Im Tirtzu: The Dream of a Jewish Home

In this activity, campers will debate the positions of major Zionist ideologies and play the role of Jewish leaders who first envisioned a Jewish state.

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Core Learnings: 

The World Zionist Congress was created by Theodore Herzl to be the “Parliament of the Jewish People.” Throughout the first century of Zionism, delegates were elected from countries around the world to represent their constituencies at the Congress.
The First Zionist Congress is credited for the formulation of the Zionist platform known as the "Basel Program," which states, "Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law."
There are several different Zionist ideologies that impacted the creation of the Jewish state, including (but not limited to) Political Zionism, Cultural Zionism, Religious Zionism, Socialist Zionism, and General/Centrist Zionism.
The creation of a Jewish State was a long process that began in the 1800s and finally came into reality in 1948, after years of debate among Zionist thinkers.


Step 1: Herzl's Dream - and Ours

The activity begins with a short skit of Theodor Herzl dreaming:

  • Herzl is sleeping…sleeping…dreaming…im tirtzu.
    • Show someone waking Herzl up from his dream.
    • Ask, what was Herzl dreaming about? What does this have to do with our future?
    • Then, ask the campers: What are your dreams for your future?
  • Give each camper a Personal Dream Worksheet with the following questions (see attached). This activity can be done with a worksheet, poster board, or in a discussion. Questions include:
    • Where do you see yourself living in 30 years?
    • What do you see yourself doing?
    • What is important about where you will live? (location, surroundings, family, Jewish population, etc.)
    • What level of education do you want in 30 years? (High school graduation, college degree, graduate degree, etc.)
    • What Jewish things do you see yourself doing in 30 years?

Explain, just like we have our own dreams for our futures, the Zionist leaders had their dreams for the Jewish people. These dreams brought the establishment of the Jewish State into being and largely shaped our own Jewish communities. Tell campers that today, they will get to know about Zionist ideologies, engage in a debate about them, and then choose the vision they like the most.

Step 2: Prepare for the Debate

Split the campers into groups. Each group will learn about one person from the Zionist Congress (see attached biographies and background information on the Zionist Congress). Ideally, at least one staff person will be with each group. If there are more groups than staff, then staff should circulate among the groups and encourage campers to read about "their" Zionist character and try to understand what he wanted to achieve at the Zionist Congress.

Figures include:

  • Theodor Herzl – Political Zionism
  • Ahad Ha'am – Cultural Zionism
  • Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook – Religious Zionism
  • Moshe Hess – Socialist Zionism
  • Chaim Weizmann – General/Centrist Zionism

Campers should learn about the personal background and Zionist philosophy of their assigned character, and be able to address the following points in a debate:

  • Where should the new land be located? (Uganda, Palestine, Cyprus, Sinai)
  • What should be the spoken language in this new Jewish Land? (German, Hebrew, Yiddish)
  • Do we need a Jewish homeland to be/feel like we have a safe place?
  • Who should establish it/who would populate it?
  • What action does your character propose to take to create the Jewish state?
  • Is it possible/realistic? When?
  • Other: ____________________________

After campers have completed their preparation, they should have time to create posters, songs, and cheers related to their character. Before the debate begins, all campers will share their posters and cheers around camp.

Step 3: Debate!

Campers will hold a debate as if they were present at the Zionist Congress in 1897.

Theodor Herzl (played by a staff member) calls this Zionist Congress to session, pretending that it is 1897. Herzl should display signs of being nervous as he opens the debate, because he is worried about the outcome. The debate includes the following components:

  1. Herzl moderates the debate, including all of the points listed above.
  2. Each group introduces their character and describes his Zionist philosophy. (Encourage them to speak in first person, i.e. "I am from...,"). Herzl asks the groups about each of the following points:
    • Where should the new land be located? (Uganda, Palestine, Cyprus, Sinai)
    • What should be the spoken language of this new Jewish Land? (German, Hebrew, Yiddish)
    • Do we need a Jewish homeland to be/feel like a safe place?
    • Who should establish it/who would populate it?
    • What does your Zionist party propose to do to create the Jewish state?
    • Is it possible/realistic? When?
    • Other: __________________
  3. After all presentations have been made, campers must vote for the Zionist approach/character they like best, but they cannot vote for their own character. (Counselors can be encouraged to help campers “shtick” it up in a big way here.)

Step 4: Wrap-Up

After the vote is complete, the "winning" team has one last chance to celebrate their character. They can be encouraged to sing their song and lead their cheer once more. Then the staff member who has led the activity engages the group in a brief reflective discussion summarizing key points they learned and their ideas about how the Zionist philosophies they just debated relate to life in camp today. Do they see a connection? Can staff help them see connections?

Conclude the activity by teaching and then singing "Im Tirzu." 


Zionist Congress of Today

For older campers, the final part of this activity can be expanded to consider how (or if) Zionist ideas remain relevant today. Campers can be split into new groups that include people who represented various characters. In these groups, campers should process/internalize/personalize what they learned about the characters, emphasizing ways that these approaches resonate with them today. Questions can include:

  • What points do you agree with?
  • Imagine that you are Ahad Ha’am, Herzl, etc., today. Have your perspectives changed?
  • Which Zionist approach should lead the way for Israel today?
  • Are any of these Zionist political platforms still relevant? Not relevant? Why?
  • Which Zionist political platform needs to be emphasized today?
  • How important is it to have a Jewish homeland as our safe place?

Another option: Conduct a 4 corners exercise. Label the room with "Strongly Agree," "Agree," "Disagree," and "Strongly Disagree" corners and ask questions that relate to the Zionist platforms. Encourage campers to engage in brief discussions after each question.

Background Cards: 

Supporting Materials: