Green Zionism

Green Zionism? Isn't green Judaism enough?

The short answer is "no, we need green Zionism, too". The longer (but not too long) answer follows.

Quick digression: despite the connotations that the word Zionism has in many places, it simply refers to supporting the national identity of Jews in the State of Israel. There are Zionists who are doves and hawks, conservatives and liberals, religious and secular, feminist and patriarchal, capitalist and socialist, human rights activists and (terribly for the Jews) racists, peace activists and (also, terribly) warmongers.

My view is that modern green Judaism is an outgrowth of Zionism, although strongly grounded in Jewish traditions of caring for the land including the biblical requirement of leaving the land fallow every seven years. Quoting myself from earlier this year: Returning to the land of Israel and building the State of Israel has provided a physical framework for Judaism that was lacking over the prior 2000 years. During that period of exile, if Jews thought about nature or land, it was not Jewish land and therefore not Jewish nature. The State of Israel has made possible that Jews can think of Jewish land, Jewish environment, Jewish nature. In Israel, Jews now look around and see we have Jewish nature, a Jewish environment. As we look, we find that Jewish land is just a very, very small part of the planet earth, Jewish environment is just a very, very small mote in the web of the global environment, and Jewish nature is interwoven with the entire natural world that knows no boundaries.

Unfortunately, the experience of being steward with full responsibility for that sliver of land that is the State of Israel has not been a glowing example of environmental responsibility. Although the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is well known for the millions of trees planted throughout the land, its earlier actions were not always environmentally positive. For example, the JNF helped to "conquer the wilderness" for habitation and agriculture in the 1950s through actions such as the drying out of Hula Lake, which had been one of the most unique and important ecological systems in Israel. Alon Tal has written a book, the title of which tells the story Pollution in a Promised Land: An Environmental History of Israel.

So although Jews and Israelis now understand that we do have a relationship with land, nature, the environment, we are not yet great exemplars... certainly not a green light unto the nations (see Isaiah 42:6).

All is not lost however. This year's Hazon Israel ride was held in partnership with the JNF, now a much more environmentally sensitive organization. Also, at about the time I was buying my own bike, this summer the Green Zionist Alliance (GZA) was making progress at the World Zionist Congress. The World Zionist Congress is a worldwide representative body with a fair amount of philanthropic (and some Israeli government) money at its disposal. That the GZA is now a presence in the mainstream Zionist conversation is heartening to a green Jewish venture cyclist. Long may it last.

1 comment:

Richard Dale said...

My friend Dan Caine noted that, at great expense, Israel has re-flooded the Hula region, and that it is now a beautiful nature preserve, where many thousands of birds stop on their way from points north to Africa on their annual migration.