July 13, 2024
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The Next Generation of Zionists Must Rise

We are never going back into hiding.

Nearly 300,000 pro-Israel activists took to the Capital Mall in Washington D.C. to stand in solidarity with Israel on Tuesday. Elected leadership from both major political parties told the world that the United States stands with Israel in the face of “Palestinian” jihad and global antisemitism. While this moment should bring pride to the Jewish community, it cannot be where our activism ends. We must all continue to speak out against the atrocities that Jews are facing internationally, with or without large-scale gatherings as a backdrop.

Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, noted, “The Jewish question exists wherever the Jews live, however small their number.” That statement rings with the utmost clarity today. From Cleveland to Paris to Turkey, we are witnessing levels of antisemitism not seen since the time leading up to the onset of the Holocaust. Jewish homes and businesses are being marked, Jewish cemeteries vandalized, and Jewish students are being offered shelter in university library attics. We must be clear; we are never going back into hiding in attics or under the floorboards.

While the circumstances are abhorrent, now is the time to craft the next generation of Zionists.

We must recruit and train the activists that will win back American universities and places of discourse. Jews and allies everywhere have a seemingly endless stream of opportunities to get involved at this very moment. We are in no position to sit by and allow antisemitism to consume our institutions, and inaction is no different than endorsement. To the members of the Jewish community who do not want to bring attention to their Judaism or think they can wait this out, you will regret your decisions.

In the 1920s, when antisemitism began to sweep Europe, Jews all across the continent told themselves, “This too shall pass.” When the Brownshirts took power in Germany, and Hitler’s rise took shape, they said to themselves, “Things are bad, but it will pass.” Even as Jewish businesses were destroyed and our communities rounded up, we lied to ourselves that we could ignore the problem at hand. We have seen this moment in history before and must refuse to repeat it.

There are no “good Jews” to the powers that seek our slaughter, only those who get taken last.

We can redefine the discussion around Israel for generations if we rise to the moment. By making clear that Israel exists to ensure that the Holocaust can never happen again, we make Jews everywhere safer. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir told then-Senator Joe Biden during the 1973 Yom Kippur War that Israelis have a secret weapon, “We have nowhere else to go.”

This comment was not made by a prime minister born in Israel: Meir was born in Kyiv, Ukraine and lived in the United States for years. She fundamentally understood that Israel was the last bastion of Jewish security.

Zionism is more than a right to a Jewish state. It is the declaration that the Jewish people will never fall again. We saw in the hundreds of thousands how strong we can be if we band together. There is no reason we cannot project that strength every day.

As Meir put it, “If we have to have a choice between being dead and pitied and being alive with a bad image, we’d rather be alive and have the bad image.”

The key difference today is we are positioned to be alive and revered; it just takes a new wave of Zionism to rise.


The writer was awarded the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Activist of the Year Award in 2020 and 2021. He is an Arizona State University–Watts College of Public Service Master of Public Policy graduate.

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