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Definitions of Zionism

1) The Jewish Agency for Israel, the Department for Jewish Zionist Education, www.jajz-ed.org.il
Zionism - Movement whose goal was return of Jews to Eretz Yisrael, or Zion; Jewish synonym for Jerusalem and the Land of Israel.
- Cultural Zionism - Belief that successful settlement and re-population of Eretz Yisrael was predicated on need for revitalization of Jewish culture and Hebrew language. Eretz Yisrael can then become the necessary cultural and spiritual center for Diaspora Jewry. Based primarily on ideas of Ahad Ha’am.
- Practical Zionism - Early manifestation of modern Zionist movement, urging return of Jews to and settlement in Eretz Yisrael, not predicated on political agreement.
- Religious Zionism - Belief that Jewish nationalism is a religious as well as political goal, to be realized as a Jewish homeland in Eretz Yisrael based on “Torah v’avodah,” a synthesis of Torah with practical labor.
- Synthetic Zionism - Term coined by Chaim Weizmann which urges fusion of political goals of a Jewish homeland with practical goals of Jewish settlement, labor, and culture in Eretz Yisrael.

2) The Jewish Virtual Library, www.jewishvirtual.org
Zionism, the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, advocated, from its inception, tangible as well as spiritual aims. Jews of all persuasions, left and right, religious and secular, joined to form the Zionist movement and worked together toward these goals. Disagreements led to rifts, but ultimately, the common goal of a Jewish state in its ancient homeland was attained. The term “Zionism” was coined in 1893 by Nathan Birnbaum.

[separate entry] (Mount) Zion is an ancient Hebrew designation for Jerusalem, but already in biblical times it began to symbolize the national homeland (see e.g., Psalm 137.1-6). In this latter sense it served as a focus for Jewish national-religious hopes of renewal over the centuries. Ancient hopes and attachments to Zion gave rise to Zionist longings and movements since antiquity, culminating in the modern national liberation movement of that name. The Zionist cause helped the Jews return to Palestine in this century and found the state of Israel in 1948. The goal of Zionism is the political and spiritual renewal of the Jewish people in its ancestral homeland. See also Herzl.

3) Random House Encyclopedia (1977)
Zionism, a movement within Judaism which advocates the return to the land of Israel (Zion). It is based on the conception of the coming of the Messiah connected with the land of the fathers, Israel. In 1897 Theodor Herzl developed the movement into an organized body. Zionism gained momentum in the 19th century as the Jews developed a sense of nationalism and as actual movement to Israel began. Practical, political and cultural Zionism developed. Herzl believed that only through public law would Zionist aims be achieved. Conflicts developed with the leadership and outside the movement. Hebrew was revived as a modern daily language and in 1948 when the state of Israel was founded, Hebrew became its official language. Zionism continues as an effective movement, combating anti-Semitism and improving conditions of Jewish life.

4) Encarta World English Dictionary (1999)
Zionism is a worldwide movement organized in the 19th century that sought to establish and develop a Jewish nation in Palestine. Since 1948 its function has been to support the State of Israel.

5) American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
Zionism - a Jewish movement that arose in the late 19th century in response to growing anti-Semitism and sought to re-establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Modern Zionism is concerned with support and development of the State of Israel.

6) Random House Unabridged, 2nd Edition
Worldwide Jewish movement that resulted in the establishment and development of the State of Israel. (1895-1900)

7) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Zionism is a political movement that arose in the late 19th century for Jewish people from all parts of the world to return to their historical homeland (Zion) and the development of the state of Israel. The word “Zion” is used as a synonym for the Land of Israel.

8) Encyclopedia.com
Zionism, a modern political movement for reconstituting a Jewish national state in Palestine.

