Review of Pioneers of Religious Zionism

February 16, 2015

By Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins

Pioneers of Religious Zionism describes the lives and philosophies of the most important rabbinical Zionists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: Yehuda ben Shlomo Alkalai (1798–1878), Zvi Hirsch Kalischer (1795–1874), Samuel Mohliver (1824–1891), Jacob Reines (1839–1915), Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935) and Judah Leib (Fishman) Maimon (1875–1962). They joined secular Zionists in the struggle for the re-establishment of a Jewish national home – an unusual act for their time – and had to contend with fierce opposition and condemnations from many rabbis in Eastern Europe, who believed that the return of the Jewish people to its ancestral homeland of Israel depended upon the arrival of the Messiah. In their lives and writings, Rabbis Alkali, Kalischer, Mohliver, Reines, Kook and Maimon provided the foundation on which modern religious Zionism was built. Read the rest of this entry »


Rereading Israel: The Spirit of the Matter

October 14, 2012

by Bonna Devora Haberman

Rereading Israel: The Spirit of the Matter refreshes current conversations about Israel, while setting aside vitriolic debates and worn postures. This book opens Jewish sources to interpret Israel in critical, innovative, and inspiring ways. Rereading Israel presents an opportunity to engage ethically, intellectually, and emotionally — challenging us to apply our finest resources to grapple honestly and creatively with land and people, history, text, and spirit. Especially when Israel is embattled, this book peels open fruitful and compelling perspectives.

Zion Cycle

Sigmund Freud persuaded modern culture about the deep unconscious layers of the human mind. Through analysis of unconscious experience, people can achieve greater self-understanding and capability to choose our life paths willfully. The psychoanalytic tradition encourages people to probe their early family histories and relationships, and to interpret effects on their lives. Interactions with parents and siblings form the dynamic and backdrop of personal biography. Understanding early experiences, patterns, unresolved connections, dreams and desires frees people to live more intentionally.

Similarly to the way each individual belongs to his or her personal family context, every person also belongs to a cultural context, to a people or peoples. Just as primary family relationships are significant even at unconscious levels, so also are the ties of peoplehood and culture. Theodore Herzl, parent of modern Zionism, lived and studied in Vienna from 1878, at the same time that Freud was Read the rest of this entry »


From ‘Is’ to ‘Ought’: An Open Letter to Peter Beinart

October 11, 2012

by Bonna Devora Haberman

Thank you for contributing passionately to the conversation about Zionism. The significance of Israel to American Jewry is indisputable. As different communities of the Jewish People evolve, many of us still feel that our fate is vitally linked. Understanding our mutual relationship better and sharing our challenges with caring and commitment is a welcome proposition. As we engage, let us be conscious that our terms, analysis, and prescriptions are not theoretical, but about people. While our lives are intertwined, our families, communities, and nations are very far from one another; our risks and responsibilities are quite different. I offer some observations that arise from the intersection of your ideas with the daily experience of this conflict in which my life is immersed — body, mind, and soul.

Like you, I am concerned about children. I parent a medical intern, past and present elite commandos, an officer-engineer in Israeli Intelligence, and a border police commander. Serving two to six of their prime years in the IDF, they are often called upon to negotiate among competing core human values in real time. Our kids strive to uphold the full dignity of every person — with feminist and ecological conscience — even as they put their lives on the line. I do not propose to speak for Palestinian parents and children – their own voices must be heard. In many hours I spend with Palestinian high school students, young people, and women, I find readiness to change our painful pattern. I recently attended a women’s Muslim Friday prayer service, and later that evening led a hundred Jewish and Muslim women dancing and singing together the traditional prayers welcoming the Jewish Shabbat. Surrounded by oppression and conflict, our hearts and muscles sore from enmity, we struggle with the heavy burden of protecting and saving life while we stride toward peace and joy.

Neither the end of the occupation, nor Palestinian statehood will erase the challenges of Zionism in this region, though we fervently hope that they will ease. Nor will the end of the occupation and Palestinian statehood ease American offensives and vigilance against inimical forces in the Middle East until the Arab world attains a more open, accountable civil society and government; full and equal citizenship and progressive education for women and men; respect for diversity; commitment to non-violence; peaceful development; and responsible participation in global affairs.

A couple of years ago, I left the academy to put my effort to Israeli society. Together with a Palestinian partner, I co-direct an activist community theater project, YTheater. We create provocative performances and workshops in Arabic and Hebrew that enable Read the rest of this entry »