Dan Sered grew up in Herziliya, Israel, and came to believe in Jesus while a university student in the States. He lives in Israel with his wife, Dinah, and their three children.
What were you taught about Zionism growing up in the Israeli school system?
Zionism, just as a definition, is a love for Zion. So it’s a desire and a movement from Diaspora Jews to come to live in Israel. And this love was used to establish the state of Israel, even before World War II and the Holocaust.
Theodor Herzl is viewed as the father of Zionism. We studied all about him and his life. Every school child goes to the Herzl museum. I grew up in the town that’s named after Herzl, Herziliya. The museum is there. Zionism is also taught much in depth, as part of history, in middle school and high school.
What does Zionism mean to you?
It’s not just a love for Israel, but a love for the Jewish people. Zionism is the opposite of anti-Semitism.
Having lived in both the United States and Israel, do you see a difference in how American Jews and Israeli Jews think about the concept of Zionism?
I think that many American Jews have a blind love for Israel, that everything Israel does is right. But Israeli Jews are very critical of the state of Israel. Therefore, from the outside, they might be viewed as not Zionistic. Some Israelis might be supportive of giving back the Gaza area, for example, or even now, giving back the West Bank. And that might be viewed as not Zionistic, and against Israel. That’s not really true. Those people, even though they might think that Palestinians deserve a state of their own, they also think that it will be better for Israel.
Keeping Israel as a whole is not for them Zionistic. But for somebody from the Diaspora, that’s what Zionism is all about, keeping the Land complete. I think people here in Israel might have a deeper view and more understanding of what’s happening. For example, they might favor giving back cities and towns that have no Jews in them anyway for the sake of the safety of our soldiers.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Zionism in the rest of the world?
I think that many people think that being a Zionist means that therefore you hate and are prejudiced against others, especially toward the Arabs. Some people are prejudiced, and of course it’s wrong. But you can be Zionist and still love and care for Arabs and see them as equals.
Does the Orthodox Jewish minority in Israel create a climate that works against the hope of Zionism for a secular state where all have freedom or religion or non-religion?
Yes, I think the Orthodox in Israel definitely create a climate that makes it seem that we will never have a separation between state and religion. And that’s one of the things that was central to Zionism, saying there is a difference, there should be a separation between the two. But it’s important to know that some of the Orthodox in Israel are Zionists and they do believe in Israel, and they serve in the army.
Is that a minority of the Orthodox?
I would say it’s about 50 percent. The other 50 percent don’t serve in the Israeli Defense Forces and don’t stand with the state of Israel. They don’t support the law of the state. I would go on record and say that they are not Zionists. Yet they reap the benefits of citizenship.
But one thing that all the Orthodox Jews in Israel, Zionist or not, have in common is they want to control what the government approves and doesn’t approve, like marriages and burial. So there’s definitely this influence to keep everything Orthodox.
And the Orthodox are a small percentage of your population?
About 25 percent.
So that creates some bad feelings with the secular Jewish people.
What does the Bible say about Zionism?
First of all, I think that as far as God is concerned, one country, one nation is not superior to another. God loves us all the same. Jesus came and died for all of our sins, for all of us. So any time that you have one race or one country that thinks its people are better, you have a big problem. Like the Nazis, who were trying to create this superior Aryan race, or the white supremacists in American history, fostering prejudice, slavery and segregation. All that is bad. All of us are sinners in need of a Savior, Jews and gentiles alike.
But having said that, the Land of Israel is a unique place. It’s the Promised Land to the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Yeshua (Jesus) walked this land. The Bible is clear that we Jews have a special connection to the Land of Israel. It’s a part of our history, it’s a part of our identity.
But this doesn’t make us better or superior to others. It gives us more responsibility. As the Jewish nation, we needed to be the light of the world to the gentiles, to point the world to the one true God. But most Jewish people don’t even know God. And most of our people don’t know Messiah. And that’s a problem.
You say there are Orthodox living in Israel who are opposed to the concept of a Jewish state that they’re already living in. Why do they want to be there? Why did they return there if they don’t believe in a state?
