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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Jews and Israel (8/12)

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               Frequently Asked Questions on Soc.Culture.Jewish
                           Part 8: Jews and Israel
         [Last Change: $Date: 1995/10/19 15:24:16 $ $Revision: 1.2 $]
                    [Last Post: Fri Mar  5 11:07:10 US/Pacific 2004]

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Subject: ORGANIZATION This portion of the FAQ contains answers to the following questions: Section 14. Jews and Israel 1. [8]Who is an Israeli? Who may enter Israel under its Law of Return? 2. [9]What is Zion? 3. [10]What is Zionism? 4. [11]Are all Jews Zionists? 5. [12]Do Diaspora Jews (Jews outside Israel) support Zionism? 6. [13]I've heard there were/are very Orthodox Jews who were/are against the state of Israel. How could this be? Who are they? 7. [14]Did Zionism end with the establishment of Israel? 8. [15]Are antisemitism and anti-Zionism the same thing? 9. [16]Is Zionism racist? 10. [17]What are the roots of Arab opposition to Zionism? 11. [18]Can't you criticize Israel without being antisemitic? 12. [19]Why is opposition to Israel often seen as being antisemitic? 13. [20]Why is Jerusalem so important to Jews? 14. [21]I want to move to Israel. Can I become a citizen? 15. [22]What is the Wailing Wall and why is it so important? 16. [23]Questions on aliyah, military service for olim and more
Subject: Question 14.1: Who is an Israeli and who may enter under her Law of Return? Answer: Israelis are citizens of Israel. Jews may automatically become Israeli citizens under the terms of the Law of Return (as long as they have not renounced the Jewish faith), as may those associated with Jews, such as certain close family members. The Law of Return does not grant immediate citizenship to Jews who, sadly, practice other religions. In the case of people whose status as Jews is uncertain, Israel will still rescue them, especially if they risk being killed as a result of Jew-hatred. There have been efforts to amend the law of Return to exclude from automatic citizenship people whose conversions to Judaism would be unacceptable by Orthodox halachic standards. While this might only affect tens of people, it is an extremely sensitive issue.
Subject: Question 14.2: What is Zion? Answer: Zion is a hill in Jerusalem, and one of the names by which Jews have always referred to their homeland, the Land of Israel (Eretz Israel). The name 'Zion' is used in Tanakh both for the land of Israel and for its national and spiritual capital, Jerusalem. Zion (Pronounced 'tsee-yohn' in Hebrew) has had a continuous Jewish population for thousands of years. For many centuries the majority of the Jewish people have lived dispersed in countries all over the world. Yet, powerful national-spiritual bonds--expressed mainly in liturgy and literature--have constantly linked these Jewish communities with their ancestral homeland. After centuries of decline and neglect under foreign occupation, Zion is flourishing once again, with the large increase in its Jewish population over the past 100 years, and the restoration of its political independence in 1948.
Subject: Question 14.3: What is Zionism? Answer: Zionism is the modern expression of the 1,900 year old dream of rebuilding a Jewish state in Israel, after Rome put an end to Jewish independence in the Land of Israel. It expresses the conviction that the Jewish people have the right to freedom and political independence in its homeland. Political Zionism is the ongoing effort, through political means, to develop and secure the Jewish people's national existence in the Land of Israel. Zionism recognizes that Jewish peoplehood is characterized by certain common values relating to religion, culture, language, history and basic ideals and aspirations, although secular and religious Zionists emphasize these aspects differently. Additional information may be found in the [5]Zionism Reading List, available at [6]
Subject: Question 14.4: Are all Jews Zionists? Answer: Jews are Zionists in the sense that the restoration of the Jewish people in its homeland is a fundamental tenet of Judaism. Most Jews support the state of Israel--the basic realization of Zionism. Some Jews, however, do not accept Zionism as a political movement, but believe that independence will only come with the advent of the Messiah. There are still other Jews who feel that the question of an independent Jewish state is independent of the question of the Messiah. Lastly, some Jews do not support Zionism for historical reasons. Zionism developed into an organized political movement, in a period marked by growing recognition of national movements in Europe, when Jews felt the time was ready for the reassertion of Jewish National Identity. As a movement, it was further spurred by growing antisemitism in Europe in the latter part of the 19th century, as groups of Jews emigrated to what became Israel. It was formally organized into a national movement in 1897, with the call for the restoration of the Jewish national home.
