While he was Israel’s Prime Minister, Ben Gurion declared it the obligation of American Jews to provide immigrants to “the Jewish state,” and out of office he has not ceased to express his disappointment at the unreadiness of American Zionists “to cast their lot with the homeland.” He has even challenged their right still to be called Zionist. Not only have American Zionists failed to respond, but some of them have challenged Ben Gurion’s own right to make such a demand. The controversy continues unabated, and Benno Weiser, himself a lifelong Zionist, here explains its causes, which are largely due to a changed world and changed opportunities.



A woman from London told me of a visit that a British WIZO group paid to Israel’s first prime minister. With a feeling of awe the ladies looked at him. “A head of fire,” whispered one. “And his white mane is like a glacier to cool it off!” David Ben Gurion looked at his visitors, his eyes moving from one face to another. Then he said with a rather sad smile: “I wish you were younger!”

It might be safely presumed that the ladies wished so, too, but some minded the remark, though they understood that Ben Gurion meant to say: where are the youth? who will do the job when you are gone?

With some similarly blunt remarks, Ben Gurion started the controversy, still running, over the failure of Zionists to settle in Israel. Israel needs immigration from the West; Zionists in the West want to help Israel by all means short of their own migration—this conflict of positions has developed as inexorably as in a Greek tragedy.



The first dart was hurled from a banquet dais of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria in June 1951. Prime Minister Ben Gurion, incensed, or perhaps only bored, by some remarks from Zionist leaders who had engaged him in a discussion, stated that so far as he was concerned “a Zionist is a person who settles in Israel.”

The issue reached full expression later in the year, at the Zionist Congress of 1951 in the appropriate setting of Jerusalem. There, the discussion revolved around philosophy of history rather than ideology. Some Israeli delegates said that what had happened to German Jewry could happen everywhere: Herzl had prophesied, Nordau had warned, but European Jewry had been deaf and blind; what was Western Jewry waiting for? Mapam’s speakers trod another line: the Jews were no longer needed by the countries of the golah; whatever their original functions, they had outlived them; there was no future for them outside Israel. The American delegates disagreed. Hadassah’s Rose Hal-prin distinguished between galut, meaning exile, and golah, meaning dispersion; America was Diaspora, but not exile. This was countered by the late Hayim Greenberg, who stated that “every country of the Diaspora . . . is galut. . . . If exile may be conceived of symbolically as night, then there are some exiles of pitch-black night, and somewhere the night is moonlit.” But he told the Israeli prophets of golah’s doom that, should America really “become a land of fascist anti-Semitism, then there may be no safety even in a timely flight to the Jewish state. If we should ever see a bestialized America, how long could the State of Israel exist in a world capable of producing such a monster?” Dr. Nahum Goldmann went further: addressing himself to the “it can happen everywhere” party, he said that “even Hitler was not inevitable”; had the German Social Democratic leaders had “a little more guts” the whole catastrophe might never have occurred.

The controversy lingered on after the Congress, but aliyah, halutzic and otherwise, from the United States continued its downward trend to a low of one hundred thirty in 1953.1 After a while even the discussion, purely academic or dialectical as it was, faded away.



It was revived in the last days of 1953 by Ben Gurion again, who in the meantime had become a private citizen. In a letter to the Zionist General Council date-lined from Sdeh Boker, he asked the session convening in Jerusalem to clarify whether “a Zionist movement, particularly after the establishment of the State [is] feasible without the duty of personal immigration, and if so, what is the difference . . . between Zionism without the duty to immigrate and between a love for the State of Israel which is common to almost every Jew wherever he be? What is the ideological content and the special mission of Zionism without immigration and what personal duty is imposed upon a Zionist by the movement, by which one may differentiate “between a Zionist and between a Jew who assists the State of Israel?” This challenge was repudiated by most of the delegates. Even Ben Gurion had to admit that “undoubtedly, many Zionist workers, and the Zionist Organization abroad, have much credit for the work in the past. But as far as I am concerned, Zionism is a movement that faces the future.”

