Ariel Center for
Policy Research



NATIV   ■   Volume Fifteen   ■   Number 3 (86)  ■  June 2002   ■  Ariel Center for Policy Research




The Path to Zion:
Reflections of a Russian Jewess on the Israeli Native

Raya Epstein

The basic assumption upon which this article is based is that Zionism is not one, singular truth. Two opposing directions are discernible within it, like two rivers flowing towards different objectives, or two wishes which have nothing in common. The one river is realistic and deeply rooted in the historic and spiritual life of the Jewish people; the second, utopian, unrealistic and impracticable, with absolutely no connection to anything authentic. The one expresses our return to ourselves, undertaken of  free choice – while the second constitutes a conscious (or unconscious) escape from Judaism, an escape that is depicted as a deterministic step “for which there is no alternative at all”.

The implication of one course of action is the return to Zion, which is not restricted by the strictures of time; the other course of action is the Zionism of immediate gratification, which can manifest itself in both secularism and religiosity, which are only seemingly anomalous. The first rests on the Jewish people’s eternal ties to its land, and therefore does not need any ideological confirmation or corroboration based on deterministic faith (secular or pseudo-religious) contrary to the spirit of Judaism; while the second is forever seeking artificial and unrelated justifications, in order to prevent the State, gradually contracting through the renunciation of the Land of Israel, from disappearing completely.

These two courses of action or interpretations of Zionism, do not necessarily correspond with the well known, defined distinction between, movements, sectors, communities and parties, but each can be found in every movement, every sector, even within every individual Jew. These two versions of Zionism came together and interlocked in the state which was established in the Land of Israel after the Holocaust – both the unrealistic, utopian version and the version linked to the Jewish essence.

The prevalent version, whose proponents are predominantly members of the moral, rational camp, are incapable of deducing a simple logical doctrine stemming from the basic assumption in which they believe, and acting in accordance with its corresponding moral dictates: If our settlement in Hebron is occupation, then their settlement is occupation sevenfold. If it is immoral on our part to live in Bet-El, then residing in Ashkelon and Haifa is the height of immorality.

The problem is that our enemies know how to utilize our lack of rationality or moral inconsistency. And thus we find ourselves bewildered and impotent in the face of their cruel accusations and attacks, lacking both the ability and the means to defend ourselves. It seems to this writer that the source of this inability is not in any operational details, not in the lack of strong leadership and not even in the weakness of our international information efforts. The source of this inability is in our continued adherence to the utopian, unrealistic version of Zionism, Zionism which remains afraid to connect with the existential roots of the Jewish people. This Zionism was characterized here as “Escapist Zionism”.

If the State of Israel, by its very existence, is the realization of escapist Zionism – then the Left is right, and its utopian peace is indeed its consistent extension – Utopian Zionism which was established with the intention of constructing a new, remarkable world for new Jews.

However, it is specifically the utopian peace, which brought us to the final boundary of choice between life and death, that underscores the need to abandon escapist Zionism and return to realistic Zionism – Zionism, which is a continuation of Jewish history, based on Jewish memory, resting upon Jewish culture and manifesting Jewish eternity.

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