Since the establishment of the State of Israel in , Zionism continues primarily to advocate on behalf of Israel and to address threats to its continued existence and security. A religious variety of Zionism supports Jews upholding their Jewish identity defined as adherence to religious Judaism, opposes the assimilation of Jews into other societies, and has advocated the return of Jews to Israel as a means for Jews to be a majority nation in their own state.
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Advocates of Zionism view it as a national liberation movement for the repatriation of a persecuted people residing as minorities in a variety of nations to their ancestral homeland. The term "Zionism" is derived from the word Zion Hebrew: Throughout eastern Europe in the late 19th century, numerous grassroots groups were promoting the national resettlement of the Jews in their homeland, as well as the revitalization and cultivation of the Hebrew language.
These groups were collectively called the " Lovers of Zion " and were seen to encounter a growing Jewish movement toward assimilation.
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The first use of the term is attributed to the Austrian Nathan Birnbaum , founder of the Kadimah nationalist Jewish students' movement; he used the term in in his journal Selbstemanzipation! Self-Emancipation ,  itself named almost identically to Leon Pinsker 's book Auto-Emancipation.
The common denominator among all Zionists is the claim to Eretz Israel as the national homeland of the Jews and as the legitimate focus for Jewish national self-determination. After almost two millennia of the Jewish diaspora residing in various countries without a national state, the Zionist movement was founded in the late 19th century by secular Jews , largely as a response by Ashkenazi Jews to rising antisemitism in Europe , exemplified by the Dreyfus affair in France and the anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire. Theodore Herzl, concluding words of The Jewish State , .
Although initially one of several Jewish political movements offering alternative responses to assimilation and antisemitism, Zionism expanded rapidly. In its early stages, supporters considered setting up a Jewish state in the historic territory of Palestine. After World War II and the destruction of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe where these alternative movements were rooted, it became dominant in the thinking about a Jewish national state.
Creating an alliance with Great Britain and securing support for some years for Jewish emigration to Palestine, Zionists also recruited European Jews to immigrate there, especially Jews who lived in areas of the Russian Empire where anti-semitism was raging.
The alliance with Britain was strained as the latter realized the implications of the Jewish movement for Arabs in Palestine, but the Zionists persisted. The movement was eventually successful in establishing Israel on May 14, 5 Iyyar in the Hebrew calendar , as the homeland for the Jewish people. The proportion of the world's Jews living in Israel has steadily grown since the movement emerged.
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These two outcomes represent the historical success of Zionism, and are unmatched by any other Jewish political movement in the past 2, years. In some academic studies, Zionism has been analyzed both within the larger context of diaspora politics and as an example of modern national liberation movements. Zionism also sought assimilation of Jews into the modern world. As a result of the diaspora, many of the Jewish people remained outsiders within their adopted countries and became detached from modern ideas.
So-called "assimilationist" Jews desired complete integration into European society. They were willing to downplay their Jewish identity and in some cases to abandon traditional views and opinions in an attempt at modernization and assimilation into the modern world.
A less extreme form of assimilation was called cultural synthesis. Those in favor of cultural synthesis desired continuity and only moderate evolution, and were concerned that Jews should not lose their identity as a people.
In , the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution , which designated Zionism as "a form of racism and racial discrimination". Opposition to Zionism in principle has also sometimes been called racist and has been characterized as fostering the segregation of peoples that should seek peaceful coexistence. Zionism was established with the political goal of creating a Jewish state in order to create a nation where Jews could be the majority, rather than the minority which they were in a variety of nations in the diaspora.
Theodor Herzl , the ideological father of Zionism, considered Antisemitism to be an eternal feature of all societies in which Jews lived as minorities, and that only a separation could allow Jews to escape eternal persecution. Herzl proposed two possible destinations to colonize, Argentina and Palestine.
He preferred Argentina for its vast and sparsely populated territory and temperate climate, but conceded that Palestine would have greater attraction because of the historic ties of Jews with that area. Aliyah migration, literally "ascent" to the Land of Israel is a recurring theme in Jewish prayers. Rejection of life in the Diaspora is a central assumption in Zionism. Zionists generally preferred to speak Hebrew, a Semitic language that developed under conditions of freedom in ancient Judah , and worked to modernize and adapt it for everyday use.
Zionists sometimes refused to speak Yiddish , a language they thought had developed in the context of European persecution. Once they moved to Israel, many Zionists refused to speak their diasporic mother tongues and adopted new, Hebrew names. Hebrew was preferred not only for ideological reasons, but also because it allowed all citizens of the new state to have a common language, thus furthering the political and cultural bonds among Zionists.
Major aspects of the Zionist idea are represented in the Israeli Declaration of Independence:. The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books. After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Since the first centuries of the CE , most Jews have lived outside the Land of Israel Eretz Israel, better known as Palestine , although there has been a constant minority presence of Jews.
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The Babylonians destroyed the First Temple , which was central to Jewish culture at the time. The Bar Kokhba revolt caused a spike in anti-Semitism and Jewish persecution. The ensuing exile from Judea greatly increased the percent of Jews who were dispersed throughout the Diaspora instead of living in their original home.