As far as the Zionist workers themselves were concerned, however, that past could not be brushed aside so lightly. In it lay the best years of their lives. There were some bitter answers. If an aliyah from America was desired, said Rose Halprin, “you in Israel must become that ethical force which youth [in the Diaspora] can look up to.” The accent was on become. Another Hadassah delegate, Judith Epstein, stating that most American Jews, Zionists included, “feel themselves part and parcel of the United States,” found that American youth cannot be trained to anticipate spending their lives “elsewhere.” A new chord was struck by Israel’s Berl Locker, co-chairman of the Jewish Agency, who said: “We must stop saying to American youth that they should come to Israel because they need it. We must start saying to them that they should come because we need them.”

Winding up, Dr. Nahum Goldmann said that if Ben Gurion’s definition of Zionism were adopted, Zionist organizations abroad would dwindle to nothing. But efforts should still be made to persuade some American Jews to come to Israel—not by stressing negative aspects, like anti-Semitism or Jewish social inferiority in the golah, but by educating them to feel that “you cannot live a 100-per cent Jewish life in America.”2

Ben Gurion, writing in Davar, was still dissatisfied. Asserting that he had been rebuked but not answered, he continued to heckle the Zionist Organization and Zionists. He did not know, he stated, a single Zionist leader from the West who had set-ded in Israel since the state had been established. Sadly, he wrote: “The essence of the Jewish question in the days of Pinsker and Herzl was the problem of a people without a country and a state. It never even entered their minds that there might once be a Jewish state without a people [to settle it].”



As could be expected, the American Zion-ist press did not side with Ben Gurion. The American Zionist, published by the Zionist Organization of America, stated editorially: “The truth is that the number of Jews . . . who have immigrated to Palestine from any land since the inception of the Zionist movement has been small. . . . Voluntary immigration to the Yishuv first became feasible on an organized scale in 1904. After 1932, with the rise of Hitler, such immigration became for the most part compulsory. During the intervening twenty-nine years . . . the mean number of Jews living in Europe was seven and one-half million. . . . The pressure on European Jewry to abandon their native lands was enormous and persistent. . . . And immigrate they did. While 155,000 European Jews took the road to Zion, nearly two million European Jews immigrated elsewhere—chiefly to the Americas. . . . Not enough American Jews settle today in Israel, it is true, but virtually no American Jews settle elsewhere abroad.”

There were exceptions, though. The Jewish Spectator agreed with Ben Gurion. In a book review editorial, its publisher, Dr. Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, took Maurice Samuel to task for the unorthodox views which that lifelong Zionist expressed in his latest book, Level Sunlight. Mr. Samuel had written: “More than once I felt the inclination to setde in Palestine, perhaps to throw in my lot with the pioneers on the land. Reflection showed that it was not for me”—the reason being that he was a writer, and English was his tool. Dr. Weiss-Rosmarin comments: “We Zionists know, all of us know. . . that our place is in Israel. . . . But, like Mr. Samuel we have reached the conclusion that ‘life in Israel is not for us.’ Let us admit it, the real reason that keeps us here are the flesh-pots of America.” But, though Dr. Weiss-Rosmarin knows where her place is, she does not go there, so her disagreement with Mr. Samuel remains one of rhetoric. “We have no quarrel,” she continues, “with Mr. Samuel’s conclusion that life in Israel is not for him. . . . We Zionists who stay on in the Diaspora live in the same glass house, and so it would be dangerous to hurl stones against a fellow-boarder.”3

Evidently, the critic herself is not free from the guilt she senses in the criticized. Perhaps no sensitive Diaspora Zionist is. Undoubtedly, no single person has done, by word or deed, as much to bring that guilt out as Ben Gurion has. If his aim was to make Zionists feel uneasy and remorseful, he has succeeded. But if his aim was also to put them on the move, he has failed so far.

I know of a Zionist leader from Germany who, during my boyhood days, was an idol and inspiration to many a Zionist youngster. He is now living in this country and his speeches and talks still glow with the same spirit as of old. But he confesed to me the other day that he had dropped out of the Zionist Organization. Not so young any more, the provider of a family, and tied down to a profession, he has his own reasons why Israel is not for him. But he agrees with Ben Gurion’s definition and, to be consistent, he left a movement to which his heart will always belong. . . .