Subject: Question 14.5: Do Diaspora Jews (Jews outside Israel) support Zionism? Answer: Diaspora Jews, on the whole, support Zionism in one way or another through active participation in aspects of the movement itself, or through public and/or financial support of Israel. Some Diaspora Jews realize their belief in Zionism by immigrating to the Land of Israel (making 'aliyah' - "going up") to participate directly in the task of rebuilding the nation. Diaspora Jews, whether or not associated with Zionist activities, have been enriched culturally, socially and spiritually by the reestablishment of Israel in its ancestral homeland. Even non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews find Israel an excellent place for Torah study.
Subject: Question 14.6: I've heard there were/are very Orthodox Jews who were/are against the state of Israel. How could this be? Who are they? Answer: It is pointless to single out this situation as something terrible about Orthodoxy or even the so-called "ultra-Orthodox". In the early 1900s, Reform was officially opposed to Zionism, and even today, there are numerous secular Jews who are strongly anti-Zionistic. Nowadays, most Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Jews support Zionism (in fact, Reform has its own Zionist movement, [5]ARZA/World Union). Many Orthodox Jews support religious Zionism, and even those Orthodox Jews indifferent or opposed to Zionism (particularly secular Zionism) often send their sons and daughters to study Torah in Israel. Anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews believe that Israel can only be regained miraculously and view the present state as a blasphemous human attempt to usurp G-d's role, and they work to dismantle Israel. However, unlike many gentile anti-Zionists, they firmly believe in the Jewish right to Israel, but only at that future time of redemption. The best-known of the religious anti-Zionists are the Neturei Karta. There are two common religious grounds given for anti-Zionism. One is that today's Zionism is a secular Zionism, packed with non-Jewish influences, and lacking key features like Moshiach and the rebuilt Temple. Groups based on those groups are more on the non-Zionist, as opposed to the anti-Zionist, side. The other grounds are that that Talmud (Meseches Kesuvos 111a), as part of a discussion of Song of Songs 2:7 verses mentioning oaths, states that when Israel went into the second exile, there were three vows between Heaven and Earth: 1. One that Israel would not "go up like a wall" [conquer Eretz Yisrael by massive force] 2. One that G-d made Israel swear that they would not rebel agains the nations of the world [would obey the governments in the exile] 3. And one that G-d made the non-Jews swear not to oppress Israel "too much" [translation of phrase yoter midai] Groups holding to those grounds are more on the anti-Zionist side. Note that there was a fourth oath in that piece: one G-d made of the nations that would recieve us, that they would not try to exterminate us. Some believe that oath was violated in WWII, therefore bringing into question whether the other three oaths are still binding, or if the "contract" was already violated. However, many think that gaining statehood by UN proclamation does not constitute a violation of the oath, and is a stronger argument. The religious counter-reply to the above is that secular Zionism is a preliminary stage of religious Zionism, and that the vows no longer apply since the gentiles violated their part (by such actions as the Roman persecutions, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Nazi Holocaust). The Balfour declaration of 1917 and the United Nations vote of 1948 are also regarded as having given permission to the Jews to reestablish the state by the non-Jewish rulers of the area. Once this permission was granted it could not be revoked. It should also be noted that these oaths are only mentioned as a side point in one place in a discussion in the Gemoroh and as the viewpoint of an individual. Further, Talmudic texts come in two flavors: halachah (religious law) and aggadah (other topics, primarily ethics, values, philosopy and mysticism). The oaths are mentioned within an aggadic discussion. Yet there is a halachah that one ought to try to settle and gain sovereignty over Israel. There is little precedent for taking an aggadic statement over a halachic ruling. So, many people feel that these oaths do not apply in any case. Some Religious Zionist Jews see the formation of the secular state as accelerating the process of redemption, with themselves playing a major role in doing G-d's will by serving the state, whose creation is often seen as miraculous. So-called "non-Zionist" Jews are pleased that Israel exists from a practical standpoint--as a haven for oppressed Jews and as a land imbued with holiness well-suited for Torah study. But they don't generally assign religious significance to the formation of the modern state, and often decry aspects of its secular culture. [Note: Zionism is used in the strict sense of the Jews should have a homeland, preferably Israel (Israel is where "Zion" is, hence Zionism). Criticizing today's Israeli government regarding policies X, Y, Z is not the same as anti-Zionism.]
