Zionism's Change From A Passive Notion To An Active Ideology During The Nineteenth Century

2837 words - 11 pages

Zionism's Change from a Passive Notion to an Active Ideology During the Nineteenth Century

Although it has been a precondition of Jewish consciousness to believe
that the emergence of a Modern political Zionist movement can be
attributed to the rampant anti-Semitism suffered by the European Jews,
this does not provide an adequate explanation. The entire history of
the Jews can be defined by the way in which they suffered persecution
under the oppressive hands of others, proving that anti-Semitism was
not a phenomenon unique to the Jews of the nineteenth century. Thus,
and exploration of the transformation of the Jewish world in lieu of
the invention of the modern world as we know it is imperative to the
understanding of the development of Zionism from a passive
consciousness and yearning to the emergence of the first political
Zionist writings marking the beginning of an active ideological
movement advocating mass immigration to Eretz Israel.

The nineteenth century was a dynamic climate in European politics. The
Enlightenment, a Western movement celebrating man's rationality,
centrality, and equality, began in France in the last decades of the
eighteenth century; however it was not until the nineteenth century
that grants of emancipation proliferated across Europe. With the
emancipation of German Jewry by 1871 every European country except
Russia had emancipated its Jews, and the face of "Jewish identity" was
challenged. For centuries the Jews of Europe were locked in their
ghettoes and shtetls, insulated from outside influences by rampant
anti-Semitism. However, with emancipation came the breaking down of
barriers both imprisoning and protecting whole Jewish communities, and
when given the opportunity, the Jews impetuously rushed to the
conquest of pleasures of secular society from which they had been cut
off for so many centuries. For the first time Jews began to gain
prominence in many areas of wider cultural endeavor. From 1835-1914
there was a great flourishing of Jewish literary and culture. Thus,
the nineteenth century is regarded in history as the best century the
Jews had ever known since the destruction of the Temple.

In lieu of the relative position, advancing status and seemingly
growing tolerance towards and inclusion of the Jews in the nineteenth
century it can be seen as paradoxical that it was this century that
saw the birth and rise of modern Zionism. However with the
emancipation and secular opportunity of the Jews came a new 'Jewish
problem'. Jews were now faced with the difficulty of defining and
identifying themselves within the parameters of the bourgeoning
secular and nationalist ideologies. The Emancipation and the
Enlightenment encouraged society to free itself from the ties of
religious faith, and turn the matter of religion into the private

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