Text Study

For continued exploration of the issues behind the current protests in Israel

…Towards an Exemplary Society…

 [These texts can be downloaded on pdf here]

Nachman Sirkin (1868- 1924) Founder of Labor Zionism

 “To the Jews is given… the real opportunity to be the first to realize the ideal of socialism. They find themselves in an extraordinary position, desirous of a homeland, that they must establish as a republic. The Jews… from now on will be the most revolutionary nation in the world. Israel is to be likened to a huge sleeping giant, towering over the valley of the shadow of death… he sees himself called to enact Justice and to speak Truth. From the tragedy of his history blossoms his elevated historic qualification. He redeems the world that crucified him.”

The Jewish Question and the Jewish Socialist State, 1986 Edition, 104.

“Zionism is not only the redemption for the masses of Israel from the travails of exile, but also from all its travails in current society. As a new society is about to be established thanks to the masses and its efforts, so it cannot be anything other than a free society, without the human contradiction between rich and poor, between master and slave – a free society, in which all humans live as brothers, and live together for sacred labor in the name of Truth, Justice, and Integrity.”

The writings of Nachman Sirkin, The People in a War for its Liberation

Dov Ber Borochov: (1881-1917) A prominent thinker in the socialist Zionist Movement 

“The same oppression, that the Jewish worker is tried with in the narrow sweatshops in exile, will be exacerbated in the land of Israel… shifting Jewish production much closer to the first stages of production will give the Jewish worker a broad and hospitable arena for a class war, to improve his basic strategy, to continue the struggle with new, more useful ferocity. From the very start of Jewish immigration to the land of Israel a fierce battle will spark between Hebrew labour, and capital. This battle will spread to all branches – in the field of the economy as well as cultural and political demands…”

Writings, Our Platform, 1906

Theodor Herzl: 1860 –1904 Founder of National Zionism

 On the concept of Welfare:

“While welfare institutions are being planted we are given back the opportunity to undertake an experiment for the good of all humanity. Private charitable activities… as are customary today, achieve little when compared with the wasteful investment in them. A blending of these charitable institutions into one systematic apparatus, where each will complement the other, can and must be carried out. In the new society it will be possible to establish these systems based on a modern outlook, founded on all social-state experience”

A State of the Jews: An attempt to find a modern solution to the Jewish Problem.

On socialism and capitalism:

“We are collectivists only where the enormous difficulties of our mission demand it. In all the rest we wish to maintain and develop the individual and his rights. It would be desirable that private property, as the economic basis of independence, will develop among us freely and honorably.”

A State of the Jews: An attempt to find a modern solution to the Jewish Problem.

 

Mordecai M. Kaplan: Founder of Reconstructionist Judaism and thinker

On the need for a leap in social mindset, as the Jewish People embark on this new era of Statehood:

“If Zionism is to make the reclamation of Eretz Yisrael a moral and spiritual obligation of all Jews, including those who regard the Diaspora as a permanent condition of Jewish life, it has to formulate a rationale whereby that obligation can be shown to be part of every Jew’s striving to fulfill himself as a human being. “Give us first a stone whereon to lay our head,” wrote Berditchewski, “and then we shall dream.”…

…The need for articulating a modern rationale for the return to Eretz Yisrael was experienced by the socialists among secular Zionists. They had to defend what was termed “the territorial principle of Zionism” against their Jewish fellow socialists, the members of theBund (League of the Jewish Workingmen of Lithuania, Poland and Russia), who maintained their Jewish nationhood, but saw no need for migrating to Palestine. The chief spokesman among the socialists for a return to Eretz Yisrael was Ber Borochov. He arrived at the territorial principle of Jewish nationhood through his socialist philosophy. He assumed that Jews were destined to be forever barred from the basic industries; they were doomed to a greater degree of insecurity than was the lot of the laboring classes among other peoples. He insisted, contrary to the contention of Marx, Engels and Kautsky, that Jews were discriminated against not as individuals but as a group. Hence they should accept their nationhood and transplant themselves to Palestine, the only territory where they could freely strike root in agriculture, mining and other basic industries.

Whatever truth there may have been in Borochov’s analysis of the economic future of the Jews in the Old World, it is doubtful whether it applies to Jews in the New World. Moreover, this kind of rationale for the territorial principle of Zionism suffers from a double weakness: first, it is merely a reaction to a particular situation to which alternative reactions are possible; secondly there is no need to ground so basic a principle on such a shake foundation. The centrality of Zion can be established by a rationale inherent not only in the very nature of Judaism, as the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish People, but also in the human nature of the kind of ground that consciously seeks to serve as a means of salvation for its members.”

A New Zionism, Chapter 5

Rabbi Benny Lau: Contemporary Religious Zionist leader

On the responsibility to the grand collective in Israel:

“In Israel there is a hatred towards paying taxes, yet people pay them because it is the law. This hatred is derived from deep within the norms of the Jewish people, who tried to evade tax payment over centuries to their rulers who were typically enemies. To Jews, taxation=State, and State is fundamentally not us. The Jews never had a situation in which the evasion was from paying themselves. For thousands of years we saw ourselves as the providers of welfare, education, and charity, and did not rely on the governing powers for theses services. In Israel today there are thousands of Gemachim [traditional religious lending organizations], which support the Orthodox sector. Parallel to this, there are social justice organizations…which are not supported by the Orthodox populations. This is what it means to take the government seriously: the enterprise needs society…and again, this is not supported by the Orthodox. The enterprise needs to work, not as a set of connections, each helping the people they know, but rather in collective responsibility for one another.”

Rabbi Benny Lau, lecture to Jewish Agency leadership, 2011.

 

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