New Essays on Zionism

David Hazony; Yoram Hazony; Michael B. Oren, eds.
  • Review
By – March 23, 2012

This col­lec­tion of essays is an ear­ly sal­vo of what might be called post-post- Zion­ism.” Each author engages one of Israel’s two most threat­en­ing crit­ics today: those on the out­side who ques­tion the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for a Jew­ish state in the mod­ern world and the Mid­dle East; and those on the inside who are alien­at­ed by a main­stream cul­ture they find shal­low, com­mer­cial, or nar­row­ly trib­al. In essence, the book takes up the unfin­ished busi­ness of both Theodore Her­zl and Ahad Ha’am.

Most of the authors here engage the cri­tiques of Israel head on, and try to offer a sub­stan­tive vision of the sig­nif­i­cance of the Jew­ish state — for Israelis, for Jews, and even for the world. The implic­it audi­ence is the lib­er­al, sec­u­lar Israeli (or Jew), for whom Jew­ish his­to­ry, reli­gion, and mere peo­ple-hood is not enough. Some of the writ­ers here, such as Anna Isako­va, a Sovi­et émi­gré and one-time advi­sor to Prime Min­is­ter Barak, artic­u­late Israel’s cul­tur­al flaws with pas­sion bor­der­ing on anger. More inter­est­ing is a wry but heart­felt essay by Ze’ev Maghen, who coun­ter­at­tacks those who imag­ine a world, á la John Lennon, with no countries…and no reli­gion too.” Maghen acknowl­edges the seduc­tive­ness of that dream, but in a per­ora­tion one can almost hear, he argues for the excite­ment of pick­ing up where Ahad Ha’am and Bia­lik were fash­ion­ing new out of old.

Maghen’s gen­er­al point is the clos­est thing here to a vision of Israeli life renewed; there are no small­er scale explo­rations of Israeli cul­tur­al dynamism. In an impor­tant bit of his­to­ri­og­ra­phy, Yoram Hazony doc­u­ments that Her­zl under­stood his own title Der Juden­staat as The Jew­ish State,” not The Jews’ State,” as has become fash­ion­able to argue. While this book does not ful­ly answer the post- or anti-Zion­ist crit­ics the edi­tors have select­ed, it at least sets the terms for debate, and shows that there are Israelis ready to make the Zion­ism claim in its sec­ond century.

Jonathan Spi­ra-Savett is a rab­bi and teen edu­ca­tor. He is the rab­bi at Tem­ple Beth Abra­ham in Nashua, NH. His work focus­es on civic edu­ca­tion and youth phil­an­thropy, and he has taught his­to­ry, lit­er­a­ture, and envi­ron­men­tal stud­ies in addi­tion to tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish texts.

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