Avraham: the 1st Zionist
This week’s parsha, Lech Lecha, describes the life and trevails of our forefather Avraham, how he was commanded by G-d to leave his “land, (his) home, and (his) father’s house,” and travel to a distant, unknown land, a land “flowing with milk and honey.”
Avraham leaves Charan at the old age of 75. By then, he’s already established himself as a leader and a visionary. He goes on to live a life of righteousness, of arrousing curiosity for the Jewish faith amongst the people of the world, and of settling the Land of Canaan.
Avraham was for all intents and purposes, the first Zionist. The first settlers in Palestine who came here with the dream of building a “perfect” society based on socialist ideals were following in Avraham’s footsteps. Perhaps, they were misguided in thinking that the new state would be based on socialism, but they weren’t far from the truth.
Why is it that it took a secular movement–as opposed to the Charedi community of Eastern Europe to realize that the Jewish people’s future lay in Israel and that the correct–and only thing to do was to pack up their bags and travel to a land deserted by its inhabitants; a land that lay desolate and barren?
I’d like to suggest that just as King David came from the union of Lot and his daughter, of Yehuda and Tamar and later on, the Moavite convert, Ruth, the paving of the way for the coming of the Moshiach will have come from somewhat “dubious” sources: the chalutzim, extremely poor but incredibly brave people who left the life they grown used to (albeit a life of poverty and pogroms) to settle in Palestine.
The religious Jewish community of those times looked down on the settlers, and called them all kinds of names. Yet, they persevered, and where would we be as a people if it hadn’t been for them!? Where would the (secular) government that funds the yeshivot, the seminaries, the synagogues, and countless other religious institutions be if it hadn’t been for the settlers who built the infant state with their blood and tears?
This week’s parsha describes the first chalutz who sacrificed personal comfort in order to create a “perfect” society, a country with a yeshivas, synagogues, a standing army, movie theaters, malls, and dance clubs; a free, democratic state where Muslims and Christians feel comfortable enough to openly practice their faith. May the State of Israel continue to be a source of strength for the Jewish people and the world.