A paradoxical situation has arisen. Unaffected by remorse, many a non-Zionist, who perhaps was even an anti-Zionist once, has made pro-Israel work a cheerful part of his social routine. All the enthusiasm he did not invest in the Zionism dream is now being poured into the endeavor to keep the dream-come-true alive. He readily finds everything connected with Israel wonderful. On the other hand, many a long-time Zionist has now lost his Zionist enthusiasm. His Jewish Weltschmerz, cured by the existence of Israel, has been replaced by Zionist Weltschmerz. Made to feel guilty and projecting his guilt, he is prone to find fault with Israel and even to experience incidental Schaden-freud over the shortcomings of its leadership.

Nor has his guilt feeling proven to be constructive. There is the anecdote of Ben Gurion’s asking an immigrant from Germany whether he was not ashamed of not speaking Hebrew, to which the man replied, “It is easier to be ashamed than to speak Hebrew.” Similarly, it is still easier to feel guilty than to settle in pioneering Israel.



For all practical purposes, it is beside the point whether Ben Gurion is correct or not. If one delves into Zionist doctrine, Ben Gurion is certainly right. But how many socialists have really read Marx, and how many Zionists, Hess, Pinsker, Herzl, and Borochov? For the great majority, Zionism was a sentiment rather than a doctrine. What Nathan Bimbaum meant when he coined the term “Zionism” some sixty years ago may be of interest to scholars. Whether Herzl said “the Zionist movement is the Jewish state on the way,” as is generally presumed, or “the Jewish people on the way,” as Ben Gurion quotes him, is an academic question. But if today’s Zionists are being blamed for inconsistency, from a practical point of view it might be more useful to understand what Zionism used to mean to the average Diaspora Zionist who is now the target of Ben Gurion’s challenge.

It was not just the fight for a Jewish state. Zionism used to be a Weltanschauung, a way of life, and an expression of Jewish pride—a flight into Jewishness, the opposite of many a Jew’s flight away from it. While others were frequently tempted to find a tangible explanation for anti-Semitism in Jewish characteristics and often ended in self-hatred, the Zionist would not blame the Jews, but the Gentiles, because it was their anti-Semitism which had created the ghetto that was responsible for the unhealthy traits of Jewish life in exile. Whereas others looked for a “cure” for being Jewish, Zionism meant honorable adjustment to Jewishness and transcendence of the ghetto. It was a way of love, love of something inescapable which he did not want to escape from—love of everything Jewish, the unseen persecuted brother, whether near or far.

The difficulties and complexities of living as a Jew became, through Zionist ideology, as stimulating as a voluntary handicap in a game of chess or a foot race. It averted undignified Jewish mimicry of Gentiles. Even the shock of catastrophe was partially absorbed by the consolation found in the fact that Zionist literature had foretold it. There were German Jews who committed suicide because of the blow Hitler had administered their dream world, but there was no shattering of illusions for Zionists.

The Zionist had heard Herzl’s saying that the Zionist movement was the “Jewish state on the way.” The Utopian state was a means of going through life with head erect, and not so much an end in itself. Maurice Samuel speaks for a whole generation, perhaps, when he writes in his Level Sunlight: “How much of the Zionist program did I hope to see completed? . . . I did not think I would live to see the proclamation of a Jewish state.”



World war II, the plight of its Jewish survivors, and their concrete homeless-ness changed this attitude, and the Jewish state became a question of now or never. But the Zionist still did not see the Jewish state only as an end in itself. By then ideology had been replaced by propaganda, and the thinkers had lost out to the fund-raisers. The latter’s Reader’s Digest-like condensation of Zionism read as follows: At the bottom of the Jewish problem was Jewish homelessness. There were millions of Irish, Swiss, Italians, et al. who lived unmolested outside their states. Similarly, the Jewish state was not supposed to take in all the Jews of the world, but it would eliminate the handicap a Jew had in comparison with an Irishman. There were some ingenuous, though sincere, conceptions about the miracles a Jewish ambassador could perform by the sheer magic of his title; but this idea implied enjoying the ambassador’s splendor in the Diaspora. Not that the possibility of one day settling in, or retiring to, the Jewish state was deliberately, or knowingly, ruled out. But it was not a necessary part of the scheme.

