Saturday, August 2, 2008

Zionist Thoughts on the Arts, Creativity, and Cultural Renewal

Israel Baseball League game
Creating Works of Imagination in the Land of Israel
The Land of Israel is not something external, not an external national asset, a means to the end of collective solidarity and the strengthening of the nation’s existence, physical or even spiritual. The Land of Israel is an essential unit bound by the bond-of-life to the People, united by inner characteristics to its existence.

Whoever is endowed with the soul of a creator must create works of imagination and thought, for the flame of the soul rises by itself and one cannot impede it on its course…. The creative individual brings vital, new light from the higher source where originality emanates to the place where its has not previously been manifest, from the place that “no bird of prey knows, nor has the falcon’s eye seen.” (Job 28:7), “that no man has passed, nor has any person dwelt” (Jeremiah 2:6).

Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935), First Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel, Founder of Yeshivat Mercaz Ha’Rav in Jerusalem. Quotations from: Orot (Lights) and Orot Hakodesh (Lights of Holiness)

Longing to Create is Embodied in all of Judaism's Goals
Halakhic man is a man who longs to create, to bring into being something new, something original. The dream of creation is the central idea in halakhic consciousness – the idea of the importance of man as a partner of the Almighty in the act of creation, man as creator of worlds. This longing for creation and the renewal of the cosmos is embodied in all of Judaism’s goals.

If a man wishes to attain the rank of holiness, he must become a creator of worlds. If a man never creates, never brings into being anything new, anything original, then he cannot be holy unto his God. That passive type who is derelict in fulfilling his task of creation cannot become holy. Creation is the lowering of transcendence into the midst of our turbid, coarse, material world…. “For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp” (Deuteronomy 23:15).

Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993), Head of the Rabbinical Seminary of Yeshiva University, President of Mizrachi Zionists of America. Quotations from: Ish Ha’halakhah (Halakhic Man)

A National Culture of its Own
A complete national life involves two things: first, full play for the creative faculties of the nation in a specific national culture of its own, and, second, a system of education whereby the individual members of the nation will be thoroughly imbued with that culture, and so molded by it that its imprint will be recognizable in all their way of life and thought, individual and social.

Ahad Ha’Am (Asher Zvi Ginsberg) (1856-1927), Hebrew essayist and father of ‘Cultural Zionism.’

Revolution and Tradition
A renewing and creative regeneration does not throw the cultural heritage of ages in the dustbin. It examines and scrutinizes, accepts and rejects. At times it may keep and add to an accepted tradition. At times it descends into ruined grottoes to excavate and remove the dust from that which had lain in forgetfulness, in order to resuscitate old traditions which have the power to stimulate the spirit of the generation of renewal.

Berl Katzenelson (1887-1944), Leader of ‘Socialist Zionism,’ Founder the Labor Zionist newspaper Davar, and editor of Am Oved, publishing house of the Histadrut.

Increasing Beauty and Wisdom in Tel Aviv
Even my dreams are eternal, for others will dream them when I am no more. Beauty and wisdom do not die because their creators die. Just as the conservation of energy is self-evident, so must we infer that there is conservation of beauty and wisdom…. Have the sayings of our ancient sages perished? No, their flame burns brightly, even if in happy times it is less clearly visible than in dark days, like all flames. And what should we learn from this? That we should strive to increase beauty and wisdom on this earth as long as we live.

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), Founder of the World Zionist Organization and its first president. Quotation from: Altneuland (Old-New Land). The Hebrew translation of Herzl's visionary novel by Nachum Sokolov was titled Tel Aviv (the ancient tel and the renewal of spring). When the first Hebrew city was founded, it took its name from the title of Herzl's book.

Artists worldwide are invited to contribute additional quotations of Zionist thinkers on the arts, creativity, and cultural renewal.
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