Gil Troy – The Zionist Ideas: Visions for the Jewish Homeland

February 16, 2018

What’s Happening

Tuesday, March 13, 7:30 pm
Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library, 4100 Virginia Beach Blvd, Virginia Beach
Free and open to the community

A leading political historian and one of today’s most prominent activists in the fight against the de-legitimization of Israel, Gil Troy visits Tidewater as the Israel Today series continues. Israel Today is presented by United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Community Relations Council, Simon Family JCC, and community partners.

Troy, a distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University and Research Fellow in the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Engaging Israel Program, will discuss his latest book, The Zionist Ideas: Visions for the Jewish Homeland—Then, Now, Tomorrow. The book is slated for release this spring.

The Community Relations Council recently spoke with Troy.

Community Relations Council:
What is the renewed Zionist vision?

Troy: In the beginning there was the Zionist Idea—the Jews are a people, with collective rights to their homeland, and need a state—as both refuge and opportunity. Today, we have the Zionist Ideas, debating how to perfect that Jewish state, but also understanding that Zionism isn’t only about helping other Jews and building a Jewish state—it’s about joining an exciting debate about who we are, individually and collectively, and who we can be. I call this Identity Zionism—and, with respect to JFK, don’t only ask “what you can do for your country” but really do ask “what can our country—Israel—do for us?”

CRC: How does Israel continue to flourish as a democratic Jewish state?

Troy: The old joke “2 Jews 3 opinions” now needs to be updated: one Israel, 20 different political parties. The robustness of debate is only one sign of democratic vitality— the basic rights all Israelis enjoy and take for granted is another. We should be wary of false nostalgia: Israel in the 1950s was a modern miracle in the making—but it was a tough place: Ben-Gurion’s socialism was often heavy-handed, Israeli Arabs were under a military regime—Israel today, for all is faults, is far more open, tolerant, respectful, pluralistic, and free!

CRC: What is your vision of a future Israel?

Troy: Like all Western countries, Israel is both blessed and cursed by prosperity. How do we continue to live in a country of “we” in a world that’s all about me—how do we continue to be a Values Nation in an age of cynicism and selfishness? At the same time, as the only Jewish state, Israel also faces an extra set of challenges: how do we respect one another’s freedom to be different while maintaining a public Jewish culture that’s somewhat coherent? How do we balance tradition and modernity?

I am not a Zionist because I have all the right answers—I am a Zionist because I am excited about asking all these tough questions, and inviting us all as a people in Israel and beyond to debate these questions, experiment with different answers, and use Israel, the greatest Jewish adventure of the 21st century—as a great Jewish peoplehood building project—and a model to the rest of the world about how to live well, how to live wisely, how to live justly, how to live ethically.

The Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Simon Family JCC, along with community partners, present Israel Today @ 70. For more information or to RSVP (required) for this free and open to the community event, visit JewishVA.org/GilTroy.

Letter to the Editor