Ben Gurion is right when he says that hese Zionists did not create Israel. But no single factor did, and Israel could not have been created without them. These non-immigrating Zionists were a dynamic force in every Jewish community, and they mobilized financial and political support for the Yishuv. True, they brought up the rear, and the real heroes were the halutzim, who were glorified by them and looked up at with a mixture of pride, admiration, and uneasiness. Yes, the man who could tear himself away from those things which to them—the non-immigrating Zionists—made life pleasurable, to go and fight swamps, malaria, and the desert, brought out that discomfort which the average man will always feel in the presence of idealists.



There have, in fact, always been two threads in Zionism: that of “self-fulfillment,” embodied in the halutz, and that embodied in those other, non-pioneering Zionists whom Ben Gurion is now criticizing. Ben Gurion’s attitude is an outgrowth of that basic contempt which the halutz has always felt for the other kind of Zionist. With the miraculous establishment of the state, this contempt was legitimized. But soon other elements were added. Bitterness, because those who had fought and made the sacrifices had thought of a state for the Jewish people and not of a dumping ground for wretched and destitute Jews alone; impatience, because the country desperately needed sturdy and “modernized” immigrants from the West; jealousy, because moral superiority was rewarded with depressing economic inferiority; and finally, frustration, because idealism in the country itself could do with a boost from abroad.

Some of this resentment found its escape in prophecies of the Diaspora’s doom. If catastrophe alone could move the Jewish people, then catastrophe might become desirable. Some of the resentment went into Ben Gurion’s outcry from Sdeh Boker. But if Ben Gurion was right in his affirmation that non-immigrating Zionists should settle for the title “friends of Israel,” then he would have been equally right if, years ago, he had told them to call themselves “friends of the Yishuv.” Though immigration was not free under the Mandatory regime, “capitalists” could immigrate, and one thousand British pounds made one a “capitalist.” Nobody hinted then that Zionists who possessed that sum and did not settle in Palestine were not Zionists.



If it was only a question of proving that the moral biceps of the halutz, and the Zionist complexion of the builders of Israel, were superior to those of Diaspora Zionists, there probably would be no argument. But if something more than the expression of an Israeli grudge against the Jews of Western Europe and the Americas is involved, it might be more useful to consider what it was that created Zionist pioneers like Ben Gurion, and what has changed since then.

According to Jacob Lestchinsky, “virtually all the old Jewish population centers which enjoyed traditions between one and two thousand years old . . . have now disappeared.” On the eve of the First World War “more than 75 per cent of the Jews dwelt amid peoples who had only slight assimilative capacity. . . . Now, however, more than 80 per cent of the Jews live in surroundings which favor assimilation to a very marked degree. . . . At the beginning of the 20th century, about 70 per cent of all Jewry resided in Eastern Europe. . . . Thanks to an entire set of auxiliary conditions it came about that this section of the Jewish people gave birth to almost all its social and national movements.” But whereas in 1900, 80.9 per cent of the Jewish people lived in Europe, in 1951 only 23.8 per cent did, and only 9 per cent in non-Communist Europe. Today 80 per cent of the Jews outside Israel and the Soviet orbit live in the Americas.

The difference between the psycho-political climate in which the American Zionist lives and that in which the bulk of European Zionists lived might be illuminated by a remark which a veteran Zionist from Germany made to me the other day. “Could you imagine a Zionist meeting in Berlin, even in pre-Hitler days, where the audience would sing both ‘Hatikvah’ and “Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles?” By contrast, without the slightest tinge of hypocrisy, the “Star Spangled Banner” is sung alongside “Hatikvah” in this country. A whole Jewish world has disappeared, an entire epoch has come to an end. Gone is the revolutionary spirit endemic in the Russia of the beginning of the century; gone that creative frustration which made young Jews run away from the ghettos of Eastern Europe. Whatever the future for American Jewry, it is not shver tsu zein a Yid in America today.

True, among those who went to Palestine in the old days were many who left comfortable homes and academic careers because they preferred the unleavened bread of freedom to the “fleshpots.” But the hateful feature of Egypt’s fleshpots was that they could be enjoyed only in bondage. America’s steaks are eaten in freedom. Revolutionary Zionism was a catalyst which converted discontent with one’s surroundings into action, and made young Jews break away from their European environment and the economic system in which their parents made their living. But there was nothing artificial in their discontent: the environment gave it plenty of cause. And the discontent was fruitful in terms of Zionism.4

In a restlessly shifting European Jewry, Jewish Palestine was the idealist’s way out of the dead-end street in which many a young Jew looking for a liberal profession found himself. Nor was the temptation of “business” so great. Life in Palestine was hard, but it was also so in Eastern Europe. The alternative was frequently between a huftmensh existence in a more or less squalid ghetto, and fresh air in Palestine.

