"Religious Zionism is a compound noun. One cannot be religious without being a Zionist, and one cannot be a Zionist without being religious. If you are not a Zionist, something is lacking in your religion."
I've been thinking about this subject for a long time. I know something to which I'd rather not admit: I'm not, as much as I wish to be, a true Zionist.
Oh, I am from a very detached perspective. I believe in the absolute good that is the creation of the State of Israel. I read about the people who fought and gave their lives for its creation and I am moved. Every time I hear HaTikvah, I think of my grandfather, whose very life was devoted and dedicated to the state in a way that I can only envy. I think of the words on his lips, and how much meaning they had.
I envy him, but it is difficult to envy something I can't understand...
- However, if Love of Zion is expressed by living in the Holy Land, striking roots there, loving its soil and desiring its stones, sharing in the burdens of the community under siege, and being totally committed to the destiny of the Holy City of Jerusalem, then my uncle was a true lover of Zion. He refused to leave the Holy City even when the enemy besieged its gates. He totally rejected all proposals to emigrate to safe cities outside the Land of Israel. This true love of Zion found its total fulfillment and realization as a "Man of Halakhah" who was in theological opposition to the State of Israel and separated himself from its ideology. He was the true lover of Zion, and not the Jew who lives comfortably in New York or Los Angeles and regularly flies back and forth between the United States and Israel.
~Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, page 115
Rabbi Soloveitchik has the most interesting insight regarding the love of Israel in my generation as opposed to other generations:
- East European Jews were transfixed by the mere reference to the State of Israel. These Jews had always been stateless. They never really felt an inner commitment to the lands in which they resided. They were constantly subjected to persecution and hardship in these countries. Therefore they were enchanted by the very mention of a Jewish state. However, the Jew born in the United States is totally at home in his country. He is an integral part of America and benefits from completely equal rights and unlimited opportunities. The American Jew is not captivated by the mere concept of a Jewish state.
~Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, page 98
He concludes by stating that the only motivating factor "which can inspire the American Jew toward Israel is the religious bond."
I've read excerpts from Orot and it is clear how much R' Kook felt for the land. His passion for it is beautifully rendered, sanctified and distilled into an essence of holiness.
So why can't I feel it? Why doesn't it press upon me?
Perhaps because I have not spent enough time there. Yes, that is possible- that with more exposure I could come to love the land more. But I didn't feel it- this sense of connection, of homecoming, of connecting- when I did come. I admired the beauty and the history and how lovely everything was, and in a strong way I saw it as being mine in that I was a Jew, I possessed it in a way that was different than if I had been touring some other foreign country, but I still didn't feel...connected, I suppose. I do not have the passion, the desire, the love for the land.
- Every word was filled with endless longing for the Land which is saturated by divine light and radiant energy. Yes, my uncle possessed deep love for the Land, although he opposed the State of Israel. Many American Zionists are committed to the State of Israel, but they are totally unwilling to dwell there. The mere thought of aliyah engenders within them a sense of dread and distress. Who is more preferable- my uncle or these American Zionists? (Soloveitchik, 115)
Obviously his uncle is far more preferable...and obviously any weak Zionism I claim is very flawed- but why is that? It's not my parents. My father loves the land; in another life he would be living there at this very moment. My mother, too, loves the land; she too would live there if she could. So why do I balk and rebel, why can't I feel this love and desire, why don't I see this place as my home, why do I not feel any connection?
I went to the Kotel. I pressed my cheek against the wall; I placed my hand upon its surface. I felt nothing, nothing! Here, where so many others have cried, this place that the soldiers fought to win...and I come and I do not feel any connection to it. Of course, I am wrong to think that I suddenly ought to feel some kind of magical connection; it comes from within. But why do I seem so spiritually dead, so unmoved? Why don't I want to make aliya?
Well, the simplest reason is that the thought terrifies me (as Rabbi Soloveitchik correctly states.) Take me from everything and everyone I know and place me in a completely different land, and you expect me to flourish? But I like America and I like my house and its buildings and most of all, I like the fact that everyone speaks blessed, blessed English. I've long given up on my ability to ever master Hebrew, and it is maddening to have to try to express yourself in the language when you know quite well exactly what you'd like to say in English, and in twenty different ways, no less.
I like my books and I like my teachers and I like my life. I'm spoiled and I'm privileged, but I don't feel guilty about it, I accept it as my due. How can you expect me to move to a land where the English books are in short supply, and my friend can't find the continuation to the fantasy series she's trying to read? This is what I find important...perhaps I should not, perhaps it's flawed, perhaps it's wrong, but it's true. Is it a sin to want to read my books?
So what ought I to do? Move to a land out of a sense of obligation and hate it? That can't be the ideal. No, the ideal would be to cultivate what these other people have, this sense of love and a fierce desire to protect, this true, deep and abiding love of the land. I don't see how to do it, and I don't really think it's something that can be conveyed with words; you can give me all the rational reasons in the world and I'll still not feel as I should.
This is particularly disturbing when I encounter someone who is a completely secularized Jew but who flames with his love of the land, who tries to spend as much time as possible living and working there, who attends large rallies with his parents (and they give money generously), who has looked into all kinds of Zionist organizations to join...why does he have this love, but I don't? I'm jealous of him, yes, jealous.
Am I taking the easy way out if I say that I feel as though I were meant to live in America? Surely God would not give me a gift for words and then state that I am not meant to use it? Am I a sinner if I can really only learn English and manage Biblical Hebrew, but find Modern Hebrew torturous? Do I really have to move to a country where I would feel so out of place, so unable to be me, so much less than who I am in order to prove a love that I do not feel? Am I a traitor if I don't? Am I turning my back on God?
And why, why, why don't I feel this love that others do?