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Jewish Zionism & Mormon Zionism


Robert F. Smith

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I know of a number of Mormons who have gone to Israel, some living and working for awhile on a kibbutz and learning Hebrew there, others studying at an Israeli university, some excavating at archeological sites, others serving in the Israeli Army -- some having actually been in combat, and a number spending many years in country. One close friend of mine even trained with Israeli paratroopers and did training jumps with them.

Perhaps the most famous of Mormons to have spent time on a kibbutz is Carol Lynn Wright (Pearson). She was still single at the time and wrote about her experience.

I recently saw a film Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh (Katahdin, 2009) . It was a docudrama filmed in Israel and Hungary about a young Jewish Zionist.

Is there something we can learn about the powerful idealism of such youth? Is there something we can say about how the efforts of Jewish Zionists compare with those of Mormon Zioinists? Did Jewish pioneers have it any easier than the Mormon pioneers? Was their exodus from Europe to Palestine akin to our exodus from Illiinois? Were the waves of converts coming across the Atlantic en route to Deseret similar to the waves of Jewish aliyah to the Holy Land?

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I, honestly, know hardly anything about this topic. When you say "Mormon Zionism" what exactly do you mean? I have never had a strong interest in modern Judaism nor in the modern nation of Israel. I think I was a turned off when I was younger after a number of meetings with some self-identified Christians who had some practices that I was not comfortable with. These practices turned me off to this group. They also seemed to worship the (modern) nation of Israel, which I think I was turned off to by association. It's been a while, though. Perhaps I could look into it. Is the film worth watching without a sufficient background, or is there something I should read before watching it?

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I, honestly, know hardly anything about this topic. When you say "Mormon Zionism" what exactly do you mean? I have never had a strong interest in modern Judaism nor in the modern nation of Israel. I think I was a turned off when I was younger after a number of meetings with some self-identified Christians who had some practices that I was not comfortable with. These practices turned me off to this group. They also seemed to worship the (modern) nation of Israel, which I think I was turned off to by association. It's been a while, though. Perhaps I could look into it. Is the film worth watching without a sufficient background, or is there something I should read before watching it?

From what I've heard, the film was extremely well done. I've seen other documentaries on her, read her poetry, and even heard from people who knew her. Its a beautiful, moving story. Her family was assimilated into Hungarian society, she went to a Christian school, but felt a powerful connection to her own people. She emmigrated to Israel with her brother, went to an agricultural school, and wrote poetry. She was very refined, and stood out from her peers. She was a little unhappy with her Hebrew name, because the 'Ch' IN Hannah was too guttural for her, being used to the soft way Hungarians said Anna. When the 2nd World War broke out, she and some of her friends volunteered for an SOE unit which would relay information by radio from behind enemy lines in the Balkans. Things were botched from the start, and she was captured by the Arrow Crosses. They turned her over to the Nazis... "Blessed is the Match" wasn't quite her last poem, but it was written after she parachuted into Europe, it isn't a light poem at all.

Her most famous one is this, written in the form of a brief prayer upon an excursion to the beaches and ruins of Caesaraea. My God, my god, let it never cease- the sand and the sea, the sound of the waves, the lightning in the sky, man's prayer.

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I, honestly, know hardly anything about this topic. When you say "Mormon Zionism" what exactly do you mean? I have never had a strong interest in modern Judaism nor in the modern nation of Israel. I think I was a turned off when I was younger after a number of meetings with some self-identified Christians who had some practices that I was not comfortable with. These practices turned me off to this group. They also seemed to worship the (modern) nation of Israel, which I think I was turned off to by association. It's been a while, though. Perhaps I could look into it. Is the film worth watching without a sufficient background, or is there something I should read before watching it?

Mormon Zionism was the powerful impetus of the Latter-day Saints to gather to a central location, first to Kirtland, Ohio, then to Missouri, then to Nauvoo, Illinois, and finally to the Great Salt Lake Basin, where they fled for safety from calls to "exterminate" them. Zion was the "pure in heart," and an effort to create a refuge for the Saints of the Last Days and to bring to pass the restoration of the original Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Following the Mormon Exodus led by Brigham Young (often called an "American Moses") -- based on D&C 136 -- the Perpetual Emigration Fund was created to enable converts to gather to Zion. To that end, one could find Mormons singing about Zion -- their Hymnbook is filled with such songs, e.g., "Israel, Israel, God is Calling." , and one could find thousands of LDS converts from around the world making their way to Deseret (Utah), and then creating such co-ops as Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI). The Mormons were becoming a people. An ethnicity.

Joseph Smith the Prophet sent one of his Apostles, Orson Hyde, to Palestine in order to dedicate it to the gathering of the Jews. This Elder Hyde did in a dedicatory prayer on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem in 1841. Jews began gathering in earnest in a series of aliyot in the late 19th century and early 20th. This was the Jewish Zionist movement which received such strong impetus from the writings of Theodore Herzl, and a realization that Jews were unsafe and subject to persecution everywhere: The Dreyfuss Affair had made clear that no degree of assimilation of Jews could protect them from prejudice. The bestiality of the 20th century brought to an end forever any notion that Jews could survive and flourish within any non-Jewish nation.

The film I cited (you can click on it to view it) is a good introduction to part of that story of Jewish Zionism and the circumstances surrounding it. You don't need to know anything about it. It is self-explanatory. Reminds me of the fact that I knew nothing about Jews or Judaism before going to live for a time in Israel back in the 60s. I learned a lot and never regretted it for a moment. It takes time to learn such things. Allow yourself the time and leisure.

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