Too, socialism was still young, shiny, untested. Against the background of luftmenshentum, prevailing “business” conditions, and the anti-Semitic charge of Jewish parasitism, the Marxist contempt for the man who did not live from his handiwork, as well as its mystic sublimation in Gordon’s religion of labor, could fall on fertile ground. The dream of national redemption, Jewish renascence, and socialist Utopia, set the course to Palestine. The early halutz was a daring, revolutionary, and heroic product of his time.



And what a different time it was! I know only by hearsay about revolutionary Russia fifty years ago. But when I think back to the post-1918 Europe in which I grew up, as did the greater number of Israel’s younger officials, diplomats, and politicians—many of whom went through the halutz movement and the kibbutz—it seems to have fairly swarmed with ideals and ideologies. All kinds of self-effacing, abstemious, and ascetic movements were in vogue. There were vegetarians (for ethical, not for dietary reasons) and sandal-wearing nature boys, esperantoists and pacifists; Gandhi’s passive resistance made people starry-eyed. There were Social Democrats deeply convinced of the infallibility of their doctrines, and ingenuous Communists still dreaming those dreams which the harsh reality of Stalinism has since wiped out. I remember how unhappy a writer friend of mine felt in those days because he had been referred to in a review as a “liberal poet.” To be a liberal then meant to be stamped, by the sheer weight of relativity, as a reactionary. Halutziut was one of the answers of young Jews to this idealistic whirlpool.

Things have changed quite a bit in the meantime, and if they have not changed completely in Europe, Jewish geography has changed. Two world wars have shaken faith and idealism. According to Abram L. Sachar, president of Brandeis University, “a whole generation of liberals has swung from high ideals to the ugliest forms of cynicism and escapism. In political life the passion for relaxed living has created a formidable neoisolationism. . . .”

In a world that has lost its ideals, Israel, which is founded on ideals, has stood up remarkably and even astonishingly well. Social ideals, which remained blueprints almost everywhere else, have made a deep and lasting impact there. On the other hand, there has been much talk since 1948 of the “moral crisis” which the country is undergoing, and whose symptoms are supposedly black-marketeering, nepotism, petty career-ism, etc., etc. Israelis try to explain this to themselves by blaming it on eighteen years of almost uninterrupted tension and hardship in Palestine itself. But is it not also, to a degree, the subconscious adjustment of a society of high-pitched idealism to this present world of ours? And isn’t Israel, even in this relative crisis, which ought not be exaggerated, still out of tune with a world in which private self-interest is increasingly taken for granted?



Meanwhile the creation of Israel has brought about a paradoxical change in the Diaspora Zionist’s outlook not dreamt of in his or Ben Gurion’s philosophy. It has become easier to be a Jew. After all the doom and melancholy of the Hitler period, jubilation, happiness, and pride have again entered his life. Organized anti-Semitism decreased as a result of the defeat of Nazi Germany—and also because of the liquidation of some of Europe’s worst centers of anti-Semitic infection in the wake, alas, of the disappearance of their corresponding Jewries. The world has probably not become better, but it has become more livable for the Jew in Western Europe and the Americas. Besides, Israel has removed anti-Semitism from his list of incurable diseases, for it promises him a refuge, or at least an ally, in duress. It has also felt good to hear, after a decade of Jewish victims, of Jewish heroes. Whether or not his Gentile neighbor now looked at him differently—and most probably some did—his self-respect increased.

Thus the birth of Israel helped eliminate to a degree one of the most important allies of Zionism, namely the frustration that had become part of the Jewish fate, the Jewish Weltschmerz. Since the relief was felt by other Jews than Zionists alone, Israel won many a friend in new quarters. But while this broadened the new state’s basis of support, it was not conducive to aliyah. To leave the Diaspora, which suddenly had become much cosier, precisely now would have been like abandoning the ground where one had searched for gold for many years at the very moment when the first nuggets turned up. Hence Israel’s first dividend to West European and American Zionists—a new sense of security, relative, of course, in a world which had become insecure—has helped them find a new ease in the Diaspora.

