This month, eighty-two years ago, one of the founders of the State of Israel, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, passed away. Jabotinsky was a gifted poet, a celebrated author, and an eloquent orator. But most of all, he was a Zionist leader who had fought his entire life for the establishment of a Jewish state in the historic land of Israel.
From my nation’s elders I did hear,
As He formed every nation and tribe
He vowed that in this land here,
A Hebrew nation will reside…
These lines from the poem A City of Peace reflect Jabotinsky’s passion for Zionism, which he felt was the only way to prevent a Jewish slaughter and annihilation in Europe. He was right about the slaughter, but he did not manage to bring European Jewry into the land of Israel in time.
Jabotinsky was a contemporary of my teacher’s father, the great kabbalist Baal HaSulam. Both were born in eastern Europe, and both believed that the vocation of the Jews is to come to the land of Israel. In that sense, not only Baal HaSulam, but all the kabbalists were Zionists, as was my teacher, RABASH, Baal HaSulam’s firstborn son and successor.
However, where Zionism sees its end goal in the physical return of the people of Israel to the land of Israel, kabbalists see it as merely the beginning of the fulfillment of Israel’s calling, and not the zenith of it, but rather the basis for the realization of Israel’s vocation: the unity of the world.
As just said, RABASH, Baal HaSulam, and all the kabbalists were avid Zionists. Baal HaSulam even had the words “State of Israel” etched on his Sabbath knife, with which he would slice the bread on the ceremonial reception of the Sabbath. But their Zionism was not an aspiration for physical relocation from Europe to Palestine; it was a yearning to see the people of Israel unite as one, and the world unites along with it. The physical return, therefore, was a significant step toward it, but only a step, and certainly not the ultimate goal.
Jabotinsky’s dream was to see the Jewish people dwelling in the historic land of Israel. I believe that if the people of Israel focus on their unity, and intend for it to be a model for humanity, a proof that people who hate each other from the bottom of their hearts can unite as one man with one heart, then Israel’s unity will spread throughout the world without any borders whatsoever.
When kabbalists speak of “the final correction,” they mean the final correction of hatred, the abolition of enmity, and the establishment of complete and undying love among all people. In such a state, no borders are needed, and no borders are erected between people or nations.
Like my teachers before me, I am a Zionist. Like my teachers before me, my Zionism is dedicated to the unity of our nation as a model for the unity of the world. Like my teachers before me, I believe that the place where the people of Israel can unite and become that model of solidarity and love of others is here in the land of our fathers, the land of Israel, where Rabbi Akiva said, “Love your neighbor as yourself, this is the overarching rule.”
Jabotinsky’s anniversary is a good time to reflect on Zionism, what it means for us today, and what it should mean. Today, Zionism is disintegrating. To many people, the very word has become derogatory. However, if people only knew the real meaning behind the word, the love for all of humanity that was the cause of the establishment of the Israeli nation, I believe that they will change their attitude.
That said, unless we Jews rekindle the spirit of unity that is the basis of our nation, no one will understand what Zionism is about or why we need a Jewish state. We, Israelis, through our choice of unity or division, determine our own fate. Zionism must be taught at all the schools and educational institutions, but it must be the complete version of it, the one that sees its end in the unity of the world, and the unity of Israel as a means to the final end. If we do this, we will have no enemies to worry about. If we do not do this, nothing will prevent Israel’s decline.
[Image: Zeev Jabotinsky, Archives of Government Press Office]