I am a Zionist

By Elissa Zimmerman and Karma Feinstein

I am a Zionist.

I hear so few people say this anymore, and anyone who does is deemed an extremist by simply saying and using this one simple, yet amazing, word.

Zionism means believing in a Jewish State in the Land of Israel. Everything else is one’s own view and interpretation. Being a Zionist means loving Israel and being an active part of her. It means accepting the fact that she’s not perfect but she’s still ours. We shouldn’t take it lightly that there is a Jewish state and that after two thousand years of wandering, we are here. It’s one of the most amazing national revolutions of the 20th century. Zionism is the antithesis to what we were in exile. It is proud. It is strong. It is real. This is Zionism.

Watching people get off a plane, stepping foot in Israel for the first time as new immigrants, kissing the ground. I am a Zionist.

As a Zionist young adult movement, we have a responsibility to create a Zionist agenda starting with an understanding of Zionism. We have an educational obligation to tell people what Israel is really like. We want people to know that there are problems and things are not flawless, but that is Israel. It hurts me to see people tear down Israel because of the problems it has and perpetuate this double standard. No country is perfect; yet, we are expected to be and then judged when we do not meet the unattainable standards.

Hearing the national anthem “Hatikva”. I am a Zionist.

Unfortunately, Zionism has become negative; the word itself has attributed connotations that have nothing to do with what Zionism truly is. It has been labeled and interpreted incorrectly. Partially I think this is because we are afraid as a people to admit that we have a right to this, to Israel. But the reality is that we have rights just like every other nation, to self-determination. And the quicker we acknowledge this and accept this, we will be one step closer to the rest of the world standing next to us, or following behind us.  How can we expect people to support us if our own people don’t understand Zionism?

To know that I can be proud and not afraid of saying that I am an Israeli. I am a Zionist. When I travel, upon my return to Israel, I feel like I am home. This is home. I am a Zionist.

It is our job to bring all of these feelings to the foreground, to create awareness with people and Israel. We need to get people hooked on Israel, through the programs that are offered. Whether it is for a short-term or a long-term program, Israel can and will sell itself. It is not about simply making aliyah; it is about our aspiration to strengthen the bond between Jews around the world. It is about creating a centrality that Israel is a part of our lives, even if people will not end up living here. Let people fall in love with Israel through their own eyes. We show them that yes, the process can be difficult, but it is worth their while. We are here as an organization to help those in the difficult times they will experience as we feel a responsibility to help them make it work. And to those that aren’t going to be moving here, our job is to connect them to Israel, a bond that we hope will not be broken when the plane lands in their native country. Because whether they live here or not, Israel is home. We must believe that  this is home. This is Zionism.