Subject: Question 14.7: Did Zionism end with the establishment of Israel? Answer: The reestablishment of the State of Israel meant the realization of the major element of Zionist ideology: the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The Zionist ideal, however, contains facets that are still in the process of being realized. The Zionist ideal aspires to: * An Israel at peace with all its neighbors * An Israel enjoying full political and economic independence * The social and economic well-being of all citizens and communities residing in Israel. For the religious zionists, there is also the wish for a modern, halachic, Jewish state.
Subject: Question 14.8: Are antisemitism and anti-Zionism the same thing? Answer: There is a dangerous confluence between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, even though the two concepts are not always identical. Anti-Zionism is directed against the political realization of Zionism--the State of Israel. Anti-Zionism has also become a catchword for antisemitism and has provided antisemites with a convenient cloak behind which to conceal their hatred of Jews.
Subject: Question 14.9: Is Zionism racist? Answer: No. Zionism is a process with the ultimate goal of a Jewish homeland. Participation in this process is not restricted to Jews alone. Furthermore, the question is an example of how even simple questions can use inflammatory terminology, as "racist" has a pejoritive sense and is an imprecise term. A central tenet of Zionism is that there should exist a place in the world where Jews have sovereignty. This is no different from the ethnic desires of other minority and ethnic groups; I'm sure you can name numerous examples. Recent history has demonstrated the need for such a homeland; alas, humanity doesn't appear to be moving in a direction that would eliminate that need. Is the desire for a Jewish homeland "racist"? No. Racism is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Judaism is not a race--adherents come from multiple ethnic backgrounds. More importantly, there is no notion in Zionism that Jews are superior to other races (unlike, for example, the Nazis, who held that the Aryan race was superior). Please remember that Zionism is distinct from the state of Israel; if you look at the history of Zionism, you will see that for some of the zionistic movements, Israel was not the target homeland (in fact, you'll discover that at one time, Uganda was an option). Israel is modern political state that strives to provide a pluralistic and open society, comprising many ethnic and religious groups. It doesn't always succeed in this goal, but neither do other democratic states. As a modern state, Israel is subject to various political realities that dictate its laws and regulations. Discussion of these laws and regulations is less germane to the focus of S.C.J and is more appropriate for [5]talk.politics.mideast. However, the primacy of Jewish law in Israel is no more "racist" than the primacy of Catholic law in Vatican City, the primacy of the Church of England in Great Britain, or the primacy of Islam in many Arabic countries. So what is the connection between Zionism and Israel? Zionism helped found the state, and provided the underlying zeal for many of Israel's leaders. The Zionist zeal still helps provide funding for the state, as many Jews outside of Israel support Zionist organizations operating in Israel.
Subject: Question 14.10: What are the roots of Arab opposition to Zionism? Answer: National rights: Most Arab nations demand Arab sovereignty over the entire Middle East, to the total exclusion of Jewish rights. Religion: Historically, Islam has not recognized the right to sovereignty of any non-Muslim people in any part of the "Islamic world." Jew, like Christians, have been relegated to the position of dhimmis--protected subjects--peoples under Muslim domination. Islam, therefore, rejects the concept of a Jewish state in what it regards as the Islamic-Arab world. For information on Islam and its beliefs, interested readers are referred to the [5]soc.religion.islam FAQ, available as:
Subject: Question 14.11: Can't you criticize Israel without being antisemitic? Answer: Criticism that habitually singles out Israel for criticism while ignoring far worse actions by other countries (especially other Middle Eastern countries) is generally perceived as anti-Jewish. Likening Israel to Nazi Germany, or to traditional anti-Jewish stereotypical behavior is another sure sign of Jew-baiting. It's also better to criticize within the Jewish community, rather than airing dirty laundry that can be twisted and used against us. Jewish newspapers are regularly filled with lively debate on Israel. See the superb essay "Judging Israel" by Charles Krauthammer, Time magazine, February 26, 1990.
