The Jerusalem Program Explained

Have questions about the Jerusalem Program? You’re in the right place. Rabbi Stanley Davids was kind enough to provide the information below. In bold, you’ll find the key terms that best define the Jerusalem Program and the foundations of Zionism.

What is the Jerusalem Program?

The Jerusalem Program is an ideological statement, not a plan of action. It is the official platform of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and the Zionist Movement.


The original Platform of the WZO was the Basel Program. In 1951, the WZO adopted the first version of the Jerusalem Program, reflecting the reality that since the Jewish State had come into being, the goals and purposes of Zionism needed to be adjusted.

Keep in mind, there are many definitions of Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. “National Liberation” is a term that reflects socio-political movements from the mid-1950s.

When Ben Gurion announced the existence of Israel on May 14, 1948, the Israeli press headlined: “The people declare the existence of the State of Israel.” The establishment of the State of Israel and the views a Jewish, Zionist, democratic and secure State of Israel were the expressions of the common responsibility of the Jewish people for its continuity and future.

There are two things worth noting: the Megillat HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Declaration of Independence, lays out the requirements for a State that would be BOTH Jewish AND democraticAdditionally, there is a clear assumption here that Jews are an ethnonational group; a civilization in which we bear collective responsibility for the security of the Jewish homeland and for the Jewish people worldwide.

Here are the six points of the Jerusalem Program and here’s how we interpret each of them.

The Foundations of Zionism are:

1. The Unity of the Jewish People

What is implied in “unity”? The early Zionists saw ‘unity’ as a one-way street, but today we view unity as best expressed through partnership and mutual responsibility, and it’s bond to its historic homeland Eretz Yisrael.

There are powerful differences between Eretz Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael. Those differences inform
the platforms of various Israeli political parties and the centrality some Jews view Israel as the geographical and spiritual center of Jewish life worldwide. Other Jews view Jewish life as an ellipse with two centers of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, it’s capital, in the life of the nation.

2. Aliyah to Israel

The Miami Platform on Reform Zionism adopted as a platform by the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 1997 declared that Aliyah is a Mitzvah for Reform Jews from all countries and the effective integration of all immigrants into Israeli society.

3. Strengthening Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and Democratic State

Contemporary Zionists believe that the yearning to make of the Jewish state an exemplary society has yet to be fulfilled, and represents the noblest goal of Zionist activity with a unique moral and spiritual character. Here we look at the ‘Jewish’ side of the ‘Jewish and democratic’ equation.

We also must note that caring for the Other, for the stranger, for the non-Jews in our midst are core liberal Jewish AND democratic values. Israeli Arab Palestinians are full citizens of Israel and deserve the same level of governmental support and understanding as Jewish Israelis, marked by mutual respect for the multi-faceted. ‘Multifaceted’ in this text represents a major win for the Reform Zionist Movement in 2004. The traditional religious streams fought hard against any inclusion that would make pluralism a Zionist goal.

Multifaceted’ is a direct statement that the Jewish State is not intended to present a single-faceted approach to the Jewish faith, life and practice, Jewish people, rooted in the vision of the prophets, striving for peace and contributing to the betterment of the world.

4. Ensuring the Future and the Distinctiveness of the Jewish People

This can be accomplished furthering Jewish, Hebrew, and Zionist education fostering
spiritual and cultural values and teaching Hebrew as the national language.

The CCAR Miami Platform strongly endorsed the study of Hebrew to be yet another religious mandate for Reform Jews. Here again, liberal Zionists view this statement as a call to a partnership among
equals between Diaspora and Israeli Jews. We have much to learn from one another.

5. Nurturing Mutual Jewish Responsibility, Defending the Rights of
Jews as Individuals and as a Nation

This implies that Israel has a responsibility to protect Jews across the globe, representing the
national Zionist interests of the Jewish people, and struggling against all manifestations of anti-Semitism.

6. Settling the Country as an Expression of Practical Zionism

Israel still does not have internationally recognized borders, and thus understanding what ‘setting the country’ means is subject to multiple interpretations. Liberal/Progressive Zionism has clearly endorsed the vision of a two-state solution and works hard to contain Jewish settlement within areas that are most often considered to be ‘Israel proper.’