9) The Britannica Concise
Zionism — Jewish nationalism movement with the goal of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. In the 16th-17th century, a number of “messiahs” tried to persuade the Jews to return to Palestine, but by the late 18th century interest had largely faded. Pogroms in Eastern Europe led to formation of the “Lovers of Zion,” which promoted the settlement of Jewish farmers and artisans in Palestine. In the face of persistent anti-Semitism, Theodor Herzl advocated a Jewish state in Palestine. He held the first Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897. After World War I the movement picked up momentum with the issuing of the Balfour Declaration. The Jewish population in Palestine increased from 90,000 in 1914 to 238,000 in 1933. The Arab population resisted Zionism, and the British tried unsuccessfully to reconcile Jewish and Arab demands. Zionism achieved its goal with the creation of Israel in 1948.

10) The Encyclopedia of Islam
Zionism, a Jewish religio-nationalistic movement founded in the late 19th Century through the initiative of Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) a Paris correspondent of the Neue Freie Presse of Vienna. In his book, The Jewish State, Herzl asked the European governments to grant the Jewish people an area where a Jewish homeland could be established. He suggested Argentina, Palestine or some other possible area, but the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland (1897) demanded the establishment of a homeland in Palestine. The Zionist movement grew and the Jewish National Fund was created, which specialized in land acquisitions in Palestine.

Attempts at winning the Ottoman sultan Abd Al Hamid’s approval for the settlement of Jews in Palestine in exchange for financing the Ottoman debt were unsuccessful. But during the First World War the British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour, trying to win the support of world Jewry, wrote a letter to Lord I. W. Rothschild in which he stated that his government favored “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” with the proviso that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the rights of existing non-Jewish communities” (Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel, 103)

The defeat of the Ottoman empire and the establishment of a British mandate for Palestine facilitated further Jewish immigration. The Arab population became increasingly hostile, fearing that unlimited Jewish immigration would lead to a loss of their political power. The result led to armed clashes between the communities, which turned into war after the United Nations decreed to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be under a UN Trusteeship. Rather then helping to implement the Partition Plan the British terminated the mandate in May 1948 and thus did not prevent the outbreak of war between the communities. Thus the Zionist objective was achieved.

11) Illustrated Oxford Dictionary (1998)
Zionism, a movement (originally) for the re-establishment and (now) the development of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.

12) Cambridge Encyclopedia, 4th Edition (2000)
Zionism, the movement which sought to recover for the Jewish people their historic Palestinian homeland (the Eretz Israel) after centuries of dispersion. The modern movement arose in the late 19th century with plans for Jewish colonization of Palestine, and under Theodor Hertzl also developed a political programme to obtain sovereign state rights by the British Balfour Declaration in 1917, as long as the rights for non-Jews in Palestine were not impaired. After World War II, the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 received United Nations support. Zionism is still active, as a movement encouraging diaspora Jews to immigrate to and take and interest in the Jewish state.

13) The Encyclopedia of the Palestinians
Zionism emerged in European Jewish thinking in the mid nineteenth-century as an ideology that preached the unity of world Jewry, not merely as a religion but also as a nationality. Zionists believed that Jews constituted a national group who ought to end their centuries-old dispersion (diaspora; Hebrew, galut), return to “Zion” (Hebrew, Tziyon), and rebuild their ancient homeland in Eretz Israel, the biblical land of Israel. Zionists believed that such a return (often capitalized, as in "the central Jewish myth of Exile and Return") would lead to the redemption, both spiritual and physical of the Jewish people.

Given its nineteenth-century European origins, classical Zionism thinking paid little or no heed to the indigenous population of the region to which Zionists would be migrating, which they would be claiming as their national home. Not for several decades would Zionist leaders begin to grapple with the obstacles, contradictions, and injustices inherent in the pursuit of their solution to the Jewish problem—a solution that was not achievable, in the end, without exacting a terrible price from the Palestinians.

14) Hutchinson Encyclopedia, twelfth edition (Helicon Publishing,2001)
Zionism: national liberation movement advocating the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland (the Eretz Israel) in Palestine. Here, in the "promised land" of the Bible, its adherents called for the Jewish people to be granted a sovereign state with its capital at Jerusalem, the "city of Zion". The movement was founded by the Hungarian writer, Theodor Hertzl, who in 1897 convened the First Zionist Congress in the Swiss city of Basel. Zionism was the driving force behind the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.


See also: Definitions of Anti-Semitism

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