Subject: Question 14.12: Why is opposition to Israel often seen as being antisemitic? Answer: The vast majority of the Jews in Israel wound up there as refugees with no other options. Many Jews went there to flee the Holocaust, at a time when countries like America and Great Britain had shut their doors to Jews. And many of the Holocaust survivors wound up as displaced persons after World War II. While America was supporting the former Nazis with the Marshall plan, the survivors were largely ignored. Many of them found a welcome in Israel. And then, after Israel was founded, most of the Arab nations pushed out their Jewish populations. They had no place to go but Israel. The best example of this, of course, is what happened to the Jews in the "West Bank." The Arab armies pushed out all of the Jews in the territories they conquered in the 1947-48 war. In particular, they destroyed Jewish communities that had been inhabited continuously for thousands of years. East Jerusalem, where many now wish to deny Jewish settlement rights, had a Jewish majority before 1947. And recently, many Jews have gone to Israel to escape persecution in Russia and Ethiopia. Again, there were no other options. So opposition to Israel, or an insensitivity to its security needs, does carry with it an indifference to the fate of these Jews who have had no other refuge from death or serious persecution. Such indifference is, indeed, a form of antisemitism: if the Arabs succeed in driving the Jews into the sea, they will be merely continuing what Hitler started.
Subject: Question 14.13: Why is Jerusalem so important to Jews? Answer: According to tradition, the Jews are commanded to worship at the Temple (Beis Hamikdash) at the place G-d specifies. When this central site is extant, sacrifices may be brought only there. Also, Jews are commanded to go to the central site for the three "pilgrimage festivals", it is the only place where the Pesach sacrifice may be eaten, and it is the only place where the "second tithe" may be eaten. After David united the tribes into a kingdom, he conquered the city of Jerusalem and made it his capital. He then wanted to build the temple rather than leaving the ark in the temporary quarters it had been in until that time. G-d informed him that while he was not allowed to build the temple, his son, Solomon, would, and that temple would remain the central site for the Jewish people. After the temple was destroyed the Jews were not allowed to go back to bringing sacrifices at local altars (called bamos or high places). Thus, the second temple had to be built on the site of the first. When the second temple was destroyed, the restriction still held. Thus, according to tradition, it is the only place where the temple can be rebuilt when the Moshiach comes. In the time of Avrohom, the city was the center of the remnants of monotheism from the days of Noah. It was the site of the Yeshivah of Shem and Ever (Noah's son & grandson) where they taught about G-d and the laws G-d had given to Noah.
Subject: Question 14.14: I want to move to Israel. Can I become a citizen? Answer: Jews are granted automatic citizenship. Gentiles may also become citizens, but after a standard naturalization process. You can get more information from the [5]Jewish Agency for Israel, at [6]http:///
Subject: Question 14.15: What is the Wailing Wall and why is it so important? Answer: The term "wailing wall" is not used by Jews, who instead prefer the term "kotel/kosel hamaaravi," Western Wall. The Western wall is a remainder of the wall on the outer perimiter of the mountain (although some people mistakenly believe it was the only remaining structure from the second temple left standing after the Roman destruction). Since the Jews are currently considered to be in a state of "ritual impurity" until a special ritual/procedure can be performed (notably the ashes of the red heifer), the traditional view is that no Jew may set foot on the actual site of the temple and this is the closest they can come to praying at the temple site. [Note: According to Rav Shlomo Goren, Jews can go on the southest 120 meters of the temple mount. This is the result of intersecting all the ideas of all the POSKIM.]
