Is it possible to be a Zionist with no intention of ever making aliyah or living in Israel permanently?
In August 2014, I turned an idea into a dream, and then a dream into a reality by making aliyah to Israel. Not long after my plane landed on the runway, I was confronted with the same question most new immigrants are asked: “Why would you leave America and move here!?” Several people thought I was crazy for making Aliyah, and they asked me how I could be so foolish as to leave a country with seemingly so much more opportunity.
Israel is not an easy place to live; everything here is much more expensive, and for any job that you could get in the United States, you are almost guaranteed to make less money in the same job here. Language barriers, cultural misunderstandings, and the constant battling of the bus systems make a nice five-minute ride to the nearest Walmart in the States seem very appealing. It’s hard for the sabra (native Israeli) to understand why we would leave the shores of America—the Land of the Free—to be drafted into the army, get yelled at by commanders much younger than we are, and then live in a run-down city with rockets flying over our heads. For most Israelis—America is the dream.
They ask, “Why would you ever leave America to come here!?”
I answer, “Zionism.”
That answer turns the confrontation into a brother-in-arms, we-are-all-in-this-together type of moment. Of course, I am a religious Zionist, meaning that I believe in Zionism because the Bible teaches that God has given the land of Israel to the Jewish people.
One day, someone asked me again why I moved to Israel. It started a conversation about Zionism in America. I mentioned how most American Jews I know are Zionists or Religious Zionists, but probably would never actually make the decision to live here in Israel permanently. The Israelis responded that they couldn't really be Zionists if they are not willing to live in Israel. I have heard this sentiment made over and over again, but I disagree. The claim that Zionism can exist only within the borders of Israel is unfair to the many who defend and love Israel from afar.
The roots of Zionism were founded in the dream of a Jewish State. Today, we have that Jewish State. We have borders that are defined and defended, cities that we’ve built; we have cultures that have changed and molded into the fabric of Israel. We have new immigrants coming from all over the world, some seeking safety to live a Jewish life, others idealism.
Zionism, or a personal identification with the State of Israel, has become an integral ingredient for Jewish identity in Diaspora. Active participation in Zionist youth movements, supporting Israel events, Israel fairs, and pro-Israel clubs on college campuses allows many non-observant young Jewish people to g connected to Jewish life and strengthen their identity, both on a personal and corporate level.
Israel needs foot soldiers in the war against the anti-Israel propaganda that is disseminated throughout Europe and the United States. I still remember being a student and witnessing anti-Israel demonstrations on campus. The demonstrators distorted the truth, depicting Zionism and the State of Israel as a fascist, bigoted, military regime.
Zionists living outside of Israel can defend the truth about Israel. If you are a friend of Israel with a heart for Zion, educate yourself on Israel-related current issues and get involved with pro-Israel groups. Contrary to the idea that you are not a real Zionist unless you make Aliyah, I believe that everyone who defends the Jewish homeland is a true Zionist.
I believe that Messianic Judaism in the Diaspora can be a place to nurture religious Zionism and a love for Israel. Our theology, congregational expressions, and daily living should reflect that our hearts are turned toward Zion. Jews and Gentiles outside of Israel have a special calling to be those pro-Israel voices and defend Israel beyond her borders. We need you right where you are. Israel needs you.