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Another influential early Zionist was Ahad Ha’am (“One of the People” in Hebrew). Born Asher Ginsberg, he agreed with Mr. Herzl and other European Zionists of the time about the creation of a Jewish state as a political solution. However, in contrast to Mr. Herzl, he argued that the main problem facing Europe’s Jews, particularly those in Western Europe, was not so much anti-Semitism but cultural assimilation. Indeed, by the turn of the century, Jews in countries such as France, Germany and Great Britain participated in society as full citizens.

Ahad Ha’am espoused a “cultural Zionism,” maintaining that a Jewish state would be the only place where Jews could live out a full Jewish national culture. In a Jewish state, Jews could revive the Hebrew language and with it Hebrew literature, art, music and dance — all major elements of a thriving national culture.

Unlike Mr. Herzl, Ahad Ha’am argued that the creation of a Jewish state should not be thought of as a return to “normalization.” Rather, it should be uniquely Jewish: Its society should be fundamentally ethical and just and live up to the ideals of the prophets of Israel. The government and citizens should care for the minorities in its midst.

Also in the late 19th century, religious Jews — mostly members of Europe’s Orthodox communities — began advocating “religious Zionism.” In contrast to their political and cultural Zionist contemporaries, who for the most part envisioned a secular Jewish state, religious Zionists argued that the practice of a genuine Judaism ought to be a pillar of the Jewish state. They believed an authentic Jewish national identity cannot be separated from the practice of Judaism and that any attempt to define the Jewish people without the Jewish faith could not stand the test of time.

Religious Zionism steadily gained momentum in the 20th century, especially in the decades following the 1967 war, when significant numbers of Conservative and Reform Jews began embracing religious Zionism. Today, religious Zionism represents a major political, social and cultural force, and institutions promoting it operate throughout Israel. Its prominence corresponds to the growing trend among Israeli Jews from all religious communities to integrate the practice of Judaism into their sense of national identity.

Jewish identity in Israel today. An independent state now for 63 years, Israel is no longer a political proposal or idea, but a reality. The questions about modern Jewish identity first raised by the early Zionists have shifted to ones about the nature of Jewish identity in Israel today. The answers are complex and often controversial.

First of all, Israel has changed greatly over the past six decades. New waves of aliyah (“Jewish immigration to Israel” in Hebrew) have helped Israel grow from a population of 600,000 people in 1948 to a population of 7.8 million people in 2011, 75 percent of whom are Jewish. In the same time period, the idealism and socialism that characterized the early pioneers in the decades leading up to and the first years after independence have dissipated greatly.

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