About This Guide
Welcome to the new Temple Israel “Israel Study Guide.” Here you will find links to many subjects, organizations, and web pages, organized by topics that deal with the historic and modern day State of Israel, including current events, newspapers, politics, the history of Zionism, and Reform and Progressive movements, to name a few. All resources and web links listed are open source, so you do not need a subscription, account, or password to view the information. Books from Temple Israel’s collection are also included, which you can check out and read at home.
We hope you will find this a useful guide and welcome any suggestions, additions, or edits. Please email us your thoughts.
This guide was curated by members of the Temple Israel Progressive Israel Caucus, with support from Temple Israel clergy and TI librarian Ann Abrams.
E Resources (in Temple Israel’s Collection)
- The Jewish Encyclopedia
Published in the early 1900s, and completely online. Provides historical, not time-sensitive information about Judaism.
- Jewish Virtual Library
Includes Information from different sources on politics, history, Jewish people, and Israel.
- My Jewish Learning
A great resource about anything to do with Judaism, past and present.
- Internet Archive
A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more.
A full-text academic journal index. Through cooperation with the Boston Public Library (BPL), Temple Israel members may access JSTOR. Please contact the librarian for access instructions.
A global catalog of library collections. You can search for books, music, video, articles, and much more.
Books in Temple Israel’s Library — Check Out and Take Home!
For more subjects and titles search the library catalog.
- Ben-Ami, Jeremy, A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation.
New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Call #:E183.8 .I7B4
J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami examines myths related to the politics of the American Jewish community, discusses how they have shaped pro-Israel advocacy, and shares details about his evolution toward a moderate viewpoint.
- Burg, Avraham. In Days to Come: A New Hope for Israel; translated by Joel Greenberg.
New York, Nation Books. 2018. Call #:DS126.6 .B87
This is Burg’s philosophical inquiry into what Jewish-Israeli identity means today if you are personally, ethically, and politically opposed to what your country stands for.
- Cohen, Richard. Israel: Is it Good for the Jews?
New York, Simon & Schuster. 2014.
This book is part reportage, part memoir — an intimate journey through the history of Europe’s Jews, culminating in the establishment of Israel.
- Gartman, Eric. Return to Zion: the History of Modern Israel.
Philadelphia,The Jewish Publication Society, 2015. Call #:DS126.5 .G35
From the rise of Zionism to the founders of the Jewish State, this is the story of a strong-willed people fighting to keep a land their ancestors called home.
- Gershon, Hundert, editor in chief. The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe / Volume 1.
New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 2008. Call #: REF DS125 .E8Y5 v.1
- Gilbert, Martin. Israel: A History.
New York, William Morrow, 1988. Call #:DS126.5 .G53
Beginning with Israel’s founding in May 1948, this comprehensive history of Israel explores its political, religious, cultural, and economic development.
- Glidden, Sarah. How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. Recommended by Librarian Ann Abrams.
New York, Vertigo/DC Comics, 2010. Call #: PN6727 .G55H6
This graphic memoir details the author’s exploration of Israel during a “Birthright Israel” tour and the rediscovery of her Jewish heritage.
- Grossman, David. Death as a Way of Life: Israel 10 Years After Oslo. New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003. Call # DS119.76.G77.2003.
In a series of essays, the Israeli author explores both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an attempt to understand the breakdown of the peace process begun in Oslo by Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat.
- Grossman, David. The Yellow Wind. New York, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux,1988. Call # DS119.7.G7.
Grossman visited the West Bank and listened to men and women, Jewish and Arab, students and teachers, old and young, and reported the bitterness of Israelis and Arabs. He tells how Arabs live, their aspiration, frustrations, bitterness, and rage.
- Lacquer, Walter and Rubin, Barry, editors. Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict.
New York, Penguin Books, 2008. Call #: DS119.7.I8
This collection of documents presents a particular and chronological interpretation of history in Palestine over the past century.
- Miller, Aaron David. The Much Too Promised Land: America’s Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace.
