Reflecting on 100 years of Zionism

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One hundred years ago, a group of visionaries met in Basel, Switzerland, for the first meeting of the World Zionist Congress. Today, with Israel a reality, it's easy to forget how truly revolutionary those early Zionists were in imagining a homeland for Jews.

The 100th anniversary of Zionism now being celebrated in Switzerland gives us cause to reflect on the immensity of that original vision. That Zionism metamorphosed from an ideology, a movement, into a dynamic, diverse state pulsating with possibility is nothing short of remarkable.

Many Jews today never knew a world without an Israel. But others recall the elation of seeing a Jewish homeland established just a few years after millions of European Jews died in the Holocaust.

Today, of course, virtually all Jews in danger have been rescued and resettled, and that has served to weaken the urgency of the Zionist cause. Some argue the Zionist message needs restructuring in order to transmit its message successfully to today's Jews.

But what should that message be?

Though the dream of a Jewish state has been realized, the dream of Jewish unity has not. At a time of increasing tension between religious and secular Jews in Israel, the Zionism of the future must include a reaffirmation of the principle of Jews as equals, despite their differences.

As its early proponents argued, Zionism must be driven not only by political imperatives but by spiritual considerations as well. For many Jews, Zionism is a complex, emotional topic. Some wonder whether it's possible to remain a Zionist while frustrated with Israel's policies. Others ponder whether being a Zionist means one must move to the Jewish state.

Being a Zionist, we believe, means asking those questions, collectively and individually.