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ABC Mini-Encyclopedia

ZIONISM – Ancient and Modern


The old equivalent of Zionism, the longing of Jews to return to Zion - Jerusalem - as a free people, started 2500 years ago when the Babylonians conquered Israel and took the Jews to slavery in Babylonia. This longing was renewed after 71 A.D., when the Romans violently put down the Jewish revolt, destroyed The Second Temple, Jerusalem and Judea, the thousand years old Jewish statehood. The Romans killed, expelled and dispersed most of the Jewish people across the vast Roman Empire and renamed Judea as ‘Palestina'. For 2000 years, Jews have prayed daily for their return to Zion. So, Zionism was originally based on religious tradition, linking the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, where their nationhood evolved, particularly from King David's and King Solomon's time 3000 years ago, until 71 A.D.


Modern Zionism, the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, started in the 19th Century. This was mainly a secular movement, a response by European Jewry to antisemitism. It pursued, from its inception, tangible as well as spiritual aims. The term "Zionism" was coined in 1890. Theodor Herzl, the father of political Zionism, published his vision for a Jewish state in ‘Der Judenstaat" in 1896. After a passionate search, the Zionist movement defined the restoration of the Jewish state in its ancient homeland, Jewish self-determination, the renascence of their civilization and culture as its common goals.

With the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Zionism entered its full implementational stage, and its spiritual values continued to affect all practical activities. Zionism is what has enabled Israel to achieve its modern miracles - a flourishing economy and an exemplary democratic society. Zionism has successfully absorbed unprecedented proportions of refugees; penniless refugees from Europe after the Holocaust, persecuted refugees fleeing from hostile Arab countries, and refugees from Africa. While Israel has always had to fight an existential war, Zionism always remained generous even with its potential enemies; 1.4 million Arabs  live in Israel in relative wealth and with human rights far  exceeding those of their brothers' in any of the 23 Arab countries.


The revival of the Jewish state has inspired non-Jews:

-"Only once in human history did God take a country as an inheritance and give it to His chosen people" - (Cardinal Schoenborn)

and Jews alike:

*Zionism is: "THE HOPE OF 2000 YEARS TO BE A FREE PEOPLE IN OUR LAND: THE LAND OF ZION AND JERUSALEM" - from Israel's National Anthem.

*Zionism has given refuge to a people persecuted throughout their history, with no other place to go.


*Zionism is not colonialism - but the movement to return and rebuild a state in the land from which the Jewish people was expelled, but for which they have never lost their connection and claim. Zionism seeks peace and cooperation with all its neighbors.


*Zionism drove the beginnings of Israeli agriculture, turning desolate deserts and swamps into productive land - seen from space as a tiny green island in a sea of brown. Israel is the only country on earth which in the 20th century planted many more trees than it cut down.


*Zionism is a leading global catalyst for medical research, agricultural & scientific development, education, invention and training for improvement - available for the use of other peoples.


*Zionism means freedom of religion for all citizens of Israel.

*Zionism means building, not destruction; love of life - not love of death.
*Zionism is the human struggle to survive, to build and to seek co-existence even in hostile environment

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A View from the Eye of the Storm

A recommended excellent background reading about Israel and the Middle East

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