New York, Bantam Books. 2009. Call #:DS119.7 .M4947
The author, an advisor to U.S. presidents and secretaries of state on the Arab-Israeli conflict for nearly twenty years, examines the history of U.S. involvement in the peace process in the region.
- Morris Bennie. One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel-Palestine Conflict.
New Haven, Yale University Press, 2009. Call #:DS119.7 .M658
This book scrutinizes the history of the goals of the Palestinian national movement and the Zionist movement, then considers the various one- and two-state proposals made by different streams within the two movements.
- Rosenthal, Donna. The Israelis: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land. Recommended by Librarian Ann Abrams.
New York, Free Press. 2003. Call # DS113.3.R67.
How does Israel look to Israelis? The answers are varied, and they have been brought together in this book. From battlefields to bedrooms to boardrooms, discover the colliding worlds in which an astounding mix of 6.8 million devoutly traditional and radically modern people live.
- Ross, Dennis. Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace.
New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004. DS119.76 .R68 2004
The respected ambassador and chief Middle East negotiator in both the Clinton and Bush administrations offers a sober, candid assessment of the peace process, covering Camp David, Oslo, Geneva, and Egypt; the assassination of Yitzak Rabin; and more.
- Shapira, Anita. Israel: a History; translated from the Hebrew by Anthony Berris.
Waltham, MA, Brandeis University Press. 2012. Call #:DS149 .S497
Written by one of Israel’s most notable scholars, this volume provides a history of Israel from the origins of the Zionist movement to publication date.
- Shavit, Ari. My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. Recommended by Librarian Ann Abrams.
New York, Spiegel & Grau. 2013. Call #: DS119.7 .S381
This is a personal narrative history of the State of Israel from journalist Ari Shavit, drawn from his family’s stories, interviews, historical documents, private diaries, and letters.
- Shehadeh, Raja. Where the Line is Drawn: A Tale of Crossings, Friendships, and Fifty Years of Occupation in Israel-Palestine.
New York, The New Press. 2017. Call #:DS119.7 .S382
Shehadeh explores how occupation has affected him personally, chronicling the various crossings that he undertook into Israel over a period of forty years to visit friends and family, to enjoy the sea, to argue before the Israeli courts, and to negotiate failed peace agreements.
- Sokatch, Daniel. Can We Talk About Israel?: A Guide for the Curious, Confused, and Conflicted.
New York, Bloomsbury Pub., 2021. Call #: DS119.7 .S6
Sokatch is head of the New Israel Fund, an organization dedicated to equality and democracy for all Israelis, not just Jews. Well-versed on the Israeli conflict, he attempts to explain why Israel — and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — inspires such extreme feelings.
- Tolan, Sandy. The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East.
New York: Bloomsbury Pub, 2007. Call #:DS126.6 .A2T65
This tale, a simple act of faith between two young people — one Israeli, one Palestinian — symbolizes the hope for peace in the Middle East.
- Waxman, Dov. Trouble in the Tribe.
Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press. 2016. Call #:DS132 .W39
This book explores the increasingly contentious place of Israel in the American Jewish community.
- Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; edited with introductions by Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon.
New York, Grove Press, 2003. Call #:DS132 .W74 2003.
Leading Jewish writers, activists, and scholars share their reflections on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East as they address such topics as the link between American Jews and Israel, the need for Palestinian justice and Jewish survival, and the meaning of Zionism.
- The Zionist Ideas: Visions for the Jewish Homeland — Then, Now, Tomorrow; edited by Gil Troy.
Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press. 2018. Call #: DS149 .T71
This book showcases more than 170 visionaries, shedding light on the surprisingly diverse and shared visions for realizing Israel as a democratic Jewish state.
Clergy Reading Recommendations
Current Events E-Resources
The newest addition to the Israeli media, i24News broadcasts in English, French, and Arabic, and aims to bring “unfiltered, unbiased, global news from where it happens.” While headquartered in Jaffa, i24 has also opened a studio in the U.S., expanding its reach through cable TV in the U.S., as well as a number of European and African countries. i24 News’ various current affairs shows offer a wide range of guest commentators, including HonestReporting’s Executive Director Daniel Pomerantz.
