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Season two

A HISTORY OF ZIONISM, 1860-1948

What is Zionism?

How did Zionism lead to the creation of the State of Israel? The project to return the Jewish People to the land where they came from is a story of many roots, ideologies, mistakes, tragedies, and triumphs. And the people who devoted their lives, and sometimes sacrificed them, for the dream to come true.  


The Big Ideas

You really oughta know the big ideas about this era of the Zionist Movement. Tap into each topic below (listed in chronological order to help you keep to the story) to explore it more fully, albeit only scratching the surface). Of course, you’ll get the more complete story in the podcast itself: a history of Zionism, one episode at a time.

Zionism is the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their indigenous homeland, and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. It’s rooted in ancient history and two millennia of Jewish liturgy, language, culture, literature, and action. In the latter half of the 1800s the Zionist Movement arose as an answer to the oppression, persecution, and assimilation of Jews in Europe. It wasn’t one ideology, but many — like branches from a tree, Zionism pushed out in several directions.


The ability of Jews to immigrate to Palestine was key to the entire Zionist project, for it meant both saving them from European oppression and providing the human capital needed to develop the Jewish homeland. It was not only difficult but also the flashpoint around which Jewish politics often turned, and was a major point of contention between Jews, Arabs, and the British up until the creation of Israel.


The Arab-Israeli conflict today has its roots in the early 1900s, when tensions between incoming Jewish settlers and local Arabs boiled over into violence. A nascent Arab nationalist movement, and Middle Eastern geopolitics, gave rise to a distinct Palestinian Arab identity that found expression, in part, in opposition to Jewish immigration and a Jewish homeland. So who was there first and how did the conflict start?


Palestine became a British colony after World War One. The British had already promised to support the creation of a Jewish homeland there, in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. But they also promised that the Arabs would get a state. These irreconcilable promises fueled nearly thirty years of violence and conflict in Palestine; it also built Palestine into a vital and viable nation.


From small self-defense units in the early 1900s, to full-fledged underground combat units by the 1940s, Jewish self-defense came in many guises. The Zionist Movement fought over the proper method of resistance against the Arabs and the British: from smuggling refugees to terrorism, the Yishuv realized that the Jews would have to fight in order to have their homeland in Palestine.