In 1947 and 1948, with the exception of a small fringe, American Jewry at large started to talk in terms which a few years ago would have been the exclusive prerogative of the Zionists. In return—as Dr. Siegfried Kanowitz, a very sensitive Israeli psychologist, noticed on a recent visit here—there has been an assimilation of the Zionists. According to him, the “post-Zionist assimilationist” does not quote prophets at every opportunity, nor does he speak of the Jewish “mission.” He simply identifies himself with Israel, celebrates her festivals, applauds her victories, and laments her defeats. He becomes angry when her citizens descend from their moral heights. He contributes to Zionist funds, visits Israel, and even affiliates ideologically with Mapai, the General Zionists, or Mizrachi.

Also, he keeps his Jewish pride before his Gentile neighbors, does not crawl on his stomach, stresses his Jewishness, and his Jewish ties, including those to Israel. At a house-warming of his new country home he might even hint to an Israeli guest of a certain sadness at the fact that he did not build it on Mount Carmel. But he feels perfectly at home where he is.

Dr. Kanowitz is not a bit superior about all this. Himself a lifelong Zionist and for a time president of the Zionist Organization of Berlin, it required Hitler’s advent to move him to Israel. “We look into ourselves,” he writes, “and ask ourselves if . . . in all fairness it was not under rather unique conditions that we became Zionists, remained Zionists, and went to Israel. . . . The post-Zionist assimilationist is an expression not less perfect of his time, than we were of ours. . . .”



The sterility of the present dispute about the nature of Diaspora Zionism stems from the fact that problems were broached polemically, and the battle fought in the field of dialectics. What makes one a Zionist in Ben Gurion’s eyes is, after all, not the real question, and whether a Zionist nowadays should be called a Zionist or a “friend of Israel” is a matter of semantics. The two genuine issues that emerge from Ben Gurion’s challenge are, first: how bring Western Jews to Israel? And second but less important: what is Zionism today?

In connection with the first question, it might be worth rereading what Theodor Herzl wrote in his judenstaat, sixty years ago. Unlike Borochov and Gordon, who have left more of a mark than he on the social composition of Israel, Herzl thought in terms of a bourgeois society basically like that present American one to which Ben Gurion’s call is now directed. Speaking in his introduction of the exodus to the Jewish state that would occur one day, he wrote: “We shall not revert to a lower stage, we shall rise to a higher one. . . . We shall surrender our well-earned rights only for better ones. We shall not sacrifice our beloved customs; we shall find them again. We shall not leave our old home before the new one is prepared for us. Those only will depart who are sure to improve their position thereby; those who are now desperate will go first, after them the poor; next the well off, and, last of all, the wealthy. Those who go in advance will raise themselves to a higher grade, equal to those whose representatives will shortly follow. Thus the exodus will be at the same time an ascent of the class.”

After fifty-eight years, much in the passage just quoted sounds more realistic than a great deal being said at present by Zionist and Israeli leaders. Though most Israelis would shudder at the very concepts embodied in them, these lines do prove that Herzl, the idealist, knew how to think in terms of those Jews whom fee—and now Israel—wanted to attract. The bitterness of Ben Gurion, who helped win a beachhead for the Jews that most Jews still won’t follow him to, is understandable. But a beachhead society cannot afford to think only in its own terms.

“If the facts are against Israel,” said Ben Gurion in a speech in 1951, “we must change the facts.” There are some facts about present-day Diaspora Jewry which, I suppose, even Ben Gurion would not want to change. If, therefore, “pull” has to replace “push and pull,” “pull” must change.

Though Israel needs Western immigrants now, she may not be able to get them in appreciable numbers until conditions in the new state have greatly improved. Until then, Israel may have to go to special lengths if she wants more Western, middle-class immigrants. Up to now no real effort has been made in this respect. As things now stand, many a middle-class immigrant to Israel, after selling his belongings, buying his ticket, then paying customs and even luxury taxes on some of the things he brings into Israel with him, and exchanging his money and paying key money for an apartment, ceases to belong to the middle class.

