Restoring inclusion, inspiration to the Zionist world: we can do better – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on November 3, 2020

The 38th World Zionist Congress opened and closed its virtual doors last week amid a flurry of activity. Yes, this is the same Zionist Congress that Theodor Herzl convened 123 years ago; the same one that, prior to Israels declaration of independence in 1948, formed the pragmatic framework of our modern state. In its very early days, the congress served as a kind of accelerator for Zionist creativity, innovating new structures and national institutions to form what would become the Start-Up Nation.Much has changed in the world since that original gathering in Basel, Switzerland: two world wars, the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust, the establishment of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state, the transfer of most of the power and responsibilities from the national institutions to the government of Israel, the absorption of millions of new immigrants to Israel, several decisive wars upon the Jewish state, and five peace accords with neighboring Arab countries.But the Zionist Congress has remained largely unchanged. It is still the ultimate and, some argue, the only meeting place where Jews from all over the world can sit around the table as equals to discuss and deliberate issues of importance to the global Jewish people.However, If the Zionist movement was indeed once the most innovative Jewish force, the spirit of imagination and innovation that characterized its bold plans and ideas has dissipated. Today, in its place, Israel is considered the Start-Up Nation because of the innovation and ingenuity of Israeli entrepreneurs. In areas from artificial intelligence to cybersecurity, water technologies, desert agriculture, fintech and medical devices, Israel is recognized as a global innovator. However, one area that has escaped the spirit of innovation is the Zionist movement.Instead, against a backdrop of global pandemic, a world-wide rise in antisemitism, and increasing distance between Diaspora communities and Israeli leadership, the congress was shrouded in controversy regarding the inclusion of new constituents who threatened to upset the balance of power and the status quo. Much of the deliberations surrounding the congress concentrated on the right-wing majority and its impact on the different leadership roles and positions that would be allocated to Israels national institutions.Matters of vision, new ideas and new efforts for expanded Zionist engagement were deferred until future dates.Given that this congress was held in a virtual format for the first time in its history, it is understandable that the vast time differences between the global Jewish communities severely limited the capacity for meaningful debate. However, this reinforced the growing perception that the once lofty, ideologically driven and inventive Zionist Congress had become stale.

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Restoring inclusion, inspiration to the Zionist world: we can do better - The Jerusalem Post

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