Elections for the 37th World Zionist Congress are now underway. This governing body is historically important to Israel because it functioned as a Jewish government long before there was an actual state of Israel.
So what is Zionism?
And how does it influence Israeli politics? The term “Zion” is associated with the city of Jerusalem.
The land of Israel has always been sacred, and it has inspired countless pilgrimages for displaced Jews, seeking the “Return” to Zion” Around the dawn of the 20th century, immigration to the land of Israel was especially popular because of a growing Zionist political movement.
This “modern Zionism”, created by Theodor Herzl (HurT-Sul), centered around the belief that all Jews belong to a single nation, and that they should establish a sovereign state to return to.
Herzl published a pamphlet on the subject, known in English as the “Jewish State,” and then organized the first World Zionist Congress in 1897 to discuss homeland options. During the next few decades, Jewish states were proposed in places like Alaska and Uganda; but Jerusalem, in the Palestine area, was the area that held the most significance for Jews.
In 1917, Britain okayed a Jewish state in Palestine, and after the Holocaust, many other Western countries supported it as well. The state of Israel gained its independence in 1948. After the establishment of the Israeli government, the World Zionist Congress lost some of its power but is still around today as a part of the World Zionist Organization. With millions of dollars in their budget, they work alongside the Israeli government to encourage Jewish settlement in Palestine and “Jewish national sentiment through education”.
How does Zionism affect modern Israel? Well since the early 1900s, many different forms of Cultural Zionism have permeated the country. According to a study by The Israeli Democracy Institute, almost half of Jews reportedly view themselves as affiliated with Religious Zionism., which is the idea that original Jewish traditions should be preserved, and Jews should have a sovereign state in the holy land.
However many Palestinians call this area “home” too, and they resent the influx of Jewish immigrants there.
So, although Zionism has given a homeland and safe haven to a long-oppressed community, it has also flared territorial tempers in the Middle East and contributed to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.