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 in the Begin Center with Dr. Daniel Gordis, Prof. Moshe Koppel and the author (video highlights below)
Jerusalem, June 27, 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 full auditorium and hundreds more on zoom, the focus on this time was 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.”
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 said. Both because of Iong-term shift of power and Zionist ethos from the secular minority to he the religious/transitional majority, and due to a religious revival amongst the secular
“Israeli author Amos Oz reportedly said that the role of the religious sector is to be the Kosher inspector in the Cafeteria car of the Zionist train….Things have since changed. The national-religious are 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.”
This, Kalev argues, also contributes to the religious fashion amongst seculars: “we admire our military commanders and cultural icons. If in past the military commander was someone from a Kibbutz eating pork, now that commander is a religious person wears a kipa and maybe lives in a settlement or in Jerusalem.
Our cultural icons also changed. Referring to Shlomo Artzi, legendary secular Israeli singer, sang in the 1970s lyrics like “Nothing was commanded to us by Gd” to today when he has a duet with a lead religious singer Yishai RIbo with lyrics such as “The truth is that you are our Gd, and you are our savior”. Similarly Singer Aviv Gefen associated with Tel Aviv far-left has a duet with Haredi singer Avrham Fired.
It relates to 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 Street of Hadag Nahash sings “Here I come” where he can’t decide between Tel Aviv and Jerusaelrm. “Now you no longer need to decide,” Kaleve argues, we have a fast-train from Tel Aviv to Jeruslaem that allows you to be back and forth within 35min and it works great.
This enables people to come to Jerusaelm and see it for what it is today. Because the image of Jerusalem for 2,000 years is that of Tisha B’Av, destruction – we remember Jerusalem through sadness, and in Israeli ethos – through the siege, as a far-away city. But that is no longer Jerusalem.
If in past you said “Jerusalem is for praying, and Tel Aviv is for playing, well 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. The Shuk is not just a food market – there are cafes and bars. You go to a bar and sit next to a nun, Orthodox Jew, Palestinians 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.
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’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.
Gol said more eve Noa Amouyal said that Gol. Gol claimed that. “We are not jus
Daniel 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 conversation 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 also pointed to Tel Aviv secular cultural icon of the 1930s Chaim Nachman Bialik: “You need to know Tancah [bible] and Safrut Hazal [Sages] to understand Bialik’s poety”. Gordis argued that if the early secular Zionist founders could have been able to foresee where their securalism would lead Zionism, they would back up ealier.
But there was an infliction point in 1973 that moved Zionism back towards religiosity – the transition from the triumphilism 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 completly safe.
“If you alwasy going to have to defend your self – if this is never going to become a Hebrew speaking reviera, than the eq
and it is impossible to answer the question. have to dfend yourself, not hebrew spearking reiviereis Why be here, why stay? Secularism in it of iteself will not prroivde the anwer why zionism..
He also, pointed to the rise of the Sephardi influence in Israel. “In the Ashkenazi world, the defining characteristics of religiosity is obedience….It makes absolutely no sense to go to shul [synagogue] Friday nigh 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 [while staying secular].
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
Saying that he agree that Zionism is becoming the main orgnaizaing principel of Judaism. Gordis stressed that “Zionism is a means, not an end, it is a mean to preserve the Jewish people. The rebirth of people in Israel, is not for the sake of coming to the land, it is for the sake of preseving the Jewish people.”. But Gordis concludlcde that “the Jewish people’s continued existence only means something if the Jewish people have a raison d’etre, and for that Judaism 3.0 is going to be deeply depend on Judaism 2.0 and Judaism 1.0 as well.”
Moshe Koppel, said that when he first heard of the thesis, before the book was published, he was strike by the boldness of the idea to “appropriate the term Zionism”, and move it away from anti-religious, secularist and socialist associations
He delved into the nature of the Zionist revolution and argued that Jews in the Diaspora had very strong civil society, but no political power. Zionism replaced this civil society – family, community, religion, institutions – with the state.
Kopple highlight three three ideologically respondent to that:
The seculars who came to Israel were in favor of the idea of the state becoming the main expression of Judaism. The Haredim, rejected the state because only religion is a true expression of Judaism, and Religious-Zionists reinterpret statism in religious term and religion in statehood term.
All three ideologist have fail – the secular zionists’ invented rituals, like the Socialist Shvuot rituals of the Kibbutz – those are gone. Haredim discovered the state is not so bad. “Religious zionist have gone through enough kick of the teeth, that they no longer believe that every bureaucrat of the state is a messenger from Gd to bring the redemption”
Haredim discovered the state is not so bad. Religious zionist have gone through enough kick of the teeth, that they no longer believe that every bureaucrat of the state is a messnager from Gd to bring the redemption”
So where are we headed? “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 important – 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 geniouly feel like family”
Judaism in Galut has been a counter-culture, and what it is becoming in Israel now, is he default culture of the country – it is going to be expressed in a different way. Less signalling 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.
The crowd lingered, and the conversations contused. For more: Judaism-Zionsim.com
Photo credits: , Video Credit: The Begin Center
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
“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
The event was in cooperation with our partners:
The Menacahem Begin Heritage Center
J3 Think Tank (in formation)
“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