“Here’s your opportunity, you’ll have five minutes to explain your position, and then we’ll open for questions.” The moderator of this discussion explained that her organization wanted me to explain why I live in Israel and why I think Israel’s positions on various issues are justified. I found the moderator’s directions odd. Why would I need to justify where I live or the policies of my government? I’ve never seen a similar talk given by people who live in other countries unless they were an official spokesperson of their government. I’m an educator, not a spokesperson for the government of Israel.
For two thousand years, Europeans and Arabs persecuted Jews and accused them of being imposters in foreign lands. Jews were told, “Go back to Palestine!” Jews were forced to justify their presence in lands not their own. With the advent of modern political Zionism in the late 1800’s, a movement began that aimed to not only give Jews the freedom to determine their own future in their own land, but to never have to make excuses or justify their presence again.
In 1948 Zionists achieved their goals, founded the State of Israel, and declared to world Jewry they could return home to their historic homeland. Furthermore, Zionists called to their fellow Jews that they had a right to return to Eretz Yisrael. Seventy-four years later, Israel is an established state with a leading military and economy.
In today’s Israel, Jews live on their ancestral homeland where they govern it as free people and determine their own destiny. It is a dream come true, and some believe it to be miraculous. Yet, some see Israel as an immoral nation and believe Jews have no excuse to live in their own homeland.
Israelis aren’t the only people who celebrate a successful State of Israel. Zionists around the world celebrate a successful and thriving State of Israel. Zionists around the world support Israel through financial donations, activism, and lobbying their governments to support a strong relationship with the State of Israel. As my friend Jonah recently wrote to me, “As a Jew in the Diaspora who has friends, family, and a connection to the Land, I feel I have a say to a certain extent on where the country is headed for the sake of its safety and survival because that has an effect on Jews in the Diaspora as well. Israel is in a volatile region and therefore requires a lot of critical thinking to propose ideas for the sake of the safety and well-being of Israelis (and Palestinians) and the ideas I propose are based on my honest assessment on what I believe is best for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
For the most part, Israelis are greatly appreciative of the support global Zionists lend Israel and completely understand their desire to influence events in Israel. Many suggestions from Zionists around the world are helpful and are creative ideas. Some Zionists from around the world are left wondering why Israelis don’t respond to their ideas.
Whether ideas come from friendly Zionists or opposing, anti-Zionists, many Israelis no longer feel the need to respond to every critique or suggestion offered them. After 74 years of success and having created a thriving state in the face of enemy armies and economic boycotts, Israelis should be forgiven when they don’t respond to suggestions that seem impractical or unfairly critical to them.
Zionists don’t need help, nor do they need a case made for Zionism. If people want to oppose Israelis’ choice to live on their ancestral homeland, that’s their prerogative. Either way, Israelis are still going to live on their land, as they have desired for thousands of years, and govern as they have for over half a century. As a Jew living in Israel, I find it somewhat amusing when those foreigners living thousands of miles away from me come up with ways I should lead my life, while I would never presume to do the same to them.
I explained to the moderator who wanted me to justify where I live and the policies of my Israeli government that Zionists never need to plead their case again. Zionists have succeeded, are well established, and no longer have to justify their existence. If activists in London, Paris, New York or San Francisco accuse Israel of stealing another people’s land or mistreating others, Israelis have no reason to answer their accusations. Israel is a reality and people can accept it or pointlessly oppose it, but Jews no longer have to justify their existence to opponents.