Am I Still a Zionist?

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A little debate I’ve been having with myself recently. Thought others might want to weigh in.

I used to be an ardent Zionist. I came to Israel with a passion. And I loved my time here. I was able to overlook the many faults of the country in favor of seeing the beauty and the blessing that is the Holy Land.

But many things happened over the years, and my love eventually became a tolerance… followed by indifference… and eventually an almost blatant dislike.

A Damaged Zionist

Zionist

Judge me all you want, but my experiences are my experiences. And unless you’ve endured similar hardships to my own, your opinion on how I feel means little to me.

I recall shortly before I moved back to the States I was in school with someone who was giving me a hard time for leaving Israel. And I got uncharacteristically annoyed.

He had been in Israel for less than a year and he was in yeshiva, essentially having everything he needed just handed to him on a daily basis. No responsibilities. No room for major challenges.

And I was ticked off that someone like that felt comfortable judging my decision. He needed to earn the right to criticize me, and he wasn’t even close. If you have been in Israel for a measurable amount of time, have bundled yourself in a sleeping bag at night because you didn’t have enough money to pay for heating, and comforted friends who lost family as a result of terrorism, and you still love it here, feel free to judge me. If you have seen how complex surviving in the land of Israel is, and regardless you keep your head up high with pride, I am happy to have the conversation with you.

But your two-week trip to Masada and Eilat don’t give you the right to judge me.

The Definition of Zionist

Zionist

Anyhow, I’ve been wondering lately about the definition of a Zionist. And through my contemplation, I’ve started wondering the big question I find myself asking all the time: What am I?

If you define Zionism as a blind, shallow belief that Israel can do no wrong, and that the actions undertaken by the government or its citizens are inherently justified and moral, I am not a Zionist. Similarly, if it means that one cannot criticize the country when it deserves criticism, then again, I am not a Zionist.

If you define Zionism as a shallow belief that Israel can do no wrong, and that the actions of its government or its citizens are inherently moral, I am not a Zionist. Click To Tweet

Perhaps Zionism is defined as the belief that every Jewish adult must make the decision to move to Israel. I don’t believe that’s true. I think there are countless reasons why a person could and should live elsewhere.

I will never forget a moment years ago, one of those unforgettable times when someone puts you in your place in the simplest way possible and you are just instantly forced to realize how wrong you are. When I was younger, I would encourage everyone I met visiting Israel to move here. And I know exactly when I stopped.

I met a woman visiting for the holidays. I asked her why she hadn’t just moved here yet. And she said she needed to be home to take care of her mother with Alzheimer’s. And I was humbled. It was a really good answer.

So if you need to believe that every Jew must pack their bags and move to Israel immediately to be a Zionist, then once again, I am not a Zionist.

But Maybe I am a Zionist

Zionist

So why might I think I am a Zionist?

Well, for one, I’ve lived here for twelve years of my life. I’m a good, law-abiding, tax-paying citizen. I think it’s wrong to litter anywhere in the world; however, I think it’s especially wrong to litter in Israel. Why? Well, that brings me to my next point.

The modern state might annoy me, but I fully recognize the significance of Israel. I appreciate how a nation waited 2000 years to retrieve its homeland, and then made it back here in a fashion that even an ardent atheist, knowing the facts, would say is nothing short of miraculous. And how someone could know all this and still toss a candy wrapper on the ground is beyond me!

Furthermore, I love the IDF, despite the awful experience I had during my service. People fight and bleed to give me the ability to lounge comfortably in my living room writing this post. Their service is beautiful and their contribution is beyond meaningful to me.

More times than I can count I’ve defended Israel, both online and in-person. Truth is truth. My issues with Israel have everything to do with its modern society and nothing to do with its standing in the eyes of the world. To the world at large Israel has been demonized left and right, and whereas sometimes there are pockets of truth, most of what’s said is lies and exaggerations.

The disproportionate mistreatment of Israel in the media and the worldwide political realm is embarrassing. It’s just modern antisemitic nonsense masked as attempts to embolden the downtrodden. And I will proudly stand up and argue for the honor of my country.

In fact, I would gladly fight and die for my country, since I still firmly believe in the concept of a homeland for my people, one with Judaism flowing through the nation’s veins and guiding its values.

Mediocrity is Unacceptable

Zionist

But that doesn’t make me tolerate when someone yells at me after almost running me over in a crosswalk. That doesn’t make me think it’s OK that I can’t walk ten feet without coughing from a cloud of cigarette smoke or stepping on trash haphazardly tossed on the ground. And that doesn’t make me smile when people are rude or inefficient in government offices.

No, I want a version of this country where we do better. I want people to stop making excuses and being satisfied with where we are holding. I want options. I want expertise. I want friendliness and tolerance. I want an Israel that makes everyone desire to be here, not just feel an obligation or a sense of fleeing from fear of other places.

So maybe I’m even more of a Zionist than others. Why? Because I can’t handle a mediocre Israel, knowing we can do so much better.

I want a version of this country where we do better Click To Tweet

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Am I Still a Zionist?

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