Posted on February 13, 2020 by Amanda Avnery
This blog post was written by Amanda Avnery (Year program ’20)
The generation that drank the routine of exile and subjugation more than any generation before it…the generation that its entire existence is to be a bridge from the destruction and exile to a life of freedom and independence…” (Katznelson, Davar Newspaper, 1934). This quote by Berl Katznelson, former editor of the Davar Newspaper, gives us an idea of the motivation behind the roughly 35,000 Jews who immigrated to Israel in the early 1900s during the Second Aliyah movement. These immigrants were fleeing a life of persecution to pursue security, success, and ultimately renewal in a land of Biblical significance, otherwise known as Zionism. On our Pardes tiyul to Kvutzat Kineret, an agricultural training school functioning during the early 1900s for Jewish Olim (immigrants), I was able to add yet another dimension to my personal Zionism. Through learning about the ideology of heroic thinkers of the Second Aliyah, such as Katzanelson, A.D. Gordon, Rachel Bluwstein, and others, we got a chance to view the Jewish story through a different lens. This was the lens of Jews fleeing pogroms in Western Europe to build a life of freedom in the land which tradition tells to be flowing with milk and honey. These Jews, who largely self-identified as secular, followed their intuition to leave their homes and risk their lives to move to Israel and build up the land through farming, a venture which they had little to no experience in, during a time when malaria threatened the land.
Eretz Yisrael seems to have a timeless force that tugs on Jews from around the world. What I call a religious homeland, my fellow Jews of the 1900s Aliyah movement might have called a land of freedom from oppression and opportunity for success. Regardless of the reason for connection to the land, as Jews, we can agree that there is nowhere else we’d rather be. Going into my second month living in Israel for the spring semester at Pardes, I am energized to cherish the soil I am living on (and the wonderfully fresh fruits and vegetables growing on that soil!), in conjunction with the holy sites running rampant in this country. I am reminded of the multi-faceted Jewish story and connection to this land, and I continue to yearn for further security and success for the Jewish people in this land. The Zionist songwriter Naomi Shemer wrote, “Overall these things, overall these things / Please guard for me my good G-d / Over the honey and the [bee] sting / Over the bitter and the sweet”. Naomi’s words hit home for me today, as I consider the many hardships faced in this land beginning from Biblical times, and I am getting a feel for the nuanced, messy life here today. And yet, I am experiencing the inexplicably sweet feeling of what it means to live on this soil, nutrient-rich with love and passion. I feel fully alive.