Subject: Question 14.16: Questions on aliyah, military service for olim and more Answer: First, a good place to start is Jacob Richman's [5]Aliyah pages at [6] This page will provide links to mailing lists for people with questions, as well as information on aliyah centers, appliances, housing, jobs, learning Hebrew, olim, organizations, useful addresses, web links, and more. You might also check the Aliyah forum at [7]Virtual Jerusalem, [8] Second, the most important thing to know about rights for Olim, army service etc. is that the rules keep changing!. Therefore, if you are considering Aliya or coming as a tourist and possibly later changing your status, go and speak to the local Aliya shaliah and bother them about making sure that the answers they are giving you are up to date! Currently, length of army service is calculated based on variables such as age when you become an oleh (temporary resident or citizen), age when you become a citizen (after 3 years or more as temp. resident), marital status, number of children, and physical profile.
Subject: How do I obtain copies of the FAQ? Answer: There are a number of different ways to obtain copies of the FAQ: * WWW. If you are reading this on Usenet, and would like to see an online, hyperlinked version, go visit [2] This is the "web" version of the FAQ; the version posted to Usenet is generated from the web version. Note that the version is a copy of the actual master version; if you want to access the master, visit [3] * Email. also provides an autoretriever that allows one to obtain a copy of the FAQ by return Email. To use the autoretriever, you send a retrieval request to [4] with the request in the body of the message. A more reliable way to retrieve these files is through the [5]FAQ autoretriever ([6] For the FAQ, the request has the form: send faq partname For the reading list, the request has the form: send rl partname "Partname" is replaced by the name of the part, as shown in the general index. The following is a short summary of the mapping to partnames for the FAQ: + [7]01-FAQ-intro: Section [8]1: Network and Newsgroup Information. + [9]02-Who-We-Are: Section [10]2: Who We Are + [11]03-Torah-Halacha: Sections [12]3, [13]4: Torah; Halachic Authority + [14]04-Observance: Sections [15]5, [16]6, [17]7, [18]8: Jewish Holidays; Jewish Dietary Law and Kashrut; Sabbath and Holiday Observance; Woman and Marriage + [19]05-Worship: Sections [20]9, [21]10, [22]11: Jewish Worship; Conversion, Intermarriage, and "Who is a Jew?"; Miscellaneous Practice Questions + [23]06-Jewish-Thought: Section [24]12: Jewish Thought + [25]07-Jews-As-Nation: Section [26]13: Jews as a Nation + [27]08-Israel: Section [28]14: Jews and Israel + [29]09-Antisemitism: Sections [30]15, [31]16, [32]17: Churban Europa (The Holocaust); Antisemitism and Rumors about Jews; Countering Missionaries + [33]10-Reform: Section [34]18: Reform/Progressive Judaism + [35]11-Miscellaneous: Sections [36]19, [37]20: Miscellaneous; References and Getting Connected + [38]12-Kids: Section [39]21: Jewish Childrearing Related Questions + [40]mail-order: Mail Order Judaica The following is a short summary of the mapping of partnames for the Reading Lists: + [41]general: Introduction and General. Includes book sources, starting points for beginners, starting points for non-Jewish readers, General Judaism, General Jewish Thought, General Jewish History, Contemporary Judaism, Noachide Laws, Torah and Torah Commentary, Talmud and Talmudic Commentary, Mishnah, Midrash, Halachic Codes, Becoming An Observant Jew, Women and Judaism, and Science and Judaism. + [42]traditional: Traditional Liturgy, Practice, Lifestyle, Holidays. Includes Traditional Liturgy; Traditional Philosophy and Ethics; Prayer; Traditional Practice; The Household; Life, Death, and In-Between; and The Cycle Of Holidays. + [43]mysticism: Kabbalah, Mysticism, and Messianism. Includes Academic and Religious treatments of Kabbalah, Sprituality, and the Jewish notion of the Messiah. + [44]reform: Reform/Progressive Judaism + [45]conservative: Conservative Judaism + [46]reconstructionist: Reconstructionist Judaism + [47]humanistic: Humanistic Judaism (Society for Humanistic Judaism) + [48]chasidism: Chassidism. Includes general