Last night, on the eve of the 15th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s murder, more than 1000 people gathered at Kikar Zion, in the heart of Jerusalem. The rally wasn’t a Rabin memorial but its date is significant and even metaphorical. While Rabin’s legacy looms larger than any of his actions- the moral from it is also clear: democracy and the quest for peace. It is over these principles that the rally was convened. Called, ”נאבקים בגזענות חוזרים לציונות”- Fighting the Racism and Returning to Zionism, the rally was sparked by the controversial loyalty oath, yet this wasn’t the main topic, rather the question was: how did we get here? What has our Zionism become?
Yes, the loyalty oath is serious, (as serious as Gideon Levy’s suggestion that we will become The Jewish Republic of Israel… I don’t know about that) but serious enough because it reflects the path we are taking and what our Jewish state represents. There was a time where many believed that Zionism was beautiful; Jews were returning to their ancient homeland to create a democratic state. Today all I hear is that Zionism=racism. To me, Zionism is just as beautiful as it was when Herzl first came out with “The Jewish State”- the problem is rather that my conception of Zionism is being hijacked. The Zionism presented to me today is reflected by ofracist policy and politicians, the neglection of peace, and lack of equality for all its citizens despite race or religion.
My Zionism wasn’t born out of exclusiveness, but in defense of being excluded. It was created in order to provide the threatened Jews of Europe opportunity to reach their potential, away from antisemitism in an effort to create a beacon of modern civilization in the Jewish ancient homeland. In many ways we have lived up to this, and become this beacon. We have provided to the world medical, scientific, agricultural and technological breakthroughs. We have a an amazing and unique culture. And we are the only democracy in the Middle East; and while we have our mistakes, we are still learning and growing.
While it is true that our country was born in a moment of war and therefore survival meant defense, we have never stopped letting ourselves be the victim and on the defense. (Not just militarily) We are the oppressors in occupied land, we claim we want to provide for peace, yet we keep onto this land for 43 years. We claim to be a democracy but we continue to worry about the rights of our majority, and neglect the rights of our minorities- these very same minorities that we have a duty to protect. (Rule of majority means defense of minority). After years of foreign rules, the persecuted Jewish nation is given their own land… and wouldn’t you think that the moment they received a non-Jewish minority, they would say to the world, “this is how you treat your minority”… yet we fail to live up to this. (The treat your neighbor the way you’d like to be treated principle) Instead we have chosen to alienate them, instead of bringing them closer.
So what is my Zionism? My Zionism is a Jewish state in the land of Israel. My Zionism is justice for Palestinians and Jews. My Zionism is democracy, equality and freedom within the state. My Zionism is peace. But most of all, my Zionism is the belief that we can make all this reality. When 1000 people gathered last night they weren’t just complaining about Lieberman’s bill, they were asserting the need to reclaim our Zionism. We need to step forward and preserve it… not by defending it, but by showing what it can be through our actions.