The Fusion of Zionism and Science: The First Two Decades—And the Present Day?

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Focusing on the relationship between Zionism and science in the first two decades of the Zionist movement, the argument of this paper is threefold. First, that a relationship was established with the very inception of the Zionist movement. Second, it is characterized by a duality, a tension between a highly pragmatic scientific attitude, on the one hand, namely science conceived as ‘engineering,’ as the principal instrument of national construction, and simultaneously, on the other hand, science understood as working with the most fragile and inaccessible ‘materials’ or ‘building blocks.’ I will suggest that the Zionist movement was characterized by the quintessential place of programmatic and detailed planning and of striving towards pragmatically defined goals; at the same time, however, Zionism’s ultimate goal, idealistic, utopian, and always just out of reach, remained unstated. While focusing on the first two decades of the Zionist movement, I suggest, thirdly, that because this intellectual structure was embedded in the socialization processes of Zionism from its very earliest phase, it remains critically important, in spite of the many additional historical events that followed, for the understanding of key facets of Jewish, and later Israeli, society to this day.