Zionism is a political movement that is both secular and religious.

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Following national movements such as Buddhists and Zionists, different facets of Jewish life in Europe undergone a revolution in the mid-nineteenth century. The acts posed a collection of conflicting ideas among the Jewish people on issues such as nationhood, ethnicity, and civilizational problems. Prior to that, the Jews had to deal with the fragmentation of the ancient Jewish community, and Zionism was the most radical movement of the time. Zionism is a nationalist ideology that asserts that the Jewish people are a country with a right to their own territory. The movement was established in the 1890s and was initially founded based on opinions with the location at the ancient Israel Kingdom. From the year 1948, Zionism has been known to be a movement that promotes defence and development of the Israeli state.

On the other hand, religion is also part of the Zionist movement and comes in as integration between Zionism and Judaism to form the religious Zionism. Initially, before the Israeli state was established, the religious Zionists were mainly made up of the Jews, who worked towards the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine (Rodman 2012). The great six-day war between the Samaria and Judea saw the emergence of the Ne-Zionism, which was the religious aspect of the Zionist movement. The Jewish religious system was founded with the hopes of bringing redemption to the Jewish people and the return of the Land of Israel (Ohana 2010). The Zionist movement emerged right after the people realized that the religious belief could turn into a political movement that could be used, in turn, to motivate the recovery of the Land of Israel.

Zionism is indeed a secular political movement that demonstrates the role of nationalism in the reconstruction of a nation (Rodman 2012). Ohana (2010) stipulates that the spirit of nationalism depends on the history of society, religious identity and territory, and all these issues are the reasons behind the formation of Zionist movement. Other scholars also argue that nationalism is a continuously changing process, which plays a role in remembering and forgetting the imperative ideas of the collective identity of a group of people in society.

Zionism is a political movement that stems from the goal of constructing the national life of the Jewish people following the modernity (Rodman 2012). Besides, the pro-Zionists were the first group of individuals to propose that the issues touching on the Jewry should be subjected to debates that are not only free but also open. The proposals were based on the fact that the Jewish problems originated from the migration to a new area of residence. The anti-Semitism was the main issue facing the Jews in Europe, and the Zionists perceived the problem as one, which solution depended on having a Jewish national home. The Zionist movement was divided into four major streams, namely religious, cultural, political, and socialized labour (Ohana 2010). Apart from the religious aspect, the other streams make up the secular Zionism.

The Development of Zionism

The anti-Semitic events existed by the 18th Century, but no Zionism emerged during that time. The anti-Semitic Movements, however, became stronger in the 19th Century, and this led to the emergence of the Zionist movement during the same period. However, according to Ohana (2010), the anti-Semitic events did not cause Zionism, but instead, they acted as a trigger. The actual cause of Zionism was the breakdown of the traditional lifestyle and the motivation of the Jews people to reconstruct their life in the European nations (Rodman 2012). By the start of the 19th Century (Ohana 2010), the number of the Jews living in Europe increased, and the bond between them and the Land of Israel remained because of the value system that still existed. The Jews sustained the bond despite the fact that there was discrimination that emerged from the Christians and the Muslims (Ohana 2010).

The Jewish people consistently faced challenges, including persecution, forced conversion to other religions, and discrimination from public service positions among others. Hatred and religious alignments motivated the persecutions, and later, the complaints about the incomplete assimilation and lack of full incorporation by the modern societies (Rodman 2012). Nevertheless, the Jews remained in exile in countries like the USA, Australia, and South Africa among others, as some also resided in Europe. The Jews, who were residents of Europe, existed at the margins of the society and earned a living as traders or brokers in the cities and villages.

The French revolution that emerged as a result of enlightenment led to the destruction of the temple in the 19th Century. The Jews began acquiring a strong position in other business areas such as wholesale and retailing (Ohana 2010). The Jews moved from the periphery to the metropolises of Europe. Some Jewish students were now visible in the universities, the science innovations, and the cultural events. Consequently, the move was now more humane, and this led to a process of socio-cultural inclusion of the Jews in some of the European countries. The assimilation move did not only involve speaking and writing in a language of the country those people lived in, but also touched on the traditional ways of life that had existed since the Middle Ages.