Zion is a hill near Jerusalem now in the city , widely symbolizing the Land of Israel. In the middle of the 16th century, Joseph Nasi , with the support of the Ottoman Empire, tried to gather the Portuguese Jews, first to migrate to Cyprus , then owned by the Republic of Venice, and later to resettle in Tiberias.
Nasi — who never converted to Islam   [notes 1] — eventually obtained the highest medical position in the empire, and actively participated in court life. In the 17th century Sabbatai Zevi — announced himself as the Messiah and gained many Jews to his side, forming a base in Salonika. He first tried to establish a settlement in Gaza, but moved later to Smyrna.
After deposing the old rabbi Aaron Lapapa in the spring of , the Jewish community of Avignon , France prepared to emigrate to the new kingdom. The readiness of the Jews of the time to believe the messianic claims of Sabbatai Zevi may be largely explained by the desperate state of Central European Jewry in the midth century.
The bloody pogroms of Bohdan Khmelnytsky had wiped out one-third of the Jewish population and destroyed many centers of Jewish learning and communal life. In the 19th century, a current in Judaism supporting a return to Zion grew in popularity,  particularly in Europe, where antisemitism and hostility toward Jews were growing. The idea of returning to Palestine was rejected by the conferences of rabbis held in that epoch. Individual efforts supported the emigration of groups of Jews to Palestine, pre-Zionist Aliyah , even before , the year considered as the start of practical Zionism.
The Reformed Jews rejected this idea of a return to Zion. The conference of rabbis, at Frankfurt am Main , July 15—28, , deleted from the ritual all prayers for a return to Zion and a restoration of a Jewish state. The Philadelphia Conference, , followed the lead of the German rabbis and decreed that the Messianic hope of Israel is "the union of all the children of God in the confession of the unity of God".
The Pittsburgh Conference, , reiterated this Messianic idea of reformed Judaism, expressing in a resolution that "we consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community; and we therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning a Jewish state". Jewish settlements were established in the upper Mississippi region by W.
Cresson was tried and condemned for lunacy in a suit filed by his wife and son. They asserted that only a lunatic would convert to Judaism from Christianity. After a second trial, based on the centrality of American 'freedom of faith' issues and antisemitism, Cresson won the bitterly contested suit. He hoped to "prevent any attempts being made to take advantage of the necessities of our poor brethren FORCE them into a pretended conversion.
Moral but not practical efforts were made in Prague to organize a Jewish emigration, by Abraham Benisch and Moritz Steinschneider in Sir Moses Montefiore , famous for his intervention in favor of Jews around the world, including the attempt to rescue Edgardo Mortara , established a colony for Jews in Palestine. In , his friend Judah Touro bequeathed money to fund Jewish residential settlement in Palestine. Montefiore was appointed executor of his will, and used the funds for a variety of projects, including building in the first Jewish residential settlement and almshouse outside of the old walled city of Jerusalem—today known as Mishkenot Sha'ananim.
Laurence Oliphant failed in a like attempt to bring to Palestine the Jewish proletariat of Poland, Lithuania, Romania, and the Turkish Empire and The official beginning of the construction of the New Yishuv in Palestine is usually dated to the arrival of the Bilu group in , who commenced the First Aliyah.
In the following years, Jewish immigration to Palestine started in earnest. Most immigrants came from the Russian Empire, escaping the frequent pogroms and state-led persecution in what are now Ukraine and Poland. They founded a number of agricultural settlements with financial support from Jewish philanthropists in Western Europe. Additional Aliyahs followed the Russian Revolution and its eruption of violent pogroms, as well as the Nazi persecution of the s.
At the end of the 19th century, Jews were a small minority in Palestine. Herzl's attempts to reach a political agreement with the Ottoman rulers of Palestine were unsuccessful and he sought the support of other governments. The WZO supported small-scale settlement in Palestine; it focused on strengthening Jewish feeling and consciousness and on building a worldwide federation. The Russian Empire , with its long record of state-organized genocide and ethnic cleansing "pogroms" , was widely regarded as the historic enemy of the Jewish people.
The Zionist movement's headquarters were located in Berlin, as many of its leaders were German Jews who spoke German. Throughout the first decade of the Zionist movement, there were several instances where Zionist figures supported a Jewish state in places outside Palestine, such as Uganda and Argentina. Some groups felt that accepting the scheme would make it more difficult to establish a Jewish state in Palestine , the African land was described as an " ante-chamber to the Holy Land". It was decided to send a commission to investigate the proposed land by to votes, with abstaining.
The following year, congress sent a delegation to inspect the plateau. A temperate climate due to its high elevation, was thought to be suitable for European settlement. However, the area was populated by a large number of Maasai , who did not seem to favour an influx of Europeans. Furthermore, the delegation found it to be filled with lions and other animals. After Herzl died in , the Congress decided on the fourth day of its seventh session in July to decline the British offer and, according to Adam Rovner, "direct all future settlement efforts solely to Palestine".