Tonight a few folks from the Ulpan went to see The Simpsons movie. Very Israeli of me, isnt it? The weirdest thing about going to movies in Israel is that there is a break in the middle of the movie. What’s up with that? Can they not sit still for an hour and a half?
Today in class we got to visit the audio lab and listened to a professor talk about the life of Theodore Herzl. Sure it was a sanitized version of his story, but to think that if the Dreyfus Affair hadn’t happened, Herzl might not have come to the conclusion that Jews needed their own state, and there might not have been a state of Israel. Some people might argue that we would have been better off remaining diaspora Jews without a state, but I don’t think so.
Herzl sounded like an interesting guy. He was a completely assimilated Hungarian Jew and probably didn’t want much to do with the Jewish people until he started advocating for a Jewish state. In fact, he viewed Eastern European Jewry as weak and backwards. Perhaps Herzl’s contempt for the weak and wandering Jew spurred Zionism’s idealization of the self-reliant and chuztpadik Israeli.
Herzl was also a failed playwright, but I’m sure his theatrical experiences helped him win over Jewish supporters. He grew a beard to make himself look more like a prophet. Everybody including heads of state came to view him as the King of the Jews. When he died in 1904 at the age of 44, a great loss was felt within the Jewish people–although there were many, including prominent rabbis, who opposed his ideas. And to think that he had only been engaged in this endeavor for seven years!
As part of the Fringe Festival in DC, Theater J presented a well-written play by David Zellnik that dealt with Theodore Herzl‘s vision and his quest for an Israeli state. The play is a thought-provoking reflection on the current state of Zionism, and raises the question of whether Herzl’s dream was a failed endeavor–like one of his plays. Kind of depressing, but really interesting–especially in how the play interweaves Herzl’s story with that of Ariel Sharon’s.
It appears to me that in the last 10 years, Zionism has become a dirty word. It is very outmoded to tell people that you are a Zionist, and they might look at you like you are from another planet. Arab countries were using the term “Zionist Enemy” for quite some time, but the anti-Zionist mantra has become en vogue more recently amongst the left-left-wing activists and jihadists. These people now wrongly lump Zionism with Nazism, Fascism, Colonialism, Neo-Imperialism and so on. Unfortunately this cliched rhetoric has squeezed all of nuance out of any deep analysis of the Zionist ideology. There has always been a wide range of political perspectives within Zionism–as can be seen in the sparring between Kibbutznik and Jabotinsky Zionists way back when–but all of this gets lost in the heated arguments and criticisms.
What are your thoughts about Zionism? Is Israel, after forty years of occupying the West Bank, a post-Zionist state, deflated of all of the ideals that made it great? Is Zionism in itself a bad thing? Is it time for me to go to sleep?