information on historical chassidism, as well as specific information on Lubavitch (Chabad), Satmar, Breslaw (Breslov), and other approaches. + [49]zionism: Zionism. Includes Zionism and The Development Of Israel, The Founders, Zionistic Movements, and Judaism in Israel. + [50]antisemitism: Antisemitism. Includes sections on Antisemitism, What Led to The Holocaust, Medieval Oppression, Antisemitism Today (Including Dealing with Hate Groups), Judaism and Christianity, and Judaism, Freemasonry and other rumors. + [51]intermarriage: Intermarriage. Includes sections on "So You're Considering Intermarriage?", The Traditional Viewpoint, Conversion, and Coping With Life As An Intermarried. + [52]childrens: Books for Jewish Children. Includes sections on Birth and Naming, Raising a Child, Family Guidebooks, Upsheren, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, Holiday Books for Children, Liturgy for Children, Bible and Torah for Children, Jewish History for Children, Jewish Theology for Children, Israel, Learning Hebrew, and Jewish Stories. Alternatively, you may send a message to [53] with the following line in the body of the message: send usenet/news.answers/judaism/(portionname) Where (portionname) is replaced by the appropriate subdirectory and filenames; for example, to get the first part of the reading list, one would say: send usenet/news.answers/judaism/reading-lists/general * Anonymous FTP: All portions of the FAQ and of the reading lists are archived on [54] and are available for anonymous FTP from the pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/FAQ directory (URL [55] Similarly, the parts of the reading lists are stored in the pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/reading-lists directory (URL: [56] ts). Note that the archived versions of the FAQ and reading lists are the posted versions; that is, they are each one large ASCII file.
Subject: Who Wrote the FAQ? Answer: The original version of the Frequently Asked Questions was developed by a committee consisting of Mike Allen, Jerry Altzman, Rabbi Charles Arian, Jacob Baltuch (Past Chair), Joseph Berry, Warren Burstein, Stewart Clamen, Daniel Faigin, Avi Feldblum, Rabbi Yaakov Feldman, Itzhak "Jeff" Finger, Gedaliah Friedenberg, Yechezkal Gutfreund, Art Kamlet, Joe Kansun, CAPT Kaye David, Alan Lustiger, Hillel Markowitz, Len Moskowitz, Colin Naturman, Aliza Panitz, Eliot Shimoff, Mark Steinberger, Steven Weintraub, Matthew Wiener, and headed by Robert Levene. The organization and structuring of the lists for posting purposes was done by [2]Daniel Faigin, who is currently maintaining the lists. Other contributors include Aaron Biterman, A. Engler Anderson, Ken Arromdee, Seymour Axelrod, Jonathan Baker, Josh Backon, Micha Berger, Steven M. Bergson, Eli Birnbaum, Shoshana L. Boublil, Kevin Brook, J. Burton, Harvey Cohen, Todd J.Dicker, Michael Dinowitz, Rabbi Jim Egolf, Sean Engelson, Mike Fessler, Menachem Glickman, Amitai Halevi, Walter Hellman, Per Hollander, Miriam Jerris, Robert D. Kaiser, Yosef Kazen, Rabbi Jay Lapidus, Mier Lehrer, Heather Luntz, David Maddison, Arnaldo Mandel, Ilana Manspeizer, Seth Ness, Chris Newport, Daniel Nomy, Jennifer Paquette, Andrew Poe, Alan Pfeffer, Jason Pyeron, Adam Reed, Seth Rosenthall,, David Sheen, Rabbi John Sherwood, Michael Sidlofsky, Michael Slifkin, Frank Smith, Michael Snider, Rabbi Arnold Steibel, Andy Tannenbaum,, Meredith Warshaw, Bill Wadlinger, Arel Weisberg, Dorothy Werner, and Art Werschulz, and the soc.culture.jewish.parenting board. Some material has been derived from other sources on the Internet, such as [3], [4], and [5] Comments and corrections are welcome; please address them to [6] A special thank you... Special thanks for her patience and understanding go to my wife, Karen, who put up with me hiding at the computer for the two months it took to complete the July/August 2000 remodel of the entire soc.culture.jewish FAQ and Reading Lists. If you think the effort was worth it, drop her a note c/o [7] ------------------------------------------------------------ -- Please mail additions or corrections to me at End of SCJ FAQ Part 8 (Jews and Israel) Digest ************************** -------

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