Awake Zion!

I had the pleasure of seeing Awake Zion! at the Margaret Mead film festival, and I highly recommend it.
The film addresses the similarities between Rastafarian theology and Judaism, ones that are apparent to those who listen closely to reggae lyrics but are lost on those who like them solely for their groove. I should say that I was in part drawn to Judaism by Robert Nesta Marley–his were the first prophetic words I knew by heart, words that led me to see Zion as more than the physical Jerusalem I knew and loved. Redemption Song, for me, was a Zionist message ala Pinsker, and Zion Train a call to Aliya.
The film has some shortcomings–Monica Chaim did not interview Ethiopian Israelis, which made it seem as if Judaism was a “white” thing and Rasta “black,” and the main source of Jewish tradition she accessed–an orthodox rabbi–was shamefully ignorant of the deep connection of Ethiopian Jewry to the children of Israel. But overall it was thought provoking, casting new light on questions of Jewish peoplehood, faith, and the yearning for Zion.
The key question I keep asking myself is why Zion can be such a popular symbol of hope, of destiny, and yet Zionism has become a scourge in the world’s eyes? No question that the reality of Zionism has left many hurt and wounded, and I feel deeply for those people. But no national movement has arisen without conflict with others who would deny a people’s collective rights to self-determination. So why is Zionism singled out? I don’t think it is only because it is a Jewish movement. There must be something more there. Could it be that Zionism offends believers by transforming a sacred concept in their eyes into a secular, mundane one?


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