A friend, Ryan Bellerose, a Meti and an active supporter of Israel and Zionism, recently described the relationship between Judaism and Zionism as a Love Story, one that has been playing out on the world stage for at least 2,000 years.
I liked that allegory. I liked it very much. It brought to mind one of my favourite allegorical love stories of all times, “Song of Solomon”.
In it, the writer depicts the harmonious relationship between two lovers who are yearning for each other’s company. They are dialoguing with each other in intimate terms that only lovers share. The poetic expressions, complimentary, flattering and metaphors that they exchange, are unique to the two of them. They are the substance, the delicate weave, that form fabric of love that only the two of them can understand, one that touches on the most inner cores of their being.
Various interpretations have been given to the nature of the poetry of the Song of Solomon. However to us, Am Yisrael, of whose rich scriptures and tradition the book is a part, it can mean one relationship only, the one between G-d and His People.
Ryan’s words made me realize that had King Solomon written his words in modern days and not 3,000 years ago, they would symbolize for many of us the 3,000 years of romance and strong connection that Am Yisrael has had with its ancestral homeland in Eretz Yisrael and Zion.
We all know that the connection between Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael started when G-d promised it to Avraham more than 4,000 years ago in the Book of Genesis. Many, however, seem to fail to see when the concept of Zionism started. For their sake, here is a brief reminder.
The word “Zion” is first mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:7, which according to modern day scholarship dates back 3,000 years. Initially, it referred to a specific mountain near Jerusalem. Later, it became a metonym for Solomon’s Temple. According to 2 Samuel 24:18-25, King David purchased the area of the Temple Mount from a Jebusite by the name of Arvana, the owner of a threshing floor who offered it to him for free. King David refused and insisted on paying full price in gold for it: “but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offering that cost me nothing.”
That exchange constitutes Am Yisrael’s deed to that holy place for Jews.
The Temple Mount is also known as Mount Moriah where Avraham was called to sacrifice his son Yitzchak:
“Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” “(Genesis 22, 2)
By following that command, Avraham demonstrated ultimate obedience, trust, dedication and love of G-d.
Later in in 2 Chronicles 3,1, we are told,
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in Mount Moriah, where [the LORD] appeared unto David his father; for which provision had been made in the Place of David, in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.”
Zion is, therefore, not only the birthplace of the city of Jerusalem it is also the place where the history of the people of Israel was written and where Judaism has its deep roots.
Zion, the place, the symbol, is where the Love Story between Judaism and Zionism, which my friend Ryan mentioned, started. There was one other component in the equation of this Love Story which we should never forget or fail to mention, the most important of them all, G-d. It is G-d who is the connector between the two. As long as Am Yisrael lived in Eretz Yisrael, that Love Story was like any other. It had its ups and downs. The people rebelled against G-d. He punished them, forgave them and eventually cast them off their Land.
There is an English saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” That is indeed what happened when Am Yisrael was distanced from his Land. The ‘growing fondness’ of the heart, the Love Story between the People and Eretz Yisrael lasted for two thousand years of separation, as Ryan indicated.
No other nation on earth, no other people in history, has ever longed for its ancestral Homeland as Am Yisrael has longed for theirs. While in exile, it was always Zion that Jews were facing and yearning for in their prayers, liturgy and poetry. It was Zion that they were remembering and crying for when they were sitting by the rivers of Babylon. And it was Zion that they pledged to return to every year at the Passover table when they proclaimed and continue to proclaim: “לשנה הבאה בירושלים הבנויה”. “Next year in Jerusalem.”
The Love Story between Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael is an exclusive and monogamous one, as love stories generally are and should be — between two beings, two entities that share a special bond unique to them, one that no-one else can share, impede, intersperse or even come close to understanding. That is precisely the essence of the bond between Judaism and Zionism. Their identities are intertwined, inseparable. They are the weft and weave threads in a tapestry that span over a few millennia. None can survive on its own. They nurture and cultivate each other on the spiritual, religious, cultural, historical and national planes that they both share. Zionism, therefore, belongs to Jews only. The fact that some Jews choose not to be loyal to that Love Story does not mean that anyone else who is not part of that Love Story, can or should step in to assume their place.
That, of course, does not preclude others, friends and active supporters of Zionism and the Jewish people’s rights to their ancestral Homeland to continue to support that ongoing Love Affair. They cannot, however, be part of it, I am afraid. Like a ‘best friend’ their love and support as “pro-Zionists,” “pro-Jewish” and “pro –Israeli” would not only keep them in high esteem in the annals of Judaism and Zionism but will also be profoundly appreciated by the many who have kept the flame of that Love Story alight through a long and turbulent history.