In Zionism’s Redemptions, Arieh Saposnik explores the way that early Zionists not only sought a political solution to the “Jewish question,” but entertained more ambitious visions of salvation, even if they conceived these visions without reference to divine providence. Allan Arkush, in his review, takes as illustrative the case of Nahum Sokolow:
A thoroughly secular Jew, Sokolow nevertheless had no compunction in arguing that “Zionism is the direct heir to the biblical promise and to Jewish messianic expectations.” What distinguished it from earlier Judaism, he believed, was its activism. And the “first to transform traditional messianic longing into the makings of modern politics or, in a word, into modern Zionism” was, in Sokolow’s eyes, not Herzl or any other 19th- or 20th-century figure; it was the 17th-century Dutch rabbi Menasseh ben Israel. Sokolow argued that Menasseh’s famous attempt to further the admission of Jews into England was intended as a step toward his messianic vision “of an ultimate Jewish return to the Land of Israel.”
At the book’s end, Saposnik expresses the hope that some of this bygone Zionist fervor can be recreated in modern Israel. Arkush is skeptical:
For those who are under the sway of a far more colorful religious vision, it is unlikely to have much of an appeal. Nor can it provide much guidance for those who are thoroughly ensconced in [what Saposnik calls] a “post-truth, post-ideology, and post-vision world.” But even those who haven’t given up on the search for truth need something more than a historical picture. They need an argument that persuades them that the picture they are looking at is rooted in the truth and represents the good. Saposnik knows that this isn’t what he has done, but he hopes nonetheless that our present historical moment is not irredeemable and that his evocative exploration of overlooked corners of the Zionist past may help those who have lost their way.