A couple years ago, I did not have a personal connection to Zionism and could not properly define Zionism even if I was asked to do so. Essentially, being a Zionist meant nothing to me aside my strong desire to travel to Israel on a Birthright trip. As a victim of anti-Semitism growing up in New Jersey suburbia, I wished to prove all my persecutors wrong and find happiness in the exact realm they used to instill in me unhappiness. Birthright would be a time to blossom. So off I went on my first trip to Israel in the summer of 2012. I was ecstatic, as this trip was one I always wished to take. What I did not know was how transformative this trip would turn out to be.
Ten days later, I was changed. The direction of my life had been altered, my goals transformed, and my spirituality and connection to the Holy Land was conceived. I was instilled with a new and powerful confidence, a new sense of being and pride as an American Zionist. Over the next two years, my new goals grew exponentially as I grew with them. I began to participate more with Hillel, took a position as a Birthright Recruitment Leader, enrolled in Hebrew classes, engaged in Zionist discussions, and represented Israel wherever I went. It felt natural and real. I had found my niche, a place where I felt comfortable. I felt an endless desire for growth and learning as a newly identified Zionist. I had not only discovered my Jewish Identity, but I had found my passion in life; Zionism and Israel.
My postgraduate decision was simple- to follow my passion, return to Israel and pursue my destiny as a Zionist. When I found the MASA Israel Program, everything seemed to fit into place. My life was coming full circle as I could finally thrive in the very place where I became a proud Jew. I was returning to the land that felt like home.
Zionism, by definition, “is the national movement of Jews and Jewish culture that supports the creation of a Jewish homeland in the territory defined as the Land of Israel.” Yet to me, Zionism means much more. After my journey, I cannot only define Zionism, but I embody it. To me, Zionism means to evolve, grow and become better while still staying true to you and your identity. Being Jewish is not enough. Zionism is to embrace Judaism; to represent all that Jewish People have accomplished centuries and millennia before us and build upon those accomplishments with confidence and pride despite obstacles. Zionism is like an unfinished building; the foundation remains the same as the building grows in mass, strength, and stability.
Being a Zionist today means putting on a construction hat to help build the Zionist building. I am putting on the construction hat by returning to Israel. I will not just live in Israel for five months, but I will give to Israel for five months. I will work on the Zionist building every day. I will continuously learn and grow as a Zionist. I will listen to other Zionists and also share my ideas. I will think for myself while building on the foundation those before me have left. And I will forever represent Israel. The Zionist building will never be complete, but I will make substantial leaps in its progress in the land where I feel most at home. The Holy Land awaits me.