Press Release: From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – Zionism’s religious revival

A robust discussion of Gol Kalev’s new book, Judaism 3.0, took place at the Begin Center with Dr. Daniel Gordis, Prof. Moshe Koppel and the author (video highlights below)

Jerusalem, June 29, 2022, For immediate release

The Begin Center hosted its second event marking the release of Gol Kalev’s landmark book, Judaism 3.0 – Judaism’s tranformation to Zionism. With a crowded auditorium and hundreds more on Zoom, the focus this time was on the argument that religious revival in Israel paves the path for Zionism to become the organizing principle of Judaism.

In his welcome greetings, World Zionist Organization Chairman and acting Jewish Agency Chairman Yaakov Hagoel said: “Gol has a deep understanding of Herzl and of processes that are happening in the Jewish world and the non-Jewish world. He puts those together and describes in his book how both Jews and non-Jews related to Judaism today through Zionism – exactly as Herzl described in his vision.”

GOL KALEV said that the transformation of Judaism did not occur in Israel’s first 70 years – not just because transformations of this magnitude takes time, but also because Zionism was perceived to reject religion. That is no longer the case today, he argued. Both because of a Iong-term shift of power and Zionist ethos from the secular minority to the religious/traditional majority, and due to a religious revival amongst the seculars.

“Israeli author Amos Oz said that the role of the religious sector is to be the Kosher inspectors in the Cafeteria car of the Zionist train….Things have since changed. The national-religious are now leading in all Zionist fronts, including in academia, culture and the army. They are no longer in the cafeteria train of the Zionist train, they are in the locomotive.”

Kalev: “We are now completing one of Humanity’s greatest cycle. Two thousands years ago, both Jews and Judaism were deported from Jerusalem. Jews have come back, and now I am arguing, so is Judaism.”

This, Kalev argues, also contributes to the religious fashion amongst seculars: “we admire our military commanders and cultural icons. If in the past the military commander was someone from a Kibbutz eating pork, now that commander is often a religious person who wears a kipa and lives in a settlement or in Jerusalem.”

Our cultural icons also changed, he said. Shlomo Artzi, legendary secular Israeli singer, who sang in the 1970s lyrics like Nothing was commanded to us by God, today has a duet with religious singer Ishay Ribo with lyrics such as The truth is that you are our God, and you are our savior.

It relates to the Tel Aviv-Jerusaelm theme. It is not a competition. “Amos Oz, the same Israeli author that talked about the Zionist train, defined the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem relationship as a battle, and said he chooses Tel Aviv – sanity, contemporaneous. This is not a battle anymore, Kalev argues – we get two for the price of one. In Hip-Hop singer Shaanan Streett of Hadag Nahash’s song Here I come, he can not decide between Tel Aviv and Jerusaelm. “Now you no longer need to decide,” Kalev argues.,”We have a fast-train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem that allows you to be back and forth within 35 minutes and it works great”.

This enables people to come to Jerusaelm and see it for what it is today. “Because let’s face it, the image of Jerusalem for 2,000 years has been that of Tisha B’Av, of destruction – we remember Jerusalem through sadness, and in Israeli ethos – through the siege, as a far-away city…But that is no longer Jerusalem.”

They used to say, Jerusalem is for praying, and Tel Aviv is for playing. “Now you have a lot of prayers in Tel Aviv, and a lot of playing in Jerusalem, but its done in a Jerusalem-type way.”

Indeed, during Corona, when Israelis could not travel abroad, many came to Shuk Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem. “You go to a bar in the shuk and sit next to a nun, Orthodox Jew, Palestinian and European diplomat – that’s not a line from a joke, that is day-to-day reality in Jerusalem.

And that is why Jerusalem has become the ultimate be who you are city, with a lot of pluralism, and a lot of intellectual conversations that get sparked randomly.”

Daniel Gordis: “An extraordinary accomplishment….This book is sparking a conversation because the premise is so interesting, so fascinating.”

“We are now completing one of Humanity’s greatest cycle,” Kalev states. “Two thousands years ago, both Jews and Judaism were deported from Jerusalem. Jews have come back, and now, I’m arguing, that so is Judaism. Zion and Zionism are becoming the focal point of Judaism. This is exactly what Herzl envisioned. He said in the first Zionist congress that Zionism is the rerun to Judaism. This is what is happening today.

Zionism is becoming the conduit for Jews and non-Jews to relate to Judaism – in both positive and negative. It has become the most relevant aspect of Judaism. It is the one aspect of Judaism that evokes passion, emotions, engagement. Zionism is becoming the anchor of Judaism.

