In 300 BC, Jews were again exiled to Egypt by Ptolemy. His capture of Jerusalem led to the deportation of thousands of individuals to Egypt, and still others left of their own accord. Those that were left were often assigned to Ptolemy's garrison, since they were extremely loyal. These exiled Jews formed the Jewish colony in Alexandria, but again, the Jews were spread even further apart into the Diaspora (Harding, 58).
In 70 AD, Judea was yet again destroyed when Titus, son of emperor of Rome Vespasian, destroyed the Temple. Jewish captives were put to death, or taken to Rome (Harding, 92). Following the revolt of Bar Kochba in 136 AD, even more Jews were exiled. Still more Jews left due to economic conditions, and were scattered in Cyprus, Syria, Alexandria, and elsewhere (Isseroff, 1).
The resulting Diaspora produced a longing for the Jewish homeland, and an overall sense of a rejection of this life, which brings us to the central idea in Zionism. There is no question that the Jewish identity is strongly related to Zionism, in that in every generation that has passed since the original exile, a great number of Jews, including strong spiritual leaders, have rejected the concept of passively waiting for God to complete his promise made in the Palestinian Covenant. Instead, these leaders and other citizens have taken action to bring the gathering of Jews upon themselves. In Ezra 7:9, the scribe Ezra laid the foundation for aliya, or the leading of large numbers of Jews from Babylonian exile to Jerusalem, and for centuries, this has been the chosen path of Zionists. Despite dangers involved, such as financial hardship, difficult travels, travels through areas of war and destruction, and illness, Jews from around the world annually attempt to travel to Palestine to restore the sovereignty of the Jewish people in Israel (Morgenstern, 1).
This daily desire for aliya and a longing for Zion can be found in the prayers of Judaism, as well. First, traditional Judaism stresses the importance of praying in Hebrew, the native language of the Jews. Judaism notes the Hebrew language is the language that links Jews around the world, and that any other language contains connotations of that languages culture. Since Zionists believe the culture of the Jewish state is the one that should be preserved, it only makes sense to pray and do all things religious in the language of Hebrew, so this fits well with the Zionist belief. Additionally, Judaism stresses that Jewish thought can only be expressed in Hebrew, since the subtle concepts of Jewish ideals are only expressed in Hebrew words and phrases. Author Tracey Rich gives the example that the English word "commandment" has the definition of an order, whereas the corresponding Hebrew word of "mitzvah" implies an honor bestowed on man by God (Rich, 1).
Further, many of the prayers of Judaism are expressed in first person views. The reasoning for this is the cohesiveness of the Jewish people, and the linked responsibility and fate of all the Jewish peoples (Rich, 1). Again, this fits well with Zionism, in that the Zionist belief is based on the idea that all of the Jewish people are God's chosen, and that they have a collective right to their promised lands.
In addition, some of the prayers of Judaism contain phrasing that agrees with the basic tenets of the Zionist movement. For example, the Amidah, or standing prayer, is recited three times daily while the person praying is facing Jerusalem. As with many other prayers of Judaism, it ends with a plea for a return to Jerusalem:
Sound the great horn for our freedom; raise the ensign to gather our exiles, and gather us from the four corners of the earth... And to Jerusalem, Thy city, return in mercy and dwell therein as Thou hast spoken; and rebuild it soon in our days as an everlasting building..." (Schoenberg, 1).
In the Reform version, this prayer is even more in line with the Zionist belief. The Reform version extends the hope for a gathering of exiles to a hope for the universal freedom of the Jews. The blessing for justice is rewritten to pray for a hope of universal justice. Additionally, the blessing for Jerusalem is rewritten. In the original version, the prayer requests that God rebuilt Jerusalem. In the Reform version, the prayer is for the welfare of the land and people of Israel. It also contains a statement connecting Zion to the messianic hope (Schoenberg, 1). Clearly, these new ideas stem from an overall belief in the right of the Jewish people, regardless of location, to return to Israel and receive the blessings promised to them by God.
There are other prayers that show a link to Zionism, as well. The grace after eating meals includes a blessing for rebuilding the city of Jerusalem. During the marriage ceremony, the groom prays to "elevate Jerusalem to the forefront of our joy." During circumcision, Psalm 137:5 is read, which states "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand wither." On Passover, each Jew notes within his or her prayer that they will be in Jerusalem in the next year (Neugerber, 1).
The Bible contains several passages that pertain to the future of Israel, as well. There are several passages in the Old Testament that speak of the future blessing of Israel and of the land promised to the Jews and to Abram. Ezekiel 20 has several references to the restoration of Israel, including: "I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered -- with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath" (Ezekiel 20: 34). Romans 11: 25-27 states:
do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins."
This clearly shows God's intentions for Israel to become a nation of forgiveness, and a nation restored to his chosen people.
Critics of Zionism hold that Zionism as a whole is completely against the teachings of Judaism. First, these critics note that a State of Israel is only allowed according to specific principles as set forth in the Torah. The only time the People of Israel were allowed to have a right to the land was in the past, and in the future when God restored them to their lands, without and human intervention (Corrigan, 1). According to this train of thought, any gathering of the Jewish people through means other than divine intervention is a denial of the true point of the Palestinian Covenant. To gather to form a state of Israel without God would be to cast off God in place for worldly materialism, according to some (Corrigan, 1). In other words, the salvation of the Jewish people is dependant upon God, not the return of the Jews to Jerusalem.
A second criticism is that the Torah strictly forbids the Jewish people to end the exile before God redeems them. These critics note that the Vayoel Moshe explains clearly that the people of Israel are to remain under the rule of the countries of the world until they are redeemed, and that to return from exile prior to redemption is to ask for terrible punishment (Corrigan, 1).
A third criticism is that Zionism pushes for a secular state, as opposed to a religious state, and that such a state would create a nonreligious Jewish identity that would be contradictory to Judaism, the religion under which Zionism is even possible. The end result, then, is a conflict between the secular and non-secular Israeli people, which only furthers the separation of the population, rather than bringing it together as Zionism claims to desire. One critic noted that Zionists condone acts that are against the Torah, such as nuclear war, apartheid, human rights violations, and racism, in the name of a Jewish state (Corrigan, 1).
Still another criticism of Zionism is that the Zionists who wish to end the Jewish Diaspora are removing a key part of the Jewish existence. Throughout history, as shown in the Bible passages mentioned above, the Jewish population has been through vast changes because of exile. Their entire history is filled with relocation and a continued sense of cohesive religious and cultural despite such relocation. Critics note that the accounts within the Torah of the exiles of the Jews serve not to push for a return to the land of Israel, but instead as a historical account of those chosen by God who will someday be returned to their promised lands. They note that the Abram covenant was not without conditions, but that when all conditions are…