Recently, i24 News has made greater efforts to produce more original content from Israel rather than relying on wire services. Due to its expansion in the U.S., i24 News requires a small monthly fee to access its live television broadcast through its website, but if you are looking for a 24/7 rolling news and current affairs TV station focused on Israel and the region, i24 News is really the only place to go.
Israel Hayom offers a daily online newsletter with the main stories of the day. As such, it is static in that breaking news stories only appear in the next edition, much like a morning printed newspaper.
Israel Hayom’s Hebrew print edition is the country’s largest circulation newspaper by virtue of the fact that it is given out for free. It earned itself the nickname “Bibiton” – an amalgamation of Benjamin Netanyahu’s own nickname and the Hebrew word for newspaper. Hardly surprising as the newspaper was intended to level the media playing field by Netanyahu benefactor and Israel Hayom’s main investor Sheldon Adelson in the face of what was seen as an increasingly left-wing media landscape.
Founded in 1932, the Jerusalem Post, or JPost, is the most well-known and widely read Israeli news site. While sharing much of the same content, the print and web editions are technically separate entities.
The JPost is considered to be politically center-right although it aims to provide balanced coverage from across the political spectrum. On the subject of Israeli politics, it’s worth following the views of JPost journalists Lahav Harkov and Gil Hoffman, who offer regular analyses of the complicated goings on in the Knesset and Israel’s often-fraught domestic politics.
The JPost’s website has a somewhat chaotic layout and is dominated by pop up ads that can spoil the viewing experience.
Times of Israel
Founded in 2012, this online-only newspaper was established by UK-born veteran Israeli journalist David Horovitz. According to its website, TOI “has no partisan political affiliation. It seeks to present the news fair-mindedly and offers a wide range of analysis and opinion pieces.”
A particular feature of TOI is its blogs section where one can open a blog and contribute their opinions. The best quality articles are selected by TOI opinion editors for the featured section. Although it aims to be Israel’s “marketplace of ideas,” some argue that the political range of opinions gravitates heavily towards the center or center-left, as writers with firm left-wing or right-wing views prefer to see those views published on other news sites.
YNet News is the English language website of the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth. Offering translations from the Hebrew website, it offers a limited number of articles and some of the best writing from Yedioth’s stable of columnists. Of particular interest are the columns of Ben Dror Yemini who often writes about Israel’s public diplomacy efforts.
The YNet News website is straightforward and offers a selection of Israel’s top stories of the day.
Other Notable Sources
Lists were derived from Honest Reporting: “The Top 7 Israeli News Sources in English.”
Israel’s largest Hebrew-language daily evening financial newspaper is also available online in English.
ILTV is an independent online media platform based in Tel Aviv that provides daily news and entertainment in English.
Israel National News (Arutz Sheva)
Identified with Religious Zionism and the Israeli settler movement, Israel National News, or Arutz Sheva, is politically right.
This center-left biweekly print magazine covers political, economic, social, and cultural issues in Israel, the Middle East, and the Jewish world. It is available only via subscription through the Jerusalem Post website.
This quarterly covers antisemitism, the inner workings of Jewish communal organizations, Israel/Palestine politics on the ground and internationally, race and racialization, strategies and horizons of American left movements, the global rise of the far right, diasporic cultural expression, labor, climate, incarceration, immigration, and feminism.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
With correspondents in New York, Washington, Israel, Europe, and cities around the globe, JTA provides extensive coverage of political, economic, and social developments affecting Jews all over the world.
Israel’s public broadcaster offers an hour of English radio news every day online.
The Media Line (TML)
This independent American news agency specializes in coverage of the Middle East. TML’s articles are regularly republished by mainstream media outlets.
This publication features news, essays, podcasts, opinion, arts, pop culture, technology, holidays, sports, and more.