The Jews were motivated to become part of the society, and the secularization became part of the process, because it was only through that equality regarding the law, religion and loyalty to the country could be achieved (Rodman 2012). Some of the Jews, who were strong believers of Judaism, were converted to Christianity, leading to a decline in religious belief among the Jews, who resided in Europe. The people became more aligned to the religious practices in Europe, since they believed that this could be the only way to ensure the security of their homeland. However, the effect of this alignment was a weakened link with the Jewish communities in the other nations.

A gap developed between the personal life of a Jew and the civil life of the citizens, leading to tension in the secular society. To bridge the gap, Zionism emerged. The financial crisis of the late 19th Century was the cause of tension, leading to anti-Semitism as a political movement. Anti-Semitism mainly affected the residents of Russia, leading to riots in the Western and Southern Russia. The Zionist movement gained popularity as a long-term process to eradicate the tension between the individual and public life (Ohana 2010). The Jewish people believed that the road to a communal existence of the Jews in the secular society could only be achieved in the land in which they had a genetic identity (Eretz Israel). The ground was the only place, where reconstruction of a collective entity and environment could occur, and that the destiny of a unified community existed.

The Zionist ideology was first proposed by Rabbi Yehudah Shlomo Alkalay and Rabbi Zevi Hirsch Kalischer with the basis on the fact that settlement of the Jewish people in a country of their native origin was the best way to prepare for the coming of the Messiah (Rodman 2012). Other believers like Moses Hess came later and developed the socialist aspect of Zionism that was defined about morality and social necessity. In launching the proposals, according to Hess, the Jews people were not a religious group, but instead, a nation characterized with a unique religion, and therefore, there was a need to recognize their presence universally. Hess proposed that the Jews have a political organization, and a state set up in Palestine. The State was to act as a Spiritual and political action centre.

Zionism in Israel Today

One of the reasons as to why the Zionist movement started was to have the Jewish nation. The goal was achieved in the year 1948, when the State of Israel was established. There are still debates around the other targets of Zionism as a political or social movement. The other advocators of Zionism like David Gurion insisted that every member of the Zionist community had a role to take part in building the Israeli society. Contrary to this, the Jews, who reside in America, have a conflicting opinion on the same issue; they argue that Zionism has a role to play in realizing the Jewish future in America that includes supporting and paying visits to Israel (Ohana 2010).

In the recent past, the Israel leaders and other leaders in Jewish communities in the Diaspora agree to the fact that Zionism should promote a global vision of nationhood, as it was during the establishment time. In this case, Israel plays a leadership role, which is not precedential, but not the final residence place for all the Jews. The financial and political efforts of the 1940s, which intended to establish a state and then rescue the Jews, who resided in Russia, is still not clear. The more secular and public society oriented goal of Zionism in Israel today is to have the Jewish nation, which is responsible for ensuring that the individual rights of the marginalized citizens and groups remain intact.

Zionism as a Secular Political Movement

Political Zionism is most commonly associated with Theodor Herzl, since he was the force behind the integration of all the Zionist groups in one organizational movement. Zionism can be considered to be a political movement, since the first Zionist Congress took place in Palestine in 1897, where various groups came together under the slogan “the lovers of Zion”, consisting of the Zionists in the Eastern parts of Europe (Ohana 2010). The “lovers of Zion” comprised of secular and religious Jews, who all pursued the objective of creating a colony in the land of Israel in a proactive and organized way that created a foundation for the future endeavours. From these historical perspectives, which have a real backing, it is indeed true that Zionism was a political movement.

Zionism as a Religious Movement

Religious Zionism started, when the “lovers of Zion” slogan emerged, and the prominent people of the time recognized the need to have a process of reconstructing the Jewish identity. The religious Zionist party (Mizrahi) was established between 1902 and 1905 to act as a pillar for the Warsaw section of the “lovers of Zion”. The party signified the emergence of the Zionism into a world of religion and Rabbinism, meaning that Mizrahi was now a religious-political arm within a secular movement. Later on, the critical political content was translated to traditional religious scripts, which are still in existence, and this is proof that Zionism is indeed a religious movement.


Ohana, D. (2010). Existing Political theologies in the Holy Land. (1st ed.) London: Routledge.

Rodman, D. (2012). Nation and History: Israeli historiography between Zionism and post-Zionism. Israel Affairs, 18(4), pp.666-667.

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