Last of the Herzlians

Categories: Letters from the Leadership

In my last “President’s View” I shared with you Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich’s explanation of her Zionist identification from an interview in Ha’aretz. Since the topic of Zionism is not one that is regularly covered in the pages of Israeli daily papers, I was surprised to see the headline “Last of the Herzlians” atop an interview with Minister of Education MK Yuli Tamir last week in Ha’aretz. Within three weeks, two Labor MK’s are featured in the Ha’aretz Weekend Magazine discussing Zionism; as a progressive Zionist I am certainly encouraged to hear thoughtful Israeli leaders connect their current political involvement to their Zionist identification.

Minister Tamir’s eloquent words speak for themselves so I will share a few excerpts with you. The link to the entire interview is at the end of this post.

Tamir on Herzl’s vision:

“My Israeli utopia? I buy Herzl’s Altneuland, every word of it This is my favorite book, really. One of the most important books I know. Herzl was a bourgeois liberal; I’m more of a social democrat. He came from the heart of the Viennese bourgeoisie, strudel with whipped cream and concerts. This is something a bit foreign to me, but nevertheless he had a cooperative social consciousness and egalitarian thinking about social justice with the Arabs, the advancement of women and so on. In short, I am apparently the last of the Herzlians.”

Tamir on growing up in the labor movement

“I grew up in a labor movement home. My mother came from a rooted and established family, second generation in this country, with the three famous brothers-in-law, leaders of the Yishuv [pre-state Jewish community in Palestine] Dov Hoz, Eliahu Golomb and Moshe Sharett……this family background made me very conscious of the labor movement. My childhood was ordinary, without dramas. There has always been something of a kibbutznik about me, because of the sandals and the full skirt. They always said to me that I was a Ramat Avivnik who looks the least like a Ramat Avivnik. I grew up in a very old-style land of Israel home, Mapainik in the best sense of the word: ideology, commitment and love of the land of Israel.”

Tamir on “reverse discrimination” for Israeli Arabs

Equal opportunity and partnership with the Arabs seem to me to be the most important goals. A few years from now one third of first-graders will be Arab, one-third ultra-Orthodox and one-third secular. It is necessary to find ways to integrate the Arabs into society. It is not enough not to discriminate, it is necessary to invest effort in building a common citizenry. As education minister, I have thrown away all the old maps of conflict locales that discriminated against Arabs – and I relate only to fortification areas, according to where the Katyushas fall. I am in favor of reverse discrimination. This is very significant, to my mind. Last year 700 new kindergartens were opened, a third of them in the Arab sector. This year we also opened 700 kindergartens – 70 percent in the Arab sector.”

About Kenneth Bob, National President

Kenneth Bob is the National President of Ameinu. He is a member of the Jewish Agency for Israel Board of Governors,  the treasurer of Board of Directors of J Street and a board member of the Forward Association. Ken is a past chair of the Habonim Dror Foundation, the national alumni association of the Labor Zionist youth movement, providing financial support for their educational programming throughout North America. In his professional life, Ken is an experienced entrepreneur and currently provides management consulting for small and merging companies.
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