The Emergence of Zionism
(The Emergence of Zionism)

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Zionism, in its various forms, set out to transform the Jewish people by creating a territorial homeland for a dispersed minority, by replacing (or supplementing) a religious-ethnic identity with a national one. Though influenced by other nineteenth-century national movements, Zionism differed in several key respects. The Jews lacked not only a common language and land, but, arguably, even a common history. As the Jews were gradually emancipated throughout Western Europe, they often repudiated all ‘national’ elements of Judaism, preferring to view other Jews as ‘coreligionists’ and other Frenchmen, Germans, etc. as fellow countrymen.

Zionism emerged, in large part, as a response to the failed promises of emancipation. As faith in full emancipation and social acceptance was belied by a resurgence of pogroms, the emergence of modern anti-Semitism, and the rise of nationalist movements, some European Jews began to reevaluate the Enlightenment view that the Jews could become full and equal members of society after a process of moral, religious and occupational ‘regeneration.’

This course will explore the wide range of responses to this crisis through an examination of selected Zionist thinkers and their writings. Beginning with the Zionist "precursors" of the mid-nineteenth century, the course will analyze seminal texts that reflect the basic diversity of the Zionist idea up until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. These texts provide not only dissenting critiques of the Jewish plight in the diaspora, but also shed light on the competing conceptualizations of the Jewish future. The Zionist thinkers envisioned Zion as a purely political entity, as a Jewish state grounded in socialist ideas, as a site for the regeneration of the Jewish people, as the cultural center for Diaspora Jewry, as the locus of messianic redemption.

This course allows guest users to enter  This course requires an enrolment key