Photo Credit: Rabbi Uri Pilichowski

Title: Zionism Today: Challenges for the Jewish Nation in the 21st Century
By Uri Pilichowski



The Neturei Karta often show up at protests with signs proclaiming that Judaism and Zionism are diametrically opposed. Their mistake is thinking that Judaism is just a religion, not a nation, while Zionism is just about nationalism. Thinking the Jewish people are not a nation is a fundamental error.

In Zionism Today: Challenges for the Jewish Nation in the 21st Century, Rabbi Uri Pilichowski notes that one of the main problems around Zionism is that it is a concept that has never been defined. It means many different things to different people. But beyond that, a crucial point he makes is that Zionism is a four-thousand-year-old idea that stretches back to G-d’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land of Israel. Not only are Judaism and Zionism not diametrically opposed, but Judaism is Zionism.

In this readable and engaging book, Pilichowski has 101 brief essays of 2-3 pages that explain the many aspects of Zionism. A critical point that he makes is that Zionists don’t need to justify their existence. He writes that the advent of modern political Zionism in the late 1800s, as a movement, gave Jews the freedom to determine their own future in their own land, but never to have to make excuses or justify their presence again.

No other nation is expected to justify its existence. Be it Mexico, Nigeria, or the nearly 200 other countries of the world, their existence is a given. Yet when it comes to Israel, from the Squad in the U.S. House of Representatives to Hamas and more, they refuse to acknowledge that Israel has a right to exist. They would never doubt that Columbia or Tanzania has a right to exist. But the Zionist state is often forced to justify its very existence.

The book does a superb job of leveling the playing field when dealing with anti-Zionism. Many of those who attack Israel refuse to acknowledge that the Jewish people’s connection to the land of Israel is undeniable – even continuously trying to deny it. Many of them consider Zionists colonial oppressors who recently moved to the land, being oblivious to the fact that there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the land for thousands of years.

When it comes to Zionism, far too many people confuse secular Zionism, the idea Theodor Herzl revitalized, with Zionism as a core aspect of Judaism. The ideology of Zionism is that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination in their homeland, Israel.

While that idea was disseminated at the now famous First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in August 1897, Herzl was simply echoing G-d’s command to Abraham. The modern political movement of Zionism espoused by Herzl is based on an ideology over 3,000 years old. G-d told Abraham to leave his birthplace and travel to the land G-d would give him and his descendants.

Pilichowski constantly reiterates the point that Zionism is a four-thousand-year-old concept. It may have been dormant to a degree and reinvigorated in Basel. But that can’t, and must not detract from, the fact that Zionism is axiomatic to Judaism.

Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Brody writes in his superb book Ethics of Our Fighters: A Jewish View on War and Morality (Maggid Books) that Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, rosh yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim, regretted that the Israeli army called itself the Israel Defense Force. R’ Aviner feels that the army’s goal is not just to defend the people but also to conquer the promised land.

In the same way that R’ Aviner suggests the army must take an offensive role, the book also takes a very offensive approach, as Pilichowski noted that Zionism does not have to defend itself. The Jewish people have a historical, legal, and national connection to the land of Israel. And the book does a tremendous service in articulately advancing that notion.

While Maimonides does not list Zionism as one of his Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith, Zionism is, in fact, a foundational point of Judaism. Pilichowski writes that such a statement may sound shocking, considering how much of the Jewish world rejected Zionism in its early years.

In 2024, Zionism is a dirty word. Sadly, that is true within parts of Orthodox society. In Zionism Today, Pilichowski has written an outstanding book that elucidates the promise given to Abraham, the first Zionist, and how it is relevant to his descendants today.

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