Since I will not be updating for the weekend, I thought to give a brief explanation: I am going to the Hashomer Hatzair North American 80th reunion. That’s right, Hashomer Hatzair, one of the oldest youth movements in the world, is celebrating 80 years of activity in North America, and it, like the rest of the left, is going through an identity crisis.
Interestingly enough, though, the summer camp has been keeping the movement alive. When I was the national director, back in 1996-97, we tried to rebuild the movement from the bottom up, restructuring the leadership and organization so that Hashomer could remake itself for the times. Into what?
That’s the question. I argue that Hashomer needs to rethink its relationship to Judaism. As a life-long Shomer, and someone who two years ago began keeping Shabbat, I can say that the radical-secular ideology of Hashomer can be reconciled with Judaism. Now that Israel is a reality, Hashomer’s Zionism needs to move from Hertzl’s politico-centric to Ahad Ha’am’s identity-centric paradigm.
Yes, Israel still needs to be fought for and defended, but we also need to meet the domestic challenge of the secular-religious divide if Israel is to be a healthy state.
In general, the rejection of Judaism by the movement in its infancy was a necessary vehicle to divorce the young from the lands of their birth. Distancing themselves from the Diaspora tradition, Hashomer set on reclaiming the Hebrew identity, and, in doing so, rejected the Jewish one. Members of Hashomer in Israel wore Kaffiot–the Arab head-dress–and worked the land alongside Arabic laborers. They grew roots into the soil and hoped to reincorporate themselves into the Middle Eastern reality.
While the need to reject Europe is still strong in my eyes, no longer do we have to reject the Jewish identity. We can be relatively safe in the assumption that Israel has become a fixture of the Middle Eastern mosaic, no matter the continual rejection of our half-brothers Eastward. From this point of view, we need to re-engage our Jewish roots in Europe–and the Middle East and North Africa–to create a fuller identity, one which understands and accepts the millennia of exile.
In doing so, by incorporating the Jewish identity into the Left Wing-Zionist ideology, we can begin to understand the “other” within Israeli society and build bridges to that section of the community. Let’s not forget the story of Tisha B’Av: it was the split within the nation of Israel that led to the second destruction of the Jewish State.