Purim this year coincides with a renewed awareness of the threats posed by the current Iranian regime and the recent memory of the war against Hamas this past summer. This illustrates the continued relevance of Zionism to the security of the Jewish people in the 21st century.
Inseparable from the Zionist idea is the geographic location of the land of Israel. Zion specifically referred to a particular mountain just outside Jerusalem. King David himself conquered the fortress that stood on this hill! 3000 years after David’s victory, modern Zionism remains inseparable from Eretz Israel.
The land that Abraham’s cattle grazed upon after he forged a new life separated from his family in Ur is the same land that his descendants cultivated following their escape from slavery in Egypt. And this land is the same land upon which Jews from across the globe are thriving.
The odds appeared slim that such a Jewish nation could exist in the 21 st century. After all, the Romans completely extinguished the political autonomy of the ancient Jewish nation following the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. The ruling powers forcibly dispersed Jewish communities to remote regions of the globe. Over the next 1900 years, a myriad of forces conspired to restrict economic opportunities, persecute Jewish intellectual leaders, and constrict the practice of the Jewish faith. Then, the Holocaust of last century threatened to annihilate not only the Jewish identity but also the very physical presence of the Jewish people from the face of the earth.
Yet, throughout these calamities, the Jewish nation continued to hold legitimate title to Eretz Israel. And even these evils could not extinguish the Jewish spirit.
When Theodore Hertzl began his life’s work of securing a homeland for the Jewish people, he discovered that only the promise of re-establishing a nation in the “Promised Land” could ignite this aspiration in the hearts of Jews dispersed across the globe. Spirited rejection met every suggestion of obtaining land in the Americas and elsewhere for the purpose of a Jewish homeland.
In 1948, the state of Israel emerged after over 2000 years of banishment.This inheritance nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is not to be exchanged for an ephemeral peace. To that end, the eternal capital of Jerusalem must always remain undivided, the communities in Judea and Samaria must be enabled to thrive, and strong defense capabilities maintained.
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eloquently expressed this week, “the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over. We are no longer scattered among the nations, powerless to defend ourselves. We restored our sovereignty in our ancient home….For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.”
This is the promise of Zionism: a secure, democratic nation-state for the Jewish people.