by David Isaac
Alan Dershowitz wrote in his book The Vanishing American Jew: “Without tsuris –troubles – we will cease to be Jewish. We need to be persecuted, impoverished, discriminated against, hated, and victimized in order for us to retain our Jewishness.”
Dershowitz was not applauding this fact. He was bemoaning it.
However, his point may well explain why Zionist history is so under-taught by Jews – why it’s possible that the president of my synagogue should ask in the middle of a conversation about this site: “Who is Theodor Herzl?”
Of the two events in the last century central to Jews – one, the Holocaust, was devastating and the second, Israel’s establishment, uplifting. Guess which one is studied relentlessly and which one is not?
Why Zionism Doesn’t Draw
A Jewish Federation executive revealed to me recently that past experience shows that Zionist history classes do not do well. Out of a pool of some 2,000 adult students, she said, a Zionist history seminar drew only 10. What does do well? Classes that teach how to counter BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) activity. It seems Jews have been hard-wired to focus on the negative. Or as Dershowitz says, “our history has forged a Jewish identity far too dependent on persecution and victimization by our enemies.”
Ironically, by focusing on the negative, Jews leave Zionism an easy target for its opponents to portray it in the most negative light. Google ‘Zionism’ and you run into a flood of anti-Zionist propaganda on its search pages. And as a generation of American Jews has been raised with zero knowledge of Zionist history, they’ve no comeback to the ridiculous claim that ‘Zionism is Racism.’
That’s a pity. The story of Zionism is a remarkable one. It is unprecedented – sui generis. No exiled people has successfully returned to its land after 1,800 years. Professor Edward Alexander, in a review of our film series, perhaps put it best.
To those of us old enough to remember the first Israel Independence Day, in 1948, it stands as one of the few redeeming events in a century of blood and shame, one of the greatest affirmations of the will to live that a martyred people has ever made. … The creation of Israel just a few years after the Holocaust was, in the words of Ruth Wisse, the most hopeful sign for humanity since the dove returning to Noah from the primeval flood holding an olive branch.
That sounds like a story worth telling. And learning about.
There’s little stopping you. Our free videos are a click away.
Photo Credit: The National Library of Israel