Must a Jew believe in Israel?
Member of the House of Lords: “Mr. Weizmann, why do you Jews insist on Palestine when there are so many undeveloped countries you could settle in more conveniently?”
Chaim Weizmann: “That is like my asking you why you drove twenty miles to visit your mother last Sunday when there are so many old ladies living on your street.”

For millennia, Jews have ended each Passover seder with the words, “Next year in Jerusalem!” For some it was a quixotic dream, for others, a messianic vision, for still others, a delusion.

Then, 120 years ago, this declaration suddenly stopped being academic and became very real, and for one of the first times in Jewish history, Jews began asking themselves, “Must a Jew believe in Israel?” And if the answer was yes (or no), then, like any good Jew, we had a dozen follow up questions: Why must a Jew believe in Israel, or why not? And, what is “Israel” – is it a country, a state of mind, a spiritual concept, a mitzvah(commandment) or a flesh and blood state? If it is a state, is it a secular state or a religious one, or something in between?

These were the spiritual and cultural questions which undergirded the creation of Zionism – but all were based on an original core idea in Judaism, left undefined for thousands of years - that Israel was a mother, and we, errant children, on the verge of returning to her.

Beginning with the Tanach (Bible), we examine the promises of the land to Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya’akov and to the Jewish people and then we examine the history of the Jewish presence in the land as well as looking at various options for biblical borders. We explore the differences between the views of Chassidim, Chareidim, Mizrachi, Rabbi Kook, the Lubavitcher and Gerrer Rebbes and more. We conclude with a prospective view – where are we today and where are we headed?

Join Rabbi Sam Thurgood and the Academy in partnership with Beit Midrash Morasha for a voyage into Jewish belief and Jewish self-belief, a journey which has lasted over four thousand years and counting, where Israel may or may not be, the final destination.

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The Academy is a vibrant, modern-orthodox program for Jewish thought, scholarship and education and that inspires our community with a lifelong love of Jewish learning. About us…

In association with the London School of Jewish Studies (President: Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Dean: Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum, Honorary President: Emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks)