From Hollywood to the cornfields of Ohio, from the small liberal arts colleges in New England to the large universities throughout the country, I see one prevailing commonality: the struggle to understand the other and the fight for what freedom means to them. Former President Ronald Reagan believed that, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.” Rightfully so, every individual must stand by his or her principles, protect their rights and ensure that freedom sounds within their community.
For me, Zionism represents that struggle for freedom and equity. Following thousands of years in exile and centuries of racism throughout the world, Zionism sought a solution that would protect the Jewish people from discrimination and would grant them the same political, national rights embraced in Western thought. The reconstitution of a modern Jewish state in Judea united Jews around the world and ensured their safety and continuity in a dangerous world.
Zionism has never denied those same freedoms and rights to people based on their sexual identity, ethnicity, religion or race. It is woven in the legal fabric that Israel was founded upon. No country in the Middle East can compare for its commitment to empowering women, accepting the LGBTQ community, promoting religious tolerance and fighting racial divides from communal and governmental circles. To be a Zionist is, to me, fighting not only for my own freedoms and liberties but also for those who wish to be free in an increasingly problematic world. Zionism inspires me to stand up for all people and for all struggles, especially for those who may not know how.
That desire for freedom has always existed, from the pinnacle of the women’s suffrage movement to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. It is extended to this summer’s ruling that love is love and that same-sex marriage ought to be the law of the land.
Yet, with every new era comes a new battle, and today’s continues to be that of freedom. Just because we broke boundaries to get to this point doesn’t mean we can stop here. The Civil Rights movement was a huge milestone in our history from slavery to full citizen, yet racism still exists. Women’s suffrage brought women from the kitchen to the polls, yet women are still faced with stereotypes to break. Same-sex marriage brought love to a whole new level, yet homophobia still exists.
As students in a university that prides itself in true liberal values and free-flowing ideas, we must understand that fighting for freedom is very real. One should never appropriate someone’s struggles for his or her personal gain; that’s inconsistent and disrespectful to the very cause and the people that are fighting. We must learn that we cannot be selective in whose self-determination we stand for. If you truly stand on the side of sovereignty, you will proudly support freedom for all. You cannot fight for one group’s freedom by taking away that of another’s. At the very core of Zionism lies a uniting force that together, we can change the world for the better. It is a movement and love story between a people to make the world a brighter place. It all starts here.
Standing up for what is moral and just: that is Zionism, that is feminism, that is civil rights and that is liberty and justice for all.