and the profound reasons that they have for doing so. I began to realize that there are many different ways to be a Zionist, ways which are simultaneously equally valid, and contradict one another at the same time. From the time of its inception, the Zionist movement had many varying, arguing voices, a legacy that continues until today.
This post, however, is about my personal reasoning for identifying with Zionism. It is not meant to be comprehensive, and is definitely not all-encompassing with regards to the different forms of Zionist expression, but nevertheless is my personal belief about why this movement is so important.
I’m a Zionist because of the circumstances of my birth. I, and my peers, are a part of one of the first generations of Jews to live in a time when a Jewish State exists. I have only known a world where the State of Israel is a reality, and where all Jews have a place from which to draw strength and call home. I didn’t have to fight for its existence, but rather just get to enjoy it. Therefore, my circumstances are unique in Jewish history. I didn’t grow up in galut, in a place of exile. I grew up in the Diaspora, where I lived out of choice, as a Jew and an American, understanding that I had this choice, but also understanding the strength that the Jewish people have because of Israel. I chose my Zionism. It wasn’t inevitable that I be a Zionist, because it is remarkably easy to be an American Jew without it. I didn’t need Zionism as a way out, or a means of survival. Instead, I chose it as a way to draw strength and as a source of personal pride.
I’m a Zionist because I feel an obligation to the Jewish people. Many see the fight for Israel as being over, having been taken care of by previous generations. Yet, it is because of this that I feel the need to contribute, to make my own mark on Israel, and to do my part in some way. Zionism provides me with that outlet, allowing me to educate, learn, and work for the betterment of Israel.
I’m a Zionist because I’m actively engaged in Jewish nation-building. I believe that the Zionist mission is not yet complete. It did not end with the foundation of the State of Israel, but rather began a new era. The original Zionist mission focused on what Israeli society would be, and how the Jewish State would run. Today, Israel is an imperfect society, with many positives, but also a great deal of room for growth. Zionism today is the ongoing building of the Jewish State, both physically and ideologically.
I’m a Zionist because I believe in the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in our ancestral homeland, and because I believe in a strong Jewish people, in control of their own destiny.
Being a Zionist is integral to who I am. It provides me with strength, goals, and a purpose. It gives me a connection to a people and a place, and allows me to make an impact on something that means the world to me.