Listen to Papa – the papa of Zionism that is. With all of these recent negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs about “land for peace” and prisoner releases, are we forgetting what Israel is really all about? It isn’t about 1967 boundaries or about the Arabs or even about peace. It is about following our father’s advice in establishing a refuge for the Jewish people.
The father of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, understood, after witnessing the virulent antisemitism in Europe at the end of the 19th century that the only escape for the Jews from antisemitic persecution is a country of their own. Herzl envisioned that every Jewish community in the world would at some point be threatened and would need a safe haven.
The founding father of Zionism is often times described by the words, “chozeh hamedinah” (the prophetic visionary of the state). Indeed, the most famous picture of Herzl is one in which he is standing on a balcony looking out over a river at a Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1897. What he sees is the Jewish state that will one day come to be.
While we may have forgotten our reason d’être, falsely believing that the problem of antisemitism has been solved and that the Jewish communities in the diaspora are now safe and secure, nothing could be further from the truth. Herzl’s prophecy is being realized. The Jews of France and the Ukraine are fleeing antisemitism to the Jewish safe haven we call Israel.
With this in mind, one must ask our politicians and demographers, “What demographic problem?” For several years now, we have been at the receiving end of a propaganda campaign to convince us that, with a growing Arab population, in order to preserve a Jewish majority in Israel, we must withdraw from the heavily Arab West Bank and Gaza Strip. Despite our historic national right to these land areas, if we wish Israel to be both a democracy and a Jewish state, we must make these concessions. This is the argument of political commentator Thomas Freedman as well as the justification that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave for “disengagement” from Gaza. Perhaps, however, this entire line of reasoning is flawed.
The argument presupposes that Israel’s Jewish population is relatively static, affected only by birthrate. The reality, however, is that the age of aliyah (immigration to Israel) is far from over and the prophecy of Herzl has only partly been realized. Many project that within the coming few years, the entire Jewish population of France, half a million Jews, will completely relocate to Israel, as will the Jews of the Ukraine. With antisemitism on the rise throughout the world, this trend will continue, one country after another.
As Jews continue to immigrate to Israel, fleeing antisemitic persecution, war, and starvation, this will insure that Israel remains both a Jewish state and a democracy. The problem we really should be dealing with is, “Where do we place all of these people?” We Jews must start preparing to absorb mass aliyot (immigrations). A good way to start is to go back to the instructions of another father of Zionism, David Ben Gurion, who said, “Develop the Negev.” We should also pay heed to other fathers of Zionism, such as Vladimir Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin. We must develop Judaea and Samaria and Gaza. In the not so distant future, Israel will need every square inch of land in order to absorb huge waves of Jewish immigration.
So will someone please tell me why we are even discussing giving away Jewish land to a nation that already has over 20 countries, to a people who insists on making war on the Jewish people at every opportunity, and in a world full of antisemitism. Why should the Jewish people relinquish land for a phony peace, at the expense of the security of the one place on earth that will always take Jews in? Maybe it’s time we stopped listening to Kerry and started listening to Papa Herzl.