Israel in Jewish Thought 101

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Modern Thought

Anti-Semitism led some 19th-century Jews to see the establishment of a sovereign Jewish nation as the sole way to ensure Jewish survival. These Zionists met resistance from traditional Jews--who believed only God could initiate the return to the Land--and from liberals, who believed the solution lay in integration with liberal Western societies.

Early Zionists--like Theodor Herzl, who founded the political Zionist movement--considered different sites for a Jewish homeland but came to see the Land of Israel as the only option. Ahad Ha-am, the father of cultural Zionism, believed the Land should be cultivated as a spiritual and cultural arena, not a political homeland.

land of israel quizThough many traditionalists shunned Zionism, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook developed a theology laying the foundation for religious Zionism. Kook saw Zionism--even in its secular forms--as hastening the Messiah, which was imminent.

His son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, founded Gush Emunim, which believed that Jews are obligated to settle all of the biblical Land of Israel, including territories at the center of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. His devotees object to relinquishing any settled land, though many religious Zionists offer a more moderate approach.

In recent years, a group of Israeli academics known as the New Historians have challenged widely held beliefs about the history of the state, especially its treatment of Palestinians. Their theories are highly controversial and sparked intense debate.

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