Why I Am A Zionist

In celebration of Israel’s 73rd Independence Day — Yom Ha’atzmaut — we are sharing professor Gil Troy’s essay “Why I am a Zionist.” Twenty years ago he wrote this affirmation essay sharing his reasons for being a Zionist, and how we all have a hand in fulfilling Theodor Herzl’s timeless belief that “If you will it, it is no dream.” This year, we are revisiting and updating it. After watching the video, the prompts below can be used to engage students in thought-provoking discussion about what they have learned.

  1. Do you think Jews today (those living in Israel and those outside of it) take the existence of Israel for granted? If so, why do you think this is and what do you think can be done to reignite feelings and actions of Zionism today?
  2. How would you explain Zionism to somebody who had never heard of it before?
  3. In the video, Gil Troy explains that we as Jews should not allow our enemies to define us and says “we are not just anti antisemites or anti anti-Zionists.” What is the difference in behavior between someone who is proactively Zionist versus the behavior of being “anti anti-Zionist” and why does this difference matter?
  4. Political Zionism’s initial goal was to re-establish sovereignty for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland, which was accomplished in 1948. Now that there is a Jewish State, what do you think should be the next major goal of the Zionist movement?
  1. Ask your students to respond to the question “why are you a Zionist?” in a journal entry, a video or poem.
  2. In response to the question “why should Israel exist?”, Tal Becker of the Hartman Institute offers three major reasons:
    • The Jewish State should exist in order to serve as a safe haven from antisemitism throughout the world.
    • The Jewish State should exist in order for the Jewish people to be like everyone else, to be a nation like the rest of the nations of the world.
    • The Jewish State should exist in order to be exceptional and serve as a “light unto the nations.

    Rank these three reasons in order of importance. Afterwards, add three additional reasons to answer the question of why Israel is such an important country.

  3. Play this Kahoot with your students and utilize the questions as starting off points for discussion.
  4. Compare and contrast the video “Why I am a Zionist” with Yair Lapid’s article “I am a Zionist”. What are the similarities? What are the differences?
  5. The video states that “Zionism believes that Judaism is not just a religion but also a people, tied to a particular homeland and we have the right to establish a state on that homeland.” Ask your students to discuss the following questions surrounding this quote:
    • What is the most important aspect of Judaism: rituals, community, Jewish learning, identity, safety and security, arts and culture or Tikkun Olam?
    • Is there anything about this definition you would change? If yes, how and why?
    • Why do you think some people may disagree with this description of Judaism?
  6. Show this video from 6:43 until the end and/or read this document with your students and ask them to take notes on each type of Zionism presented (Political Zionism, Religious Zionism, Cultural Zionism, Socialist Zionism). Afterwards, ask your students to choose which type of Zionism they most identify with and why.
  1. Where do Zionism and Israel fit within your Jewish identity? Reflect on how these ideas from the film made you think about Zionism and your own relationship to Zionism.
  2. Choose one line from the “Why I am a Zionist” video that you especially identify with and explain why it is meaningful for you.
  3. Gil Troy explains that Zionism provides an identity anchor. Does Zionism provide you with an identity anchor? How would your Jewish identity be different if you were born before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948?
  4. How does it make you feel to know that there is so much opposition to the concept of Zionism? Do you think people who are opposed to Zionism are misinformed about its real meaning or have had a different experience and perspective that you may not fully understand?
  5. What does it mean to “live in Jewish space and by Jewish time”? Do you think living this way is integral to maintaining your Jewish identity? Can you live in Jewish space and by Jewish time outside of Israel?

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