Also, Israel’s government has been blamed for not really knowing how to handle immigrants or prospective immigrants from the West. The number of the latter has not been negligible, and Ben Gurion’s attack on Diaspora Zionists may be in a way a projection of unconscious guilt, because there is no question but that the dominance of socialist ideas in Israel has worked against her own present desire for settlers with money, or at least investors. The country still remains better geared for the absorption of penniless immigrants than of those who can pay their own way, and when Ben Gurion speaks of immigration he continues to think of it as halutzic. Dr. Nahum Gold-mann has a broader approach, but he still sticks to the term. “Halutziut may have to change its form,” he has said. Agricultural life in collective settlements is no longer the only “legitimate form of halutzic effort,” but also investment in industry and commerce, and almost any kind of immigration to Israel, even if merely temporary. But the question is whether halutziut with its connotation of self-sacrifice really appeals to a businessman.



What is Zionism today? Are definitions really so important? While other Zionist organizations spend their time discussing why they are dying, America’s Hadassah, with its membership of 300,000, suffers no crisis, because it is doing. Six years of discussion having now proved futile, the time might be ripe for a moratorium on ideology and theory, and for more concentration on immediate activity. Tasks are not lacking. First, there is the material support that Israel needs, as she does also the Diaspora Jew’s identification with her in one way or another; second, the establishment of a symbiotic relation of mutual helpfulness, between the Jewish homeland and the Diaspora. Now that assimilationism presents itself less as a flight than as a drifting away, Zionism’s national and cultural conception of Jewishness can become an important factor in Jewish survival. Zionism might again mean aliyah for some, help to Israel for others, a way of Jewishness for many—and for others again, a social need, a sentiment or even sentimentality. Israel has nothing to gain by repelling any of those Zionisms. They will either be Zionist on their terms or not Zionist at all.

Zionism has survived many a defeat. Now it has to survive victory. It faces the problems of how to replace Weltschmerz on the one hand and superficial jingoism on the other, and how to adjust an audience created by the dramatic events attendant upon Israel’s birth to the prosaic routine of growth. No single ad hoc assignment can provide a program. And certainly the Zionist movement cannot insist on including, in the Jewish prayerbook, a special prayer for our daily slice of anti-Semitism so that more Jews will be drawn to immigrate to Israel. A two-thousand-years-old nostalgia must be able to forego that “sinister ally.”

History is written by deeds rather than by words, and however controversial the words that come out of Sdeh Boker, Ben Gurion’s settling in the Negev is in itself a challenge. The image of the white-haired, stocky man working day in, day out, under the desert sun has an appeal which does not require the perspective of time to become a prophetic legend. Israel’s prophets used bitter words in their anger, but they were often right. So, basically, may Ben Gurion be when he cries for Western Jews to come and help build the Land of Israel. But his challenge is stronger in terms of idealism or need, without ideology and dialectics.



1 The halutzic aliyah (the body of emigrants who settle on the land) from the United States alone was 325 in 1949, 438 in 1950, 375 in 1951, 190 in 1952, and 110 in 1953.

2 I cannot believe that this definition accurately expresses the thinking of Dr. Goldmann, who, besides being the acknowledged leader of world Zionism, is also a citizen of the world. Some people in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn live, in their way, a life as 100 per cent Jewish as their brethren in Mea Shearim. On the other hand, unhappy connotations have accreted in the last two decades to national hundred-per-centisms. Our generation saw chauvinism lead to two world wars. It saw the Nazi mania of German racial purity, and the Soviet persecution of “cosmopolitans.” As a part of his Jewish heritage, the young Jew carries along a basic liberalism and cosmopolitanism. Why should Jews be attracted by a 100 per cent life of any sort?

3 Ben Gurion has attacked Mr. Samuel in print (in Davar of April 9), creating a furor in Congress Weekly and the Jewish press at large. Mr. Samuel replied in four issues of the Weekly beginning May 17.

4 It is symptomatic that the most successful halutz movement today belongs to Mapam. Of the 1,438 halutzim who went from the United States between 1949 and 1953, 450 came from the ranks of Hashomer Hatzair. Adding 83 from other groups, Mapam’s share reached 37 per cent of the halutzic aliyah from the United States over that period. In other countries, Mapam’s proportion is still higher. Aside from the question of a better recruiting technique, it is the ideological ingredient of this very leftish movement that provides the necessary discontent with the Western environment that one’s being a Jew alone apparently fails to build up nowadays.

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