Examining the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab Conflicts:
Documents, Maps, Oral Histories, and Other Primary Sources
The “Green Line”: a section of the map of the Armistice Lines with Jordan with handwritten notations, part of a secret agreement with King Abdallah, 23 March 1949. Courtesy of the Israel State Archives.
The 1967 Census of the West Bank and Gaza Strip: A Digitized Version
The 1967 Census of the West Bank and Gaza Strip: A Digitized Version (Levy Economics Institute of Bard College)
In the summer of 1967, just after the Six-Day War brought the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Israeli control, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) supervised a census in these territories. The ICBS prepared seven volumes of reports based on this enumeration—the first modern census reports on the Palestinian population.
The Avalon Project from Yale University
Maps of The Middle East
This browsable collection of Middle Eastern maps from the Perry Castaneda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin is arranged by country. Most of the maps were created by the CIA and are available in a variety of sizes, all of which are marked. Many maps of Israel and the West Bank are included.
Museum of the Palestinian People
“The Museum of the Palestinian People is here to tell our stories; stories that encompass the rich history, vibrant arts, and culture of a people who thrive even in the face of adversity. Our stories are many; our hearts are one.”
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The Palestine Chronology: Institute for Palestinian Studies
Since the beginning of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, the Institute for Palestinian Studies has chronicled daily political and military events surrounding the Palestine question. These day-by-day summaries are based on Palestinian, Arab, Israeli, and international sources. Prior to August 2018, the chronology was published quarterly in the Journal of Palestine Studies. It is now updated monthly.
Progress is Possible: S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace
The Progress is Possible website considers the core issues at the heart of the conflict, the world views that the populations hold, the unwritten history of insider religious mediation, and offers some detailed sequenced steps that the parties and U.S. should take.
Settlements and Solutions: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
The Washington Institute’s interactive project, Settlements and Solutions, is a first-of-its-kind web-based geographic database that provides users engaged with the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a reliable source to explore Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Users of this mapping tool can explore settlement geography and demography and decide for themselves whether, given the circumstances on the ground, a two-state solution is still possible.
Toldot Yisrael: Documenting Israel’s 1948 Generation
This oral history project focuses on those who were at least 16 years old at the founding of the State of Israel. It is housed at the National Library of Israel.
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East: A Photo and Film Archive for Palestine Refugees
Since its establishment, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East has recorded all aspects of the life and history of Palestine refugees through film and photography. This has led to a rich audiovisual archive, containing more than 430,000 negatives, 10,000 prints, 85,000 slides, 75 films, and 730 videocassettes.
Israel’s Political System
Israel has a parliamentary system, in which the head of the legislature, the Prime Minister, also serves as the chief executive. The President of Israel is a largely ceremonial office.
Elections and Parties Resources
Israel: 23rd Knesset Election Data Maps
This is a visualization of official Israeli election data. Zoom in to examine a particular geographic area. It also has the results for the 22nd election as well.
Please note: The page defaults to U.S. election data. Use the drop down menu above the map to select Israel.
Israel Democracy Institute: Elections and Parties
This is an excellent guide to learn about Israel’s political parties, their ideologies, prominent figures, electoral achievements and representation. You can also find out about the results of Israel’s Knesset elections by year. This tool includes information about all the parties that ran in a given year, including those that did not pass the electoral threshold.
Knesset Research and Information Center
The Knesset Research and Information Center (RIC) was established in the year 2000 with the goal of providing Knesset members with professional, reliable, and objective information in-house. The RIC provides the Knesset members, committees, and departments with data, research papers, and background studies pertaining to current debates, legislation, and relevant parliamentary activity.
Palestinian Literature and Non-Fiction
Books with Call #s are in Temple Israel’s Library
- Alyan, Hala. “Salt Houses.” Boston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2017. This work chronicles three generations of a Palestinian family as they face two life-altering displacements – the first after 1967’s Six-Day War, and the second following Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
- Dabbagh, Selma. “Out of It.” United Kingdom, Bloomsbury. 2012. British Palestinian author Dabbagh depicts the lives and pressures of a family living in Gaza, (in the westernmost corner of Israel), England, and the Gulf.
