Born out of Europe’s Romantic lapse and anti-Jewish pogroms, Zionism might have occupied itself entirely with the question of Jewish security. At its genesis and for a long time afterwards, Zionism did little else besides seeking the real estate wherein to set up refuge from the dim future it foresaw. There is no evidence in early Zionist writing of any concern with the kind of problems faced by the Reform movement, and in search of a solution of which, the movement was born. The first leaders did not think in terms of the problems science and modernity posed to the application of the laws of the Shulhan Arukh, which dominated Jewish observance and living since its codification by Joseph Karo in 1567. The whole problem of “religion and modernity” did not occupy them at all. The Zionists were men and women nursed culturally and spiritually by a secular Europe which has been weaned away from religion. They were as immersed in romanticism and secularism as their fellow Christians; and a number of them were in fact leaders of the movement in Europe. It was therefore natural that, once renewed persecution blocked their self-identification as European, the Jews would seek their identity in their tradition, and that they would do so under the only categories they knew, namely, those of European romanticism.
Islam and the Problem of Israel: Apercu of Jewish History in the Christian West Prior to the Emancipation
The Christians understood, or misunderstood, the career of Jesus as one of a god sent down to earth to suffer the most ignominious death as an atonement and oblation for the sins of man. In consequence, they reinterpreted the whole history of the Jews as a propadeutic for this great event. If there is to be a crucifixion of a god, there had to be a historical situation in which a savior-god could be expected, accused to be the false savior, and then crucified. There had to be a religion, Judaism, which develops so as to reach the fossilized state of literal legalism, in which rabbis had plunged their faith in the “fullness of time,” and into the context of which the god to be crucified could enact his reform and be prosecuted and condemned in the process. The whole of the Jewish past and present was reduced to the status of an instrument, complex and winding, but still an instrument, for the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus.