October 15, 2018

How the Six-Day War Transformed Religion

“At its core, early Zionism was a secular, even militantly atheist, movement. For the Jewish people to change the course of their history, reclaim their homeland, and establish a modern state in it, they had to rebel against God and Messiah. They had to emerge from two millennia of passivity to become their own messiahs, vehicles of their own redemption.

Many Jews of faith rejected Zionism on account of its rebellion, warning their brethren to keep waiting for God to redeem them in His own good time. But one group attempted to provide a religious context for Zionism. Attracted to the revolutionary nature of the Zionist movement but baffled by the fact that the return of the Jewish people to the Promised Land was carried out by a group of atheists, religious Zionists argued that the godless communists of early Zionism were doing God’s work even if they claimed otherwise, and that the process of redemption had begun.

For many decades, religious Zionism remained a marginal, and quite meek, movement in Zionism—and in Judaism. But 1967 changed that. In six short days, Israel swung from the fear of annihilation to the euphoria of an astounding victory. The tiny country tripled its size to include not just the Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula, but the cradles of Jewish civilization, including the Temple Mount, East Jerusalem (the Zion of Zionism, home of holy sites), and the West Bank (the territory of Judea, home of the ancient Judeans).

For those who believed that God works in mysterious ways to bring about the redemption of the Jewish people, 1967 was proof.”

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