I don’t know why it has taken me so long to realize this. Maybe it’s because my formal learning about Zionism ended at 7th grade. Maybe it’s because I don’t discuss the issue with enough people. Maybe it’s because I have never been in an overly Zionistic environment for an extended period of time, until now.
Whatever the reason, it all seems so clear to me now.
I never understood the seemingly intrinsic connection between Modern Orthodoxy and Zionism. Why is it that one of the earmarks of a Modern Orthodox institution is that hallel is said on Yom Haatzmaut? Why do the Modern schools have Israel committees, (theoretically) well developed Ivrit programs, and aaliya advisors? And conversely, why is that lacking in the more “traditional” Orthodox schools? What’s with the “non-Zionist” phenomenon? Is it truly a tenet of Ultra-Orthodoxy to dismiss both the Zionists and the Anti-Zionists at the same time?
Suddenly, out of no where, it hit me. I finally got it. And I can’t understand why it took me so long to connect the dots.
Zionism, in it’s most original form, was a secular, political movement. It was, basically, an answer to anti-semitism. Some secular Jews got this notion to create a State for the Jews, and [eventually] decided to put it in Palestine. Now, the rest of the Jews, especially the Orthodox, had to decide whether or not to put their support in Israel, and this was a big debate.
On one side, there were those that said traditional Jewish thought claims that the Messiah will bring the Jews back to Israel on the wings of eagles and that it’s not our place to do the Messiah’s job (!).
On the other side, there were the Jews who said, we too believe in redemption and Messiah, and we can take an active part in bringing that era. Even when taking the literal approach to traditional texts, they argued, there’s nothing wrong with setting the stage for the promised era. Not only is there nothing wrong, but it seems that in fact this is ideal, Judaism is not a passive religion, rather, an active one.
And this, my friends, is the struggle between modern orthodoxy and chareidi orthodoxy that exists today. Is secularism something that should be avoided at all costs, or should observant Jews embrace parts of secularism as beneficial tools not only for the mundane, but for the religious benefits as well?