What is Zionism?

Zionism is a movement founded by Theodor Herzl in 1896 whose goal is the return of Jews to Eretz Yisrael, or Zion, the Jewish synonym for Jerusalem and the Land of Israel.

The name of "Zionism" comes from the hill Zion, the hill on which the Temple of Jerusalem was situated.

Supporters of this movement are called "Zionists".

Today there is much confusion among Jews over the meaning of the term Zionism. It means different things to different people.

The reason for this is that historically, Zionism has been a movement dominated by secularist Jews. Herzl and most of his colleagues were assimilated Jews, who did not believe in or practice the Torah. Some Zionists were vehemently anti-religious, and saw the Torah and mitzvos as outdated rituals with no place in their modern state.

Yet the essence of the Zionist idea - that Jews should return to the Holy Land and establish a government - is not inherently secular, and in fact the Zionist movement had some religious members from the very beginning.

Some Jews today use Zionism as a synonym for Israeli secularism, and thus support the State of Israel while claiming to be anti-Zionist. These people's only complaint about the State of Israel is that it is not religious enough. They hope for the day when the state will be dominated by the religious parties.

But this is not the meaning of the term Zionism as used on this site. When we talk about Zionism here, we are refering to the concept that Jews should rise up, emancipate themselves from exile without waiting for the messiah, and establish a Jewish government in the Holy Land. Using Jewish texts, we demonstrate that this concept is against the Torah and has been opposed by rabbis in all generations.

There have been hundreds of rabbis over the past century who spoke out against the Zionist movement. But because of the ambiguity of the term, it is not always possible to prove that a given rabbi meant to oppose the concept of Zionism, rather than just secularism. For this reason, religious Zionists often make the claim that much rabbinic opposition to Zionism was only because it was a secular movement. On the Rabbinic Quotations section of this site, we have avoided this confusion by carefully selecting those quotations that are clearly against the concept of Zionism itself. As the reader will see, these quotations alone are enough proof that almost all of the greatest sages and leaders of the Jewish people opposed the establishment of a Jewish state.