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The New Zionist Dream

Posted on Thursday, October 24, 2013 by Paul Liptz

Can there be anything new about the Zionist dream? This question has troubled me for the 46 years that I have been living in Israel. As a student and lecturer of Modern Jewish History and an active participant in Israeli life, one is sometimes overcome by the conviction that dreaming just has no place in our contemporary world. The Middle East is in turmoil, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict only becomes more complex by the year, internal divisions thrive, and disillusionment prevails.

This past summer I was fortunate to be the Scholar for the Wexner Heritage Israel Institute overnight trip that dealt with "The New Zionist Dream". It was truly invigorating as the hour-by-hour stimulation turned me into a "New Zionist". We met people in their 20s and 30s from several realms of Israeli society, all committed to being activists in the building of Israel. The "Jerusalem Hub of Present Tense", "Bio-Bee Biological Systems", the Ayalim Association which encourages students to live on moshavim, Kibbutz Eshbal which re-builds failed kibbutzim, the New Shomer Movement and its determination to protect land, and lastly, Rewalk, a remarkable medical start up. Wow! Each and every person spoke with passion and commitment, displaying a real sense that there is indeed a new spirit in Israel. The profound emotion that I felt emanated from guidelines they presented on how individuals and small groups can make a difference in a formative manner.

We in Israel are in our third stage of national development. We created an ideology, formed a new society, and now we have to ensure that it is a viable and stimulating environment which is committed to a good life for its citizens. The message is surely to realize that governments can only do a certain amount for the population and that, when push comes to shove, each and every one of us is a vital player and not merely an observer.

Young societies bear an awesome burden for the future because the norms that we establish now will permeate the values for decades to come.  Classical Zionism had tremendous successes in daunting situations - the New Zionism must now take up the challenge with the same determination.

Paul Liptz, born in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), joined hundreds of Southern Africans going to Israel in 1967 – arriving one day before the Six-Day War.  Paul studied at the Hebrew University and lectured for the Department of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University for 35 years as a Social Historian dealing with contemporary issues such as Arab women and nationalism, and taught for 25 years on the Jerusalem campus of the Hebrew Union College, dealing with modern Jewish history, Israeli society, and the Middle East.  In the last decade, he has become increasingly interested in world Jewry and has visited, lectured, and conducted workshops in some twenty-five countries.   Paul can be reached at