ZIONISM AND RELIGION: THE TRANSFORMATION OF AN IDEA Norman Solomon (Oxford University) The abstract term "Zionism" was coined by Nathan Birnbaum in 1890.1 It is derived from the biblical "Zion" (Hebrew: tziyyon), the fortress captured by David from the ,Jebusites (2 Sam. 5:7); the word came to designate Jerusalem (Amos 6:7), the Temple, or the people Israel. "When the Lord returns the captivity of Zion" (Ps. 127) looks to the restoration of the people from Babylon to the land of Israel. The language of "return to Zion" belongs to the vocabulary of traditional Judaism. The vocabulary of religion remains fairly con- stant over long periods; it defines the faith community and gives it identity as it wanders through times and places far from its origin. But the use and interpretation of that vocabulary change. Theologians give the community of the faithful a sense of continuity with their past by enabling them to talk the same language while subtly changing its meaning in response to new social and intellectual perceptions. Thus, as we shall see here, since the nineteenth century, several religious thinkers have reinterpreted the "return to Zion," whether consciously or not, to align it with contemporary European
Review of Rabbinic Judaism – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2000
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