Cite: Zadoff, On Scholem’s Disillusionment with Zionism

Zadoff, Noam. "’Zion’s Self-Engulfing Light’: On Gershom Scholem’s Disillusionment with Zionism." Modern Judaism 31.3 (2011): 272-284.

 

URL: http://mj.oxfordjournals.org/content/31/3/272.short

 

Abstract

On the morning of September 20, 1923, the Jewish Day of Atonement, a small ship was approaching the port town of Jaffa on the shore of Palestine. The ship, which had sailed from Alexandria, carried on its deck two young German-Jewish scholars who were to become—each in his own field—renowned personalities in the history of Jewish Studies in the 20th century. The first, the orientalist Shlomo Dov Goitein, continued sailing with the ship until its next station—the port of Haifa. The second, Gershom Scholem, who was welcomed on shore by his fiancé Escha Burchhardt, disembarked from the ship and arrived for the first time, as a Zionist, at his destination, where he stayed for the rest of his life. In his memoir Scholem describes the process of adaptation and integration in the new land as an easy one from the personal, social, and ideological point of view.1 Nonetheless, on many occasions, he expressed discontentment with the local Jewish life, complaining about the cultural and political situation in Jerusalem.2 The reasons for this discontent varied but they were mainly connected to the political developments in Palestine, to the direction that the Yishuv took, and to the dramatic events in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. This article concentrates on three important moments in the history of Zionism as well as in Scholem’s private life: first, the riots of 1929 and their aftermath; second, the realization of the destruction of European Jewry by the Yishuv in Palestine in 1943; and third, the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Each of these events represents a turning point for the Jewish collective, as well as a turning point for Scholem as a private person on the way in the process of fulfilling his Zionist utopia.

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