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Judaism and Zionism

By Shlomo Phillips © April 06, 2010 (last updated July 15, 2014)

The common answer:

Judaism is a religion

Zionism is a political doctrine.

Hence (some claim) anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. I strongly disagree. Anti-Zionism is a subtle and pernicious form of anti-Semitism. It convinces people that denying our God decreed birthright and historic title to our homeland is justifiable. It further actively supports the agenda of our enemies to "drive us into the sea."

What is Judaism?

Judaism is much more than a religion. Indeed many Jews, possibly the majority, are not religious at all. Judaism is more accurately thought of as a highly diverse extended family.

True, Judaism is the religion established by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through Moses and the prophets as described in the Tanach, but that's only part of what makes us a unique people. Non-religious Jews are just as "Jewish" as the most religious among us: some Jews are religious, some aren't. Some Jews practice other religions and many are Agnostic or even Atheists. To be a Jew is to be a member of the Covenant, a Covenant the vast majority had no say in belonging to (this is why converts or 'Jews by choice' are to be shown extra respect according to Rambam and other sages).

HaShem ("the NAME" -- the One God) revealed His Torah (Laws and Teachings) to Moses in the Five Books and the Oral Torah. These were codified revealing His eternal covenant with the Jewish people at Mount Sinai following the Exodus from Egypt. Torah (in all its forms) is therefore the eternal Law of the Jewish people and our final authority. However again most Jews today and most of the early Zionists are not religious people and do not embrace that authority in the same way the Orthodox Jews do. This is not the place to discuss why this is so but there are various reasons including the aftermath of the Shoah.

Unlike most religions there is an hereditary component to Judaism in that everyone whose mother is Jewish is automatically accepted as Jewish by Rabbinic halacha regardless of their religious observance or lack thereof.

Most Jews today are Zionists, some are not, and a few are anti-Zionist. Many Christians and other non-Jews are also committed Zionists, while others are anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist.


Zionism is the conviction (religious or secular) that Zion (Mount Moria/the Temple Mount, the City of Jerusalem and all the Land specified in the Torah) belongs to the Jewish people as our homeland. Zionists support the State of Israel in securing and defending Eretz Israel. Some support extending the current borders to include all the Holy Land (modern Israel only possesses a small portion of the Holy Land).

Early modern Zionists like Judah ben Solomon Chai Alkalai (1798 � October 1878), Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Kalischer (March 24, 1795 - October 16, 1874), Theodore Herzl (May 2, 1860 � July 3, 1904), Ze'ev Jabotinsky (October 18, 1880 - August 4, 1940) and others added their own flavors, but essentially this is what Zionism is. It is the living commitment of the Jewish people (and our supporters from the nations) to their homeland. This commitment is manifested in the ancient declaration: Next year in Jerusalem! Ironically most of the early Zionists were not religious and yet their efforts began the course through which Messiah will one day come. May he come swiftly!

Rav Kook (1865�1935) developed and affirmed the religious legitimation of the secular Zionist movement before the country was restored:

Zionism was not merely a political movement by secular Jews. It was actually a tool of God to promote His divine scheme and to initiate the return of the Jews to their homeland � the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God wants the children of Israel to return to their home in order to establish a Jewish sovereign state in which Jews could live according to the laws of Torah and Halakha and commit the Mitzvot of Eretz Israel [i.e. many of the 613 religious commandments can only be performed in the Land of Israel]. Moreover, to cultivate the Land of Israel was a Mitzvah by itself and it should be carried out. Therefore, settling Israel is an obligation of the religious Jews and helping Zionism is actually following God's will" -- Source: Samson, David; Tzvi Fishman (1991). Torat Eretz Yisrael. Jerusalem: Torat Eretz Yisrael Publications.

While most Jews today are Zionists many are not and many Zionists are not Jewish at all. In the late 1800's many prominent Jews opposed Zionism, believing that only the Messiah had the divine authority to restore the Jewish people to the Land. This can be debated. There are passages that imply the Messianic kingdom will develop gradually. In any case, Israel exist today -- Baruch HaShem! We continue to await the establishment of the Kingdom of David haMelech.

If one accepts the Torah's declaration that HaShem gave the Land to the Jewish people as our eternal heritage and that 1948 and 1967 witnessed our rebirth by divine decree, then how could any Jew or anyone who embraces the Tanach as HaShem's Word, not also embrace Zionism? If one understands the history of the Jewish people, our constant association to the Land throughout the thousands of years and our need for a homeland where we can rule ourselves, safe from the winds of anti-Semitism that all too frequently blow across the lands of the diaspora, then how could one not embrace Zionism?

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