January 2012 / Shvat 5772
Amos Oz once noted that it is misleading to speak of the Zionist dream as the basis for the State of Israel; rather, there are Zionist dreams, Colliding with each other, their ongoing interaction provides the context for the dynamic and complex reality of the modern state. With their many differences, however, all of the Zionist perspectives—socialist, liberal, revisionist, religious and others—began with the same moment: a vision of the exemplary society the Jews would establish as they returned to their ancestral homeland. The fascinating debate in Israel today revolves around differing definitions of exemplary, in essence, around diverse visions of what kind of society Israel should become.
It is no accident that those Zionist dreams each envisioned, in their own hues and variants, a model society as the purpose of the Zionist project. In doing so, they rest on much deeper traditions—on a prophetic tradition of moral virtue, on a priestly tradition of a chosen and holy people, on the biblical covenant according to which our very possession of the Land of Israel is contingent upon our moral character. Inherent in our very existence as a people, flowing through all of us like an underground current, is the call, particularly in our national homeland, to build a society based upon the most lofty of values such as freedom, equality, justice and dignity.
Over the six decades of the State of Israel's existence this call has often been muted by daunting security challenges and the overwhelming physical demands of nation building. And yet, underneath, the current continued to flow,and this past summer, Israel was awash with a new vision and new energies—the demand for social justice. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis renewed their dialogue with the Zionist dreams and with the deeply Jewish value of tikkun olam. They declared from city squares across the nation their conviction that the physical creation of a state is not an end unto itself, but rather the enabling condition of creating a just society.
Even before the summer of 2011, the Jewish Agency—anchored in new strategic directions--identified social activism among young Israelis as a key engine for Jewish identity development and a powerful vehicle for creating community. As we seek to engage young people around the world with Israel, we know that such engagement is intimately linked with the quality of the society we will create here. We invite Jews from around the world to partner with Israelis in striving to create this exemplary society. This desire lays not only at the heart of classical Zionist visions, but also at the heart of the agenda of the Jewish Agency.