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Zionism was a response to this oppression of assimilation.
It sought to cultivate harmony and unity in the Jewish nation, as opposed to self-effacement.
It is important to note that Jews felt marginalised and betrayed, especially the Germany Jewry who had endeavoured to assimilate. Who created the German national movement in Austria? Furthermore, Zionism was a response to anti-Semitism in the sense that it sought to put the Jews on good terms with their Gentile neighbours, Herzl articulates that the Jews shall depart as honoured friends, if some returned they would be greeted as favourable and civilised. Thus Zionism was a solution for the failure of assimilation and a way to abate the aggressive growth of anti-Semitism that threatened the existence of the Jewish nation, by uniting the nation Herzl believed not only could anti-Semitism be allayed but, the Jewish spirit would be revived.
The impact of anti-Semitism is evident through Jewish literature, such as Schnitzler’s Weg in Feie, where Ehrenberg states, “Who created the liberal movement in Austria? The crux of Zionism is a movement as an effect of the precarious situation in Europe, thus a response to the need of security and national dignity, through unity.
Zionism was also a response to the need for unity; Hovevei Zion was understood as the only way to ensure Jewish collective existence, ‘as religion could no longer serve to unify our hearts’.
At its core, Zionism sought to rebuild something that anti-Semitism and failure of assimilation had destroyed – the Jewish spirit.
The Germany Jewry for example, had been freed and underwent a process of massive economic, social and cultural transformation, allowing for bildung (a German process of self-cultivation).
This was a great step forward, noting that Jews had been physically and psychologically persecuted for centuries.
Zionism was a self-conscious psycho-political effect of the failure of assimilation, which looked to the Jewish state to provide a remedy for “poverty, complete tranquillity and national glory.” The genesis of Zionism was in large part caused by the rise of anti-Semitism, especially the events of 1881-84 in Russia, following the death of Tsar Alexander II.
This composed and fuelled the movement in its formative years.