- Glanville, Jo, Editor. “Qissat: Short Stories by Palestinian Women.” Telegram Books, 2007. This collection of 12 stories by Palestinian women authors depict experiences and difficult situations of Palestinian families living under Israel occupation or displaced because of it.
- Kanafani, Ghassan, et. al. “Palestine’s Children: Returning To Haifa & Other Stories.” Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000. Each story involves a child who is victimized by political events and circumstances, but who nevertheless participates in the struggle toward a better future.
- Khalad, Khamis. “Haifa Fragments.” Spinifex Press, 2015. As a designer of jewelry, Maisoon wants an ordinary extraordinary life, which isn’t easy for a tradition-defying activist and Palestinian citizen of Israel who refuses to be crushed by the feeling that she is an unwelcome guest in the land of her ancestors.
- McCann, Colum. “Apeirogon.” Random House, 2021. Two fathers, one Palestinian and one Israeli, who have both lost their daughters to the violence that surrounds them. Over the course of the day, these two men’s lives intertwine as they attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace.
- Shibli, Adania. “Minor Detail.” New Directions, 2020. This novel offers a meditation on war, violence, memory, and the sufferings of the Palestinian people.
- Shehadeh, Raja. “Where the Line is Drawn: A Tale of Crossings, Friendships, and Fifty Years of Occupation in Israel-Palestine.” New York, The New Press. 2017. Call # DS119.7.S382. Shehadeh explores how occupation has affected him personally, chronicling the various crossings that he undertook into Israel over a period of 40 years to visit friends and family, to enjoy the sea, to argue before the Israeli courts, and to negotiate failed peace agreements.
American, Israeli, and Palestinian Organizations Working Towards (Democracy), Human Rights, and Social Justice
These descriptions are edited from the organizations’ websites.
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
AIPAC’s mission is to encourage and persuade the U.S. government to enact policies that create a strong, enduring and mutually beneficial relationship with Israel.
Americans For Peace Now
APN’s mission is to educate and persuade the American public and its leadership to support and adopt policies that will lead to comprehensive, durable, Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace, based on a two-state solution, guaranteeing both peoples’ security, and consistent with U.S. national interests.
Committed to informed, courageous, and resilient Jewish communal leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Encounter educates and equips Jewish leaders with the experiences, networks, and resources to help positively shape their constituents’ engagement with Israel as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel Policy Forum
The Forum works to shape the discourse and mobilize support among American Jewish leaders and U.S. policymakers for the realization of a viable two-state solution. They educate political and communal leaders on pragmatic policy ideas developed by credible security experts.
J Street organizes pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans to promote U.S. policies that embody Jewish and democratic values, and that help secure the State of Israel as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.
The New Israel Fund (NIF)
The Fund’s aim is to build a stronger democracy in Israel, rooted in the values of equality, of inclusion, and of social justice.
S. Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.
Established in 1989 to support peace in Israel, the Center works with leaders, policymakers, and constituencies in the United States, Middle East, and worldwide to advance steps to narrow, and ultimately resolve, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Center is a leading Israeli progressive think-and-do tank that monitors social and economic developments. Adva’s studies of Israeli society present critical analyses of public policy in the areas of budgets, taxation and social services.
B’tselem (“Image of” or “Dignity”): The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Founded by a group of Israeli academics, attorneys, and MPs in 1989 during the height of the First Intifada. Their goal was to document and educate the Israeli public about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.
Breaking the Silence
This organization includes veteran soldiers who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.
Founded in 2005, Gisha’s goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents. Gisha promotes rights guaranteed by international and Israeli law.
Molad: The Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy
Molad is an independent, non-partisan Israeli think tank that works to reinvigorate Israeli society by injecting new ideas into all spheres of public discourse. “Our vision combines progressive values with a realistic approach to the political and geopolitical challenges of Israeli reality.”
Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR)
Founded in 1988, RHR is active in three main areas — work within and about the Occupied Territories; work to promote social and economic justice within Israel; and activities in the fields of education and interreligious dialogue.
Shalom Hartman Institute
The Institute is a leading center of Jewish thought and education, serving Israel and world Jewry. Their mission is to strengthen Jewish peoplehood, identity, and pluralism, and ensure that Judaism is a compelling force for good in the 21st century. Shalom Hartman has locations in both Israel and North America.
Adalah (Justice): The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Adalah’s mission is to promote human rights in Israel in general and the rights of the Palestinian minority, citizens of Israel, in particular.
Al-Haq (The Law)
Al-Haq, established by a group of Palestinian lawyers in 1979 in the West Bank city of Ramallah, documents human rights violations in the Occupied Territories and conducts research and studies on breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
Al-Mezan seeks to promote respect and protection for all human rights as enshrined in international law for residents of the Gaza Strip. Through research, legal intervention, and advocacy, it works to build the individual and collective human rights of Palestinians.
Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network
Based in New York, Al-Shabaka is an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law.
Taghyeer is a Palestinian organization that leads a national nonviolence movement of grassroots communities and emerging leaders practicing nonviolence as a unifying identity for the Palestinian people.
Reform Judaism in Israel
What is Reform Judaism?
Reform Judaism maintains faith in the Covenant between God and Israel as expressed over the generations in the teachings of an ever-evolving Torah and tradition. Stirred by the mandate of tikkun olam, Reform Judaism seeks to be the living expression of those teachings. It welcomes all who seek Jewish connection to pursue a life of meaning, as inspired by the Divine and proclaimed in the truths grasped by Jewish teachers throughout time.
The Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), New York, NY
ARZA is the Zionist arm and voice of the Reform Movement, serving 1.8 million Reform Jews in North America. Operating under the umbrella of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), ARZA acts as the vehicle for the collective participation of American Reform Jews in the Israel engagement agenda with an emphasis on advocacy, travel, and Zionist education in North America.
Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) in Jerusalem, Israel
IMPJ is the communal, spiritual, and social Jewish movement that acts to promote the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state according to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. It enriches Jewish identity among the vast and diverse Israeli public, and merits to significantly influence religious, educational, and public discourse in the State of Israel and in the entire Jewish world.
Their work in Israel includes: Progressive Jewish education; establishing pluralistic Jewish communities; youth and young adult leadership; social action and advocacy for religious pluralism in Israel; engaging immigrants from the Former Soviet Union with their Judaism; deepening ties between Israeli and Diaspora Jews.
The website includes links to IRAC (Israel Religious Action Center) and other Reform sites, youth movements, and promotes the Western Wall initiative to provide an egalitarian worship space at the Western Wall.
Union for Reform Movement and Israel Engagement (URJ)
The URJ and the broader North American Reform Movement are partners and supporters of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), whose work seeks to complete the Zionist dream of a modern State of Israel that is inclusive, moral, and a home for us all.
Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), Jerusalem
The Israeli Center for the Reform Movement Religious Action Center (IRAC) promotes the Reform movement agenda of progressive Judaism and Reform Jewish values in Israel.
“Zionism” is derived from the word Zion (Hebrew: ציון, Tzi-yon), a hill in Jerusalem, widely symbolizing the Land of Israel. The idea of a return of the Jews to Palestine has its roots in many passages of Holy Writ.
Zionism became “the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.”
From inception, Zionism advocated tangible as well as spiritual aims. Jews of all persuasions — left, right, religious, and secular — formed the Zionist movement and worked together toward its goals.
A Brief History
In 1890, Nathan Birnbaum, from Vienna, Austria, coined the terms “Zionist” and “Zionism.” In 1893, he published a brochure, “Die Nationale Wiedergeburt des Juedischen Volkes in seinem Lande als Mittel zur Loesung der Judenfrage” (“The National Rebirth of the Jewish People in its Homeland as a Means of Solving the Jewish Question”). He founded, published, and edited “Selbst-Emancipation!” (“Self-Emancipation!”), 1884-1894, a periodical promoting “the idea of a Jewish renaissance and the resettlement of Palestine,” which incorporated and developed the ideas of Leon Pinsker, a doctor and a founder and leader of the Hibbat Zion pre-Zionist movement which began in in the 1880s, advocating revival of Jewish life in the Land of Palestine. Its adherents worked toward the physical development of the Land, and founded agricultural settlements in Palestine.
