Zionism's Greatest Conceit Essay

1594 Words Aug 4th, 2013 7 Pages
ZIONISM’S GREATEST CONCEIT

For a people whose traditions and rituals originate from the age of Egyptian pharaohs, modernity can be a relative term. The Jewish people have one of the oldest traditions of any culture on earth and have been a part of nearly every major civilization, from the ancient Egyptians, to the Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and British empires. Over the centuries, they have traditions both of successful self-governance but also of persecution, hostility and exile. The ability of the Jewish people to maintain their ethnic and religious identity throughout four millennia of peace and conflict illustrates not only the strength of their conviction but also their skill in organizing and leading themselves.
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The objective of Zionists was to elevate the Jewish people from their oppressed past, to “reverse” the course of Jewish history which had been characterized by persecution and exile. They sought, in the extremes, to break with Jewish history entirely and create a modern version of the Hebrew nation. On the whole, however, Zionists intended to reshape Jewish life by synthesizing Jewish tradition and history with modern ideology (Dowty, 1998).
This movement was colored by international shifts in Jewish communities at the end of the century. From 1880 to 1914, for example, 2.5 million Jews were forced out of Russia, though of those only 70,000 settled in the Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish community in Palestine. Many of those who emigrated in this period were revolutionary elements of the Jewish intelligentsia with strong Zionist ideology. Despite large waves of non-revolutionary immigrants who settled in the Yishuv in the coming years, the highly ideological Zionists would predominate politics for decades under the Labor Zionist party name. Zionists demonstrated the traditional Jewish quality of compromise in their “revolution” to renew and refashion Jewish life into a modern form. They did not wish to break with Jewish tradition entirely and focused on Jewish sources of spiritual renewal (Dowty, 1998). In this way, the Zionist movement attenuated much of