WHO IS A ZIONIST? By Rabbi Baruch Cohon

          An old comic definition of a Zionist went like this: “A Zionist is a Jew who collects money from another Jew so that a third Jew can move to Jerusalem.”  No politics, just charity.

          When my oldest daughter went on an Ulpan program to Israel at the age of 15, David Ben Gurion was still living on his farm in Sde Boker.  The Ulpan leaders arranged to take their group to meet him.   He expressed his strong interest in the young people and urged them to come and live inEretz Yisrael.  When one of them remarked about his Zionism, Ben Gurion answered “I am not a Zionist.”  The kids were amazed.  How could David Ben Gurion not be a Zionist?  He explained: “I’m not a Zionist.  I live here.  Your parents can be Zionists and stay in America with their swimming pools.  We need you here with us.”  Again no politics, just reality.

          This week in the Book of Genesis we will read another Divine promise to one of our patriarchs that the land of Canaan would belong to his descendants.  Three times that message appears.  Our Torah recounts that promise to Abraham, to Isaac, and now to Jacob.  Alone and rather desperate, Jacob left Beer Sheba to escape his brother Esau’s violence, and now he is encamped on the way to Haran, sleeping on the ground with a stone for a pillow.  But here he dreams of a ladder with its feet on earth and its top reaching heaven.  Angels climb and descend the ladder.   And from up above he hears the voice of G-d telling him that the ground he is lying on will be given to him and to his children.   No negotiations, no politics, just destiny.

          One rabbinic commentary on Jacob’s dream asks why the angels first climb the ladder and then descend.  Angels make their home in heaven, don’t they?  Would they not more likely walkdown the ladder first and then climb up?  This indicates, says the commentator, that Eretz Yisraelhas its own native angels who live there and accompany travelers to the country.

          Waking from his dream, Jacob is thrilled.  “Surely G-d is in this place and I did not know it.” No politics, just inspiration.

          Personally, I did not grow up in a Zionist family.  But when I first visited Jerusalem I could feel what Jacob felt.  In a unique way it is the center of the universe.     

          After all the centuries, all the successes and all the invasions, all the victories and all the defeats, it remained for Theodore Herzl to make Zionism a political movement.  By history’s definition, it is one of the very few such movements that succeeded.  Like Ben Gurion, those who inherit that success are not Zionists any more, they are Israelis. 

          Now it is Israel’s enemies who often use the name of Zionism as a political target of their hatred.  They call the Jewish state “the Zionist entity.”   And their UN dupes brand Zionism as racism, charge Zionism with violating human rights, etc. etc.  To the politically correct, Zionism is the worst of bad words.  Such a policy is not just mistaken, it is absurd.

          By political definitions, Zionism is history.  If you or I support Israel today, if you or I would urge the United States and other free countries to back Israel’s right to self-defense and to oppose the Jihad effort to destroy her, does that make us Zionists?  For Ben Gurion, maybe yes.  For Herzl, No.  Our concern for Israel does not make us citizens of Israel.  Remaining citizens of wherever we live, we face two issues in the world around us:

         We believe people deserve a chance to build a peaceful productive future, free of terrorist attacks.  This is vital in the Middle East or South America or East Asia — or Antarctica.  

          We care about the lives of 7 million of our Jewish brothers and sisters. 

 Who is a Zionist?  Not me.  How about you?


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