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Is zionism a biblical concept?

Neturei Karta assembled in protest of Zionism replacing Judaism
Neturei Karta assembled in protest of Zionism replacing Judaism
Photo courtesy of Neturei Karta International

Readers of the bible both Christian and Jewish for many years have understood the scriptures as God providing the land of Israel to the Jewish people, but concerning the modern state of Israel, this biblical understanding comes under heavy scrutiny.

The religious validity of the current state of Israel has been a controversial matter since the state's 1948 ratification when British and American governments agreed to its statehood, carving it into the Palestinian region amongst surrounding Arab Muslim countries.

The subsequent years then began to see the escalation of military battles, wars, crimes and bloodshed carried out between the state of Israel and its Arab neighbors. Israel's right to exist as a nation in the region of Palestine in post biblical times is known to many of its opponents as simply, Zionism.

"It was an almost 100% religious Jewish community in Palestine, and they opposed this concept of Zionism of creating a Jewish state" said Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, the spokesman for Neturei Karta International. Weiss was referring to religious Jews who were anti-Zionists in the 1930s and did not want statehood for Israel.

The name, Neturei Karta comes from Aramaic which means protectors of the city. It derives from the religious book holy to orthodox Jews known as the Talmud and the name was given specifically to those who opposed the concept of Zionism. The movement began in Jerusalem and continues in modern times to protest against the state of Israel.

"Zionism and Judaism are two diametrically opposite and contradictory concepts" said Weiss. He goes on to say, "Judaism is one thing and one thing only....it is a spirituality. Zionism.....is a nationalism....it is void of godliness." Weiss makes a distinction between the two concepts but sees the world as confused in understanding this.

"It may sound bewildering, but how can you call this the Jewish state? Many people have asked [Israel] do you consider yourself a religious state....or a democracy? You can't have both" said Weiss. The desire of Neturei Karta is to give the totality of the land back to the Palestinians and let a divine ushering of God lead the world back to Israel, not by human intervention.

Zionism began its roots in the late 19th century. The idea was materialized by the one known as 'The father of Zionism' Theodore Herzl. As an Austrian-Hungarian journalist, Herzl felt that the strain of anti-Semitism weighed heavily upon the Jewish people and wanted them to be free from such hatred.

Herzl's response was to mobilize the Jewish people into making a move permanently to the land of Palestine. In 1896, Herzl published a book entitled, The Jewish State. Excerpts from this book read,

Palestine is our unforgettable historic homeland ...Let me repeat once more my opening words: The Jews who will it shall achieve their State. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our own homes peacefully die. The world will be liberated by our freedom, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind."

Herzl's vision came to fruition some 40 years after his death with the end of World War II, and in 1948, the establishment of the state of Israel became official. From this point on, many Christians also involved themselves with Zionism, even combining it with spirituality. These are known as Christian Zionists.

"We can understand where they are coming from" said Weiss concerning Christian Zionists. Weiss believes that Christians saw things such as the Holocaust and coupled that with compassion for the Jews and biblical interpretations of reading where God gave the Hebrews in Moses' time the land of Israel.

"They want to support them [Israel] with good intentions but unfortunately... they are totally ignoring the godly rights of the Palestinian people to the land...Jewish law tells us clearly, that we should not be taking back this land." Rabbi Weiss also responds with opposition to Theodore Herzl's writings.

Concerning Herzl, Weiss says, "The Zionists are con-artists...Herzl...he doesn't believe in God but he is using God to gain the rights to the land." Weiss also quotes from Herzl's personal journal which speaks about how to curb anti-Semitism saying,

In his own diary he wrote, 'The way to solve the problem of anti-Semitism is to speak to the head priest in Vienna to get an appointment with the Pope to make a mass conversion of all Austrian Jews to Catholicism. It should be done on a Sunday in the middle of the day with music... publicly.'"

Many passages in the bible are quoted by both Jewish and Christian Zionists in support of a Jewish return to the land of Israel. These passages were then applied to the 1948 state establishment of Israel. However, many of the quotes are called into question as to exactly what return it referred to.

It was decreed in the Torah by God who spoke to Moses saying, "But if...you disobey Me...I will scatter you among the nations." This was fulfilled during the time of the prophets who also predicted Israel's demise at the time. The biblical Jews were then exiled to Babylon who ruled the world during this moment.

The Jews were commanded to remain exiled until 70 years had passed, and under a new Persian rule, the Jews returned to Israel to rebuild Judah in the third century BCE, the land they were taken captive from. This return was commanded by God but it seems to be the same return the Zionists quote to refer to the modern state of Israel.

Centuries later, the Romans ruled the world and after the time of Jesus, the Jews were exiled again into Europe in 70 CE. This time however, there was no biblical command to return, despite verses that are quoted by modern Zionists. These verses appear to refer to a return to the land that happened already which was the Persian return, when Jews stopped speaking Hebrew and picked up Aramaic.

"We are forbidden to start a Jewish state" said Weiss."We have been in exile for over 2,000 years...One of the ABC's of Judaism is that we are in exile and not to create a Jewish state." Rabbi Weiss elaborates on God's divine plan for the world to return to Israel saying,

When God feels the time is right, He will end exile. It will be a miracle...the whole world will be a metaphysical change when all humanity will believe in the one God. Then, all nations will come together and we will serve God and then go back to the Holy Land."

Weiss appears to be referring to the last chapter in the book of Isaiah that says, "All flesh will come to worship me says YHVH." Christians may have a different understanding from Weiss concerning who the Messiah is and what the last day will look like, but concerning a return to Israel, the New Testament seems to agree with him.

It is written in the book of Hebrews concerning the literal city of Jerusalem, "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek after the one about to come."