They love the fact that they are in Israel and they are a part of it. It’s kind of a love-hate relationship. They want to be here, they want to study the Torah. But they believe because the Jewish people in Israel aren’t keeping Torah, the Messiah hasn’t come and we don’t have the Temple
Morton Klein is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest pro-Israel group in the United States. He is also an Orthodox Jew. He wrote:
To me as a Jew, Israel’s creation and history seem to be an almost miraculous fulfillment of the Torah’s prophecies. After two thousand years of exile, pogroms, Crusades, and gas chambers, a Jewish state was reborn from the ashes of Auschwitz and, exactly as the Torah foretold, ingathered millions of exiles to forge a modern nation.
Is it unusual for an Orthodox Jew, such as Mr. Klein, to be a Zionist?
No, there are a lot of Orthodox in Israel who are very Zionistic. I do believe like him that indeed Israel’s creation is a miracle. Let me tell you what is odd to me about Mr. Klein: he doesn’t believe the entire Bible. I find him treating the Bible like a supermarket, picking and choosing what fits him.
He likes how Israel is a fulfillment of Scripture, but he ignores Daniel Chapter 9, for example, which points to Messiah coming before the destruction of the Second Temple. He ignores that fact that there is no forgiveness of sins without a sacrifice in the Temple today, so how do we get forgiveness of sins? Mr. Klein is going to fast on Yom Kippur for forgiveness of his sins, but he rejects Messiah. I find it odd that as an Orthodox Jew he doesn’t believe the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Can a Messianic Jew be a Zionist?
I don’t know many Messianic Jews who are not Zionists. Not only that, there are many gentile believers in Jesus who are Zionists.
Do you think being a Messianic Jew makes you more Zionistic than your average Jew?
I think that with Messiah in our hearts we have the capacity to love in a unique way, understanding what Jesus said about love. The greatest form of love that we can show Israel and the Jewish people is sharing with them the love of Messiah, sharing Jesus with them. Unfortunately, there are some Messianic Jews and some gentile Christian Zionists who don’t believe that Jewish people need Jesus. Those for me are not Zionists, and I don’t care how much they love the Land.
Israel’s Law of Return states that any Jew or family member of a Jew may come to Israel and become a citizen. Is it wrong for Israel to give precedence to the Jewish people in this way?
Well, first of all, these laws didn’t just appear. They have a context to them. The Law of Return in Israel came into being in the shadow of the Holocaust. We need to remember that after the Holocaust Jewish people were still persecuted and martyred in Europe, especially under the Communists. So Israel had to have an open door policy for any Jewish person. We need to remember how Jewish people were killed or sent back to Germany because no country would have them.
The Law of Return is one of the basic foundational laws of Israel, and David ben Gurion mentioned this in the Declaration of Independence. The main theme is to have a Jewish state that’s open and democratic for all Jews. Is it wrong for Israel to give precedence? Obviously, prejudice is wrong. But in light of everything that happened, I think the law is right.
How is Israel’s Law of Return applied to Jews who believe in Jesus?
According to an Israeli Supreme Court decision, Messianic Jews, those who believe Jesus is the Messiah, have changed their religion and are no longer Jewish. Therefore they are not entitled to citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return. Of course it doesn’t make sense to us as Messianic Jews because, according to our understanding of a biblical Jewish faith, we are still Jews.
What if I’m a Jew who practices Buddhism? Will I get in under the Law of Return?
Yes, if you’re able to prove that your mom is Jewish.
Why can I practice Buddhism but I can’t practice Christianity?
That certainly defies logic. But to the Israeli Supreme Court, the question is, what are you? According to the state, someone who practices Buddhism is still Jewish. Someone who practices Christianity is not.
And an atheist can get in if his mother is Jewish?
Do you see yourself as a Zionist?
I see myself as an Israeli believer in Jesus. I was born and raised in Israel. I live in Israel. My children were born in Israel. Obviously I love Zion, I support and I stand by my country. So I guess that makes me a Zionist.
But there’s a balance. Israel’s not perfect. We need to change and grow in a number of areas, just as I’m sure a lot of Americans have some issues and complaints about the U.S. That doesn’t make them anti-American.