The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader

The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader

The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader

The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader

Synopsis

A classic since its initial publication in 1959, The Zionist Idea is an anthology of writings by the leading thinkers of the Zionist movement, including Theodor Herzl, Ahad Ha-Am, Martin Buber, Louis Brandeis, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Judah Magnes, Max Nordau, Mordecai Kaplan, Vladimir Jabotinsky, Chaim Weizmann, and David Ben-Gurion.

Excerpt

Zionism exists, and it has had important consequences, but historical theory does not really know what to do with it. Though modern Zionism arose within the milieu of European nationalism in the nineteenth century, the historians of that era usually content themselves with briefly noticing the movement, for the sake of "completeness." The root cause of their difficulty (the relatively few members involved and the partial inaccessibility of the source material are quite secondary reasons) is that Zionism cannot be typed, and therefore easily explained, as a "normal" kind of national risorgimento. To mention only one important difference, all of the other nineteenth- century nationalisms based their struggle for political sovereignty on an already existing national land or language (generally, there were both). Zionism alone proposed to acquire both of these usual preconditions of national identity by the élan of its nationalist will. It is, therefore, a maverick in the history of modern nationalism, and it simplifies the task of general historians to regard it, at least by implication, as belonging only on the more parochial stage of the inner history of the Jewish community.

For Jewish historians Zionism is, of course, one of the pre-eminent facts -- for most, it is the crucial issue -- of Jewish life in the modern age, and it therefore engages their complete attention. Nonetheless, how to place it in some larger frame is still the most debated, and least solved, problem of Jewish historiography. In part, the difficulty stems from the very nature of the Zionist phenomenon. As the historian attempts to assimilate Zionism within his larger understanding of the Jewish past, he is confronted by a movement for which the meaning and validity of that past are a central concern. The earliest forerunners of Zionism, pious rabbis like Alkalai and Kalischer, who insisted on standing within the tradition, had to prove before the bar of the classical religious heritage that self-help was a necessary pre-

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