The imagery from Mt. Herzl looking over the Jerusalem forest and the city skyline is poignant with the feel of a brave new home.
Do you have a home? Everyone needs a home; a place, both geographically bound and legally enforceable, where you can be at ease, where you can talk like you, believe like you, and where your culture and way of life will not be out of context, where you will not be oppressed for existing, where the helpless horrors of the Holocaust can never happen to you.
It is this sentiment of needing a home around the world that ended colonialism, segregation, and apartheid. Zionism means having a home to preserve the Jewish people. Having a home is a good thing; Zionism is a good thing.
Ironically, the Palestinians and the Israelis are Zionists under different names. But yet to some, Zionism wrongly means colonialism and racism, the very thing it is designed to protect against.
That is the most challenging part of Israel, a land where good can be mistaken for bad, but only if you sit back and let it happen. However, it is in its challenges that lay the incredible opportunities of Israel.
Where the former waves of Zionists in the last sixty years built the physical, social and maybe spiritual space of Israel, the international recognition of it as a beacon for justice and peace yet remains to be built. And there, with all its challenges, is an astounding opportunity to have on this new nation emerge the equitable solutions to today’s most pressing problems around the world.
After traveling to Sderot and hearing from a police officer about the rockets that hit his city on a frequent basis, it became clear to me that this place needed law and justice more than any place in America.
As American Jews, we have a share in Israel’s responsibility for justice and in furthering its development, and we have the incredible ability to do so through the ballot box and the foreign policy of our government. For this reason, and to be prepared to advocate for Israel upon return is why I want to go there now.
Sderot reminded me that at Berkeley Law I was taught the ability to explore and think ahead about what the law can be. Berkeley inculcated in me the gravity of the duty to be an officer of justice and the full confidence and ability to uphold the law. It fostered in me a desire to help address the most difficult problems facing society and to strive to attain public service and public engagement. Sderot taught me of no better place to make all of this possible than Israel.
The Torah, our most ancient text, bids “to be a light to the nations” and Zionism also, one of the most modern expressions of our people, calls for Israel and the Jewish people to be agents of justice and peace in the world.
Where yesterday’s Zionism may have been about securing a physical home, today’s Zionism is about the building of Israel toward a just society that successfully answers the palpable cries for equity heard in the land from Sderot to the tents in Tel Aviv.
For these reasons, I am a Zionist that is taking a year to help build Israel by providing legal advice to its Supreme Court. And, thereby contributing to the movement that will bring about the international recognition of Israel’s key place as a source of justice and peace that the prophets envisioned, not just for the Jewish people but also for the world.