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Samuel Crystal – Personal Essay

My Zionism

I remember while attending Krieger Schechter Day School, a Jewish school in Pikesville, Maryland, when I first began to learn about Zionism and Israel. I especially remember the image of Theodor Herzl leaning over a balcony at the Fifth Zionist Congress, and the stories of his trips across Europe to persuade world leaders to give the Jewish people a homeland. What fascinated me most was learning about the archeological evidence tracing the history of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. I loved looking at pictures of Masada, the Kotel, and any ancient site that involved the history of the Jewish people. After my first trip to Israel in 8th grade and getting to see everything first hand, I began to see my own history in the ancient sites. For me, my love of history and my love of my religion and culture gave me a personal connection to Zionism. I see this land as the land my ancestors died for, a safe haven, and a fascinating window into the ancient lives of the Jewish people, as well as many other cultures. With a degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Mary Washington (Fredericksburg, Virginia), I have gained experience in archeology, cultural resource management, and museums studies. In the summer of 2013 I interned at the National Museum of American Jewish History (Philadelphia, PA), where I was able to learn more about my culture and develop my personal connection with Zionism.

I believe that Zionism is the right for Jewish people to return to their cultural and religious homeland, and that a Jewish state should have the right to protect the lives and well being of their citizens. Education and promotion of peace and the end to anti-Israel incitement should also be key aspects of modern Zionism. Evidence through artifacts and scripture have connected the Jewish people and Zionists to Israel, even before the Jewish state was declared. The definition of Zionism must include the connection to the Jewish identity. Zionism has helped the Jewish people preserve our unique culture and has established a homeland where our culture, and any culture, can be expressed freely.

One could argue that we are in a time where Zionism has succeeded, based on the fact that Israel has been established for 66 years. Zionism is in a continuing fight today in ending unfair treatment of Israel in international institutions such as the United Nations. In addition, educating the world on the truth about Israel and the Jewish people create better relations for both parties. The Anti-Defamation League’s recent study on anti-Semitism in the world showed that only 54% of people polled have heard of the Holocaust. Both North Africa and the Middle East showed anti-Semitic views in over 75% of people polled. The high numbers of anti-Semitic attitudes in Eastern Europe also disappointed the ADL[1]. With so much of the world either ignorant to the history or to the truths of the Jewish people, Zionists must play a key roll in spreading those truths and educating the public. I believe that this can be done through small acts. Personally, I follow many different pro-Israel Facebook pages, where I am able to share posts about Israel and the Jewish people’s history, current events, or culture. By attending events and being politically active, I am able to educate my friends about how important Israel is in their lives as well. While not everyone may feel the deep connection Zionists feel with Israel, through education and peace, we can show how Israel betters the world.