Austrian journalist Theodor (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl was the visionary behind modern Zionism and the reinstitution of a Jewish homeland. He concluded that antisemitism was a stable and immutable factor in human society, which assimilation did not solve. In 1896 he published “Der Judenstaat” (The Jewish State), which argued that the essence of the Jewish problem was not individual, but national. The Jews are one people, he said, and their plight could be transformed into a positive force by the establishment of a Jewish state with the consent of the great powers. He saw the Jewish question as an international, political question to be dealt with in the arena of international politics.
Herzl’s ideas were met enthusiastically by the Jewish masses in Eastern Europe, but Jewish leaders were less ardent. Herzl appealed to wealthy Jews, such as Baron Hirsch and Baron Rothschild, to join the national Zionist movement, but in vain. He then appealed to the people, and the result was the convening of the First Zionist Congress, in Basel, Switzerland, on August 29, 1897. Birnbaum played a prominent part in this Congress, however, he and Herzl developed ideological differences. Birnbaum had begun to question the political aims of Zionism and to attach increasing importance to the national-cultural content of Judaism. Birnbaum eventually left the Zionist movement and later became a leading spokesman for Jewish cultural autonomy in the Diaspora.
At the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel on August 26, 1903, Herzl proposed the British Uganda Program as a temporary refuge for Jews in Russia in immediate danger. The Program was rejected by the Zionist movement at the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905.
Chaim Weizmann was elected to the General Zionist Council, supreme body of the World Zionist Organization. His scientific assistance to the Allied forces in World War I brought him into close contact with British leaders. On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour, British Foreign Secretary during World War I, wrote a letter to Lord Walter Rothschild, which became known as the Balfour Declaration in which Britain committed itself to the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine. With the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, Weizmann was chosen to serve as its first president. He filled this role until his death on November 9, 1952.
Zionism in the 21st Century
Perhaps the Anti-Defamation League’s statement best summarizes Zionism’s current meaning:
“Today, with a Jewish sovereign state a reality, Zionists believe in and support the right of the democratic State of Israel to exist as a Jewish homeland. Israel is the only Jewish state in the world. Being a Zionist is distinct from supporting the policies of the government of Israel.
Zionism is a big tent movement that includes those across the spectrum from progressives, moderates and conservatives and those who are apolitical. There are Zionists who are critical of Israeli policies, just as there are Zionists who rarely voice disagreement with the Israeli government. There are diverse views among Zionists about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about how to promote peace, whether to support a two-state solution, and about approaches to Israeli settlements. Being critical of Israeli policies is no more anti-Zionist than being critical of American policies is anti-American.
Zionism does not preclude support for Palestinian self-determination and statehood. For some Zionists, support for a two-state solution is the realization of self-determination for Jews and Palestinians alike.
There are also millions of non-Jews who consider themselves Zionists and supporters of the Jewish state, who are motivated by factors including religion, history, security or politics.”
May 3, 2022 Anti-Defamation League. Accessed on January 6, 2022.
Explore More In-Depth Information
- Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA)
“This is the Israel arm of the Reform Movement, representing our community to the Zionist National Institutions.”
- Duke University Libraries, Jewish Studies Library Guide
- MidEast Web
“MidEast Web was started by people active in Middle East dialog and peace education efforts. Our goal is to weave a world-wide web of Arabs, Jews and others who want to build a new Middle East based on coexistence and neighborly relations”
- Reform Judaism vs. Zionism
“We provide impact by unpacking all things Jewish.”
- “Zionism: A History of Zionism.”
A Concise Chronology of Israel, Zionism and Jewish History