Israel and Palestine: The History of an Idea

Israel and Palestine: The History of an Idea

Israel and Palestine: The History of an Idea

Israel and Palestine: The History of an Idea

Excerpt

It is impossibleto appreciate the real meaning of 'Zion' so long as one regards it as simply one of many other national concepts. We speak of a 'national concept' when a people makes its unity, spiritual coherence, historical character, traditions, origins and evolution, destiny and vocation the objects of its conscious life and the motive power behind its actions. In this sense the Zion concept of the Jewish people can be called a national concept. But its essential quality lies precisely in that which differentiates it from all other national concepts.

It is significant that this national concept was named after a place and not, like the others, after a people, which indicates that it is not so much a question of a particular people as such but of its association with a particular land, its native land. Moreover, the idea was not named after one of the usual descriptions of this land--Canaan or Palestine or Erets-Israel--but after the old stronghold of the Jebusites which David made his residence and whose name was applied by poets and prophets to the whole city of Jerusalem, not so much as the seat of the royal fort, however, but as the place of the sanctuary, just as the holy mountain itself is often so called: quite early on the name was constructed as that of a holy place. Zion is 'the city of the great King' (Psalms 48, 3), that is of God as the King of Israel. The name has retained this sacred character ever since. In their prayers and songs the mourning and yearning of the people in exile were bound up with it, the holiness of the land was concentrated in it and in the Cabbala Zion was equated with an emanation of God Himself. When the Jewish people adopted this name for their national concept, all these associations were contained in it.

This was inevitable, for, in contrast to the national concepts of other peoples, the one described by this name was no new invention, not the product of the social and political changes manifested by the French Revolution, but merely a continuation, the re-statement of an age-old religious and popular reality adapted to the universal form of the national movements of the . . .

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