Definition of Zionism: the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.
Growing up in Israel I always knew - I am a Zionist.
I felt it when I was three years old sitting with eight people in a small room hiding from rockets during the Gulf War, when all I could think about is what is the chance something will happen to me if I remove my face mask just to have something small to eat.
I felt it when I was six and the teacher asked as where we were born and I knew that my family had chosen to come here from Russia.
I felt it when I was eight, eating Israeli chocolate and thinking this is the best chocolate in the world (can’t say anything changed in that area).
I felt it every day in Tel Aviv when I was taking the bus to school, when terror attacks on buses were happening on a daily basis.
I felt it every summer coming back from a family trip in Israel, excited to land in Ben-Gurion airport, feeling like I’m making “aliya,” feeling home, (ignoring the fact that I was gone only for a week or two).
I felt Zionist when I was standing with 120 of my school friends in Poland, knowing that I represent the next generation, the Jewish country that those people didn’t get to see.
I felt Zionist when I joined the Israeli army and I couldn’t feel more Zionist then when I finished my officer's training.
I felt Zionist when I was in Poland again. This time in a special army delegation, proudly leading the march of the living in Auschwitz.
But this week, I had and opportunity for the first time in my life to discover what makes an American teenager in the USA feel Zionist. After reading the dictionary definition of “Zionism” together, my students were proud to say they feel like Zionists too. What makes you a Zionist, I asked? And they answered:
“Growing up as one Jew in a class of 30 students in a public school makes me Zionist, defending Israel to my friends without really knowing how to do it, that makes me a Zionist. Going to afternoon school and being here with the Shlicha, studying Hebrew, choosing to remind our friends that we are different then they are, that makes us Zionist. Watching the news and being concerned about Israel makes me a Zionist, going to Israel for a summer, that makes me a Zionist.”
And then I realized - growing up in Israel made me a Zionist, but for my students - growing up in the USA made them no less a Zionist then I am.
Nowadays people interpret Zionism more as a love for Israel, and I am sure that that’s how my students think about it as well, and luckily that's exactly what Israel needs. Israel needs the support and love of Jewish communities around the world. Israel needs to be reminded that she is being loved, that she is still at the heart of this family and that this family is ready to cry with Israel when needed, and to rejoice whenever we can.
In Netanyahu’s speech this week at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly with numerous Obama cabinet members in attendance, he said that “the result of our joint efforts has been a stronger Israel. And only a strong Israel can achieve peace.”
I believe in this joint effort, I believe we can make it, and that we will make it. I am a Zionist, and I believe that the Jewish children in Minnesota are as well.