A Zionist Experience
David Ben-Gurion wrote in his will “I shall ask that the structure in Sde Boker that served me as my dwelling place until the day of my death will stay in its current shape, including all the furnishings, books and magazines hidden in it.” His legacy is still alive; his shed in Sde Boker a place of Pilgrimage and self-examination for many. Israeli youth drive long hours to visit, many as part of school groups, in order to acquire Zionist ideologies. As a teenager I visited many times and had the privilege to return again last summer, this time with the “Gesher Hai” program teens from Palm Beach County.
Ben-Gurion was born in Plonsk, Russia in 1886 and at the age of 14 had already established the Ezra youth movement. The young people of Plonsk taught each other Hebrew, spoke about Judaism and Zionism, and dreamed about making Aliyah to Eretz Israel. They spoke to their families and neighbors in Hebrew and refused to answer whoever spoke to them in a different language. According to lore, after only a few months the whole village spoke Hebrew. Ben-Gurion fulfilled his dream of Aliyah at age 20, to the state that was yet to be born; and was stationed in Sej’era.
In 1935, the idealist teenager form Plonsk became the Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI); 13 years later he declared the establishment of the Jewish state in Eretz Israel.
Having fulfilled almost every possible ideal, 67 year-old Ben-Gurion leaves everything and begins anew. He moves to Sde-Boker in the Negev desert and states his vision, "It is in the Negev that the people of Israel will be tested – for only with a united effort of a volunteering people and a planning and implementing State will we accomplish the great mission of populating the wilderness and bringing it to flourish. This effort will determine the fate of the State of Israel and the standing of our people in the history of mankind.”
The Zionist movement has seen many great leaders and historical moments. The Jewish Agency for Israel deals with those changes and the challenges attached to them. The Zionism Ben-Gurion had fulfilled by making Aliyah to Israel and declaring its independence struggles, 65 years later, with different challenges. As evidence for the modern Zionism evolved is the Jewish Agency for Israel that operates Shlichim (emissaries) around the world, in the Hillels, youth movements, JCCs, synagogues and the Jewish federations in order to bring Israel to the world’s Jewry.
In the spirit of Ben-Gurion’s Legacy and through my Shlichut experience, I can safely share my modern definition of Zionism. Zionism is the belief that every Jewish heart around the world should beat for Israel. The only question is how you practice this belief. With his life story as told through a movie in the visitor’s center of Ben-Gurion’s shed, and my new Modern Zionism definition, I want to educate. When I visited the Arthur I. Meyer Jewish Academy, I spoke with the 6th to 8th graders about Ben-Gurion’s legacy, Zionism and the inspiration he left for each and every one of us. At MorseLife, his life story led us into a deep discussion about the modern Zionism role, Israeli technology and Israel’s strategic borders. I even found myself speaking about Zionism and Ben-Gurion’s legacy at a Chabbad Men’s Club franbragen - a fascinating situation. Thirty-nine years after his death, Ben-Gurion granted me a unique Zionist experience. It occurs to me that the opportunities I have to educate about Zionism are a huge privilege, whether helping enable the Diaspora’s Jewry to speak about Zionism or accompanying American Jewish youth in a life changing trip to Israel – all significant ways to practice Zionism.
I know my visit won’t last forever. Soon I’ll have to finish my role here, return to Israel and continue to the next educational challenge. My way to continue fulfilling my own Zionism is to consider it in whatever career decisions or other challenges I will face in the future. This kind of decision might be a great way to practice Zionism for any Jew around the World.