“No-Place” Like Home: The Utopia That Came True

The word utopia was first used by Sir Thomas More in 1516. He coined the term combining two Greek words: ou (not) and topos (place), and he thus named an imaginary island that would harbor the perfect society. Utopia was “No-Place”, or, “the place that doesn’t exist”.

It caught on. “Utopia” became a blanket term to describe a dream of something impossible, a society that can’t really be found in any real topos, a goal that can’t really be achieved, and became especially common in describing political programs of (supposedly) impossible concretion. The 19th century was a golden age of sorts for utopias. From utopian socialism to nationalist romanticism to technological utopias emerging from the industrial revolution, all sort of ambitious ideas and implausible political programs excited people’s imaginations.

Among that cacophony of dreams, we Jews also had a utopic idea of our own. It was called Zionism.

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After the Siren: Yom Hazikaron and Gratitude

Israel has two major memorial days: Yom Hazikaron—the remembrance day for fallen soldiers of Israel and Israeli terror victims—and Yom Hashoah Vehagevurah, Holocaust and Heroism memorial day. One is a reminder of the cost of having a Jewish State; the other is a reminder of the cost of not having it.

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Letter to My Son Going to Israel

Friends,

I generally use the Jewish holidays to share ideas and insights on Judaism and philanthropy. But this holiday of Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s independence day, feels different for me, because my older son is celebrating it there, in a trip to Israel with his school. I never cease to feel gratitude for the undeserved privilege we have of being the first generation in 2,000 years to live with a Jewish sovereign state. I feel also the responsibility that this entails. As my son travels there, I wanted to share with you my words to him. 


My dear son,

You are going to Israel for the first time. Well, it’s not really the first time; you were there with me as a baby, but that was before your toddler memory hit the reset button. So, this is the first time you’ll remember and I wanted to write to you to tell you what this means to me, and to our entire family. Why I’m so moved by this trip of yours, and why grandma’s voice breaks when she talks to you about it. 

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"Israel" (Jorge Luis Borges, 1969)

Dear friends,

I was working on a message that would express my feelings in relation to Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day. Something that would say that, despite everything, because of everything, Israel is one of the major triumphs of Jewish spirit and human will. And then I came across a poem that my landsman, Jorge Luis Borges—who was not Jewish—had written about Israel in 1969.

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