DANEIL GORDIS said that this book is an extraordinary accomplishment: “The importance of the book is that it is sparking a lot of conversations. It is not easy to spark conversations in the contemporary world. It is easy to spark arguments but not a conversation, and I really think that this book is sparking a conversation because the premise is so interesting, so fascinating, and we are all in your debt,” he told the author.

“I completely agree that we are seeing a revival of religiosity in Zionism and the question I want to ask is why.”

Gordis stressed that “Zionism, even in its secular years, was not as secular as people want to think. He pointed to the first drafts of Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence (before revised): Whereas God gave the land of Israel to our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “These are Tel Aviv secularists who were writing this…There was never quite a Zionism as objectively devoid of Jewish content as we like to imagine.”

Gordis: “Zionism is a means to preserving the Jewish people”

Gordis also pointed to Tel Aviv secular cultural icon of the 1930s Chaim Nahman Bialik: “You need to know Tanakh [bible] and Safrut Hazal [Sages] to understand Bialik’s poetry.” Gordis argued that if the early secular Zionist founders were able to foresee where their secularism would lead Zionism, they would back up easier.

But eventually there was such back-up back from secularism towards religiosity, and Gordis identifies an inflection point in 1973: the transition from the triumphalism of the 1967 war, after-which Israelis felt invulnerable, to the shock of the 1973 war, where Israelis realized they will continue living in existential threat for the foreseeable future – they will never be completely safe.

“If you always going to have to defend yourself – if this is never going to become a Hebrew speaking riviera, than the question is why be here, why stay, why raise children in a place where they will need to fight to stay here.

I’d suggest it is impossible to answer that question without resorting to something of Jewish [religious] substance. Secularism in itself will not provide the answer to why Zionism.”

Gordis also pointed to the rise of the Sephardi influence in Israel. “In the Ashkenazi world, the defining characteristic of religiosity is obedience….It makes absolutely no sense to go to shul [synagogue] Friday night and drive to the beach on Saturday morning….In the Mizrahi [Sephardi] world, it makes perfectly good sense, because the operating principle, say many of the scholars of Mizrahi Judaism, is not obedience but reverence.”

The breaking of the notion of obedience as the defining characteristics made it possible for Ashkenazi themselves to try different pieces of Judaism 3.0, Judaism 2.0, Judaism 1.0 – without feeling they are Hozrim BTshuva [becoming religious], says Gordis.

“This Mizrahi ascendancy allowed us to get out of the notion of a flow-chart of obedience and much more of a world to reverence – you don’t have to make a binary choice between religious and secular.

Stating that he agrees that Zionism is becoming the main organizing principle of Judaism, Gordis stressed that “Zionism is a means, not an end, it is a mean to preserve the Jewish people.” He reiterated the visionary’s view that the rebirth of people in Israel is not for the sake of coming to the land, it is for the sake of preserving the Jewish people. “You need to explain why you are here. And for that, Judaism 3.0 is going to deeply depend on Judaism 1.0 and on Judaism 2.0.”

MOSHE KOPPEL said that when he first heard of the thesis, before the book was published, he was struck by the boldness of the idea to “appropriate the term Zionism”, and move it away from its associations with anti-religion, secularism and Socialism.

He delved into the nature of the Zionist revolution and argued that Jews in the Diaspora had a very strong civil society, but no political power. Zionism replaced this civil society – family, community, religion, institutions – with the state.

Koppel highlight the three different ideological responses to that:

The seculars who came to Israel – they were in favor of the idea of the state becoming the main expression of Judaism.

Koppel: “Judaism in Galut has been a counter-culture, and what it is becoming in Israel now, is the default culture of the country – it is going to be expressed in a different way: less signaling and more substance”

The Haredim rejected the state because only religion is a true expression of Judaism, and Religious-Zionists reinterpret statism in religious terms and religion in statehood terms.

“All three ideologies have failed”, Koppel stated: the secular zionists’ invented rituals, like the Socialist Shavuot rituals in the Kibbutz – those are gone. Haredim discovered the state is not so bad, and “Religious-Zionists have gone through enough kick of the teeth, that they no longer believe that every bureaucrat of the state is a messenger from God to bring the redemption”

So where are we headed to in Israel? “It is pretty easy to see that we are getting a bell curve where people are finding their spot along this continuum”. This according to Koppel leads to two things: You don’t have to belong to a box, but more importantly, “people are talking to each other. People talk about religious and politics – thing that are supposed to be taboo – and they never get offended because we genuinely feel like family.”

Koppel contrasted that to what is happening globally. “While in Israel, instead of boxes, we are getting some kind of a continuum, which is a very healthy development, what is happening outside of Israel, is the exact opposite. If you can not meet a certain bar of separatism, parochialism, religiosity, you are gone, you are toast”. This creates a clear bifurcation within the Jewish world: In Israel a dialogue, and outside of Israel, “we are getting a split: Some small fraction of Jews are building higher and higher walls around them, and all the others are being left out of those walls.”

Koppel put this is the context of the historical tranformation of Judaism:

Judaism in Galut [exile] has been a counter-culture”, Koppel said, “and what it is becoming in Israel now, is the default culture of the country – it is going to be expressed in a different way: less signaling and more substance. Though Judaism as the default culture of the country, needs to be scalable – not just for people who are extremely committed. Whatever that scalable Jewish culture turns out to be is yet to be seen.

After the panel discussion and Q&A, the crowd lingered, and the conversations continued over Israeli wine. For more: Judaism-Zionism.com; info@Judaism-Zionism.com

Photos credit: Avigail Tresgallo, video credit: The Begin Heritage Center

Video Highlights

Secular Israelis are no longer as secular as used to be:


Tel Aviv and Jerusaelm are no longer in competition, We now get two for the price of one:


We are now completing one of humanity’ greatest cycles:


The book is sparking a conversation. It is now impossible to talk about Judaism without talking about Israel.


The rise of the Sephardi sector in Israel shifts Zionism’s attitudes towards religiosity:


Gol told me: I would like to appropriating the term Zionism


So where are we headed?


Panel discussion and Q&A

Moderator: Noa Brummer, fmr news editor – The Jerusalem Post

Is Zionism’s religiosity trends clashes with global secularism trends?


What about non-Zionist Jews and pro-Zionist non-Jews?


Is anti-Zionism the same as anti-Judaism?


About Judaism 3.0: In this landmark book, Gol Kalev demonstrates how Zionism has turned into the organizing principle of Judaism. Analyzing long-term shifts in Israel, Diaspora Judaism as well as global trends that impact the state of Judaism, Kalev shows how Zionism has become the primary conduit through which both Jews and non-Jews relate to Judaism – in the positive and negative alike. More

Watch the full video of the event

5:15 Gol Kalev, 24:20 Daniel Gordis, 41:50 Moshe Koppel, 53:25 panel discussion

The participants:

Noa Brummer, media strategist, former news editor – Jerusalem Post

Dr. Daniel Gordis, author, Senior Vice President – Shalem College

Yaakov Hagoel, Chairman – The World Zionist Organization

Gol Kalev, author – Judaism 3.0

Moshe Koppel, author, Chair – Kohelet Policy Forum


The event was in cooperation with our partners:

The Menacahem Begin Heritage Center

JIC Israel

J3 Think Tank (in formation)


Endorsements

“A courageous, compelling, and thoughtful thesis that must be part of any serious discussion of the future of Israel and the Jewish people.”

Michael Oren, historian, former Ambassador of Israel to the United States

“This book should play an important role in the discussions about the future of world Jewry and its relations with Israel.”

Natan Sharansky, former Chairman of The Jewish Agency, former Deputy Prime Minister of Israel

Gol Kalev does not just know Theodor Herzl – he lives and breathes Theodor Herzl…This book should trigger the conversation the Jewish community needs about Israel, Zionism, Judaism and Identity. Bravo! 

Professor Gil Troy, author -The Zionist Ideas

ייA remarkable ideas book that is about much more than the state of Judaism….One of the most important books about Judaism, Zionism and global trends of our times.”

Catherine Carlton, former Mayor of Menlo Park, Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur

Gol Kalev’s book has the merit to transform the very essence of the State of Israel to becoming an objective expression of Jewish identity

Dr. Georges Yitzhak Weisz, author – Theodor Herzl: A New Reading

“Kalev picks up where Herzl left off……A must read for people of all religious and political backgrounds who want to get a deeper understanding of the state of Zionism and Judaism today.”

Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem


The book was selected by the Jerusalem Report as the cover of its 2022 New Year Magazine

Watch Gol Kalev discuss Judaism 3.0 with Emily Frances on i24

Book’s website: Judaism-Zionism.com

Comments/inquiries: info@Judaism-Zionism.com

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