Jessica Leitner Essay

I can remember exactly when I became a Zionist. I was 13 years old and was spending the summer in
Israel with my family again. On a trip to Jerusalem, I stoodat the Kotel, and wondered why people
make such a big deal over a wall. On my right was an older woman sitting in a chair crying and rocking
while her fingers intertwined with each other. On my left was a young woman in a long black dress
standing an inch from the wall looking down at her prayer book and shifting her weight from her toes
to heels. Her moans were filled with overpowering emotion and seemed to fill up the cracks in
theKotel. It occurred to me that Jews have been coming to this wall for thousands of years, and I am a
small but integral part of our past and future. At that moment I realized how important Israel is to
the continuity of my Jewish people.
Over the years my love for Israel grew, and my strong connection to Israel ultimately strengthened my
Jewish identity. The more time I spent in Israel, the harder it was for me to return to my assimilated
lifestyle in California. Life felt much more meaningful there, and as the years passed I began to yearn
more for Israel.
I haven’t considered myself to be a religious person, so traveling and living in Israel has given me
strong ties to the Jewish community. Each year upon my return from spending the summer in Israel,
my Jewish identity is strengthened with strong feelings of Zionism. I feel that the main reason for my
strong connection to Judaism is Israel. Israel is the definition of Judaism for me. It means the
assurance of an everlasting Jewish presence on Earth. Israel brings hope to Jews everywhere in the
world. They know that no matter what happens, Israel is there to take them in with open arms.
To me, Zionism is not only the belief that Israel has the right to exist, but also the act of showing
support of Israel’s existence. It is the Jewish people’s obligation to do everything they can to ensure
the continuity of Israel. Not only can Jews live there in freedom, but it also lessens the amount of
intermarriage which is a detrimental factor contributing to assimilation.
Being a Zionist today isn’t always easy. Extreme liberals sometimes view Zionistsas racists and
nationalists. In response to this, many people are afraid to call themselves a Zionist in public. College
campuses are not the most Zionist friendly environments. In fact it is commonly popular to be anti‐
Zionist, which is anti‐Semitism when only Israel and its people are being condemned. To be a Zionist
means bravery and standing up for Israel when it isn’t the popular thing to do. Golda Meir said,
“Zionism and pessimism are not compatible,” which sums up the meaning of Zionism for me. All odds
are against Israel. There are 26 official Muslim states, most of which don’t recognize Israel as a state,
and many countries in Europe who despise Israel. It seems that most of the world is fighting against
Israel’s favor. To be a true Zionist you must be optimistic. It’s essential to believe that Israel has the
ability to overcome all obstacles and will continue to be the Jewish homeland.
I am a Zionist today and will be until the day I die. Israel ensures safety not only for me but for my
children and their children. Israel is my Judaism, my beliefs, my family, and my home. Israel is me.