From the outset of Zionism, the Diaspora has had a distinct role to play with developing the homeland, raising funds, mobilizing political activity, and providing immigrants. Today, particularly since 1948, Israel continues to play an unequivocally essential role in Diaspora Jewish identity. This centrality is expressed through many areas of Jewish life, such as education, community, philanthropy, and political activism. These deepseated attachments to Israel are also evident through growing rates of aliyah, participation in Israel programs, and visits to the Jewish state.
Since 1967, a time when the Jewish world was gripped by the realization that the State of Israel could be destroyed, and people were then caught up in Israel’s jubilation at her survival, Israel has been a central factor in Diaspora Jewish life and identity. Israel is seen as playing a central role in maintaining Jewish identity throughout the Diaspora. The existence of Israel is important to world Jewry, as is illustrated by the following data: 87 percent of Canadian Jewry believes Israel is “important to being a Jew”; more than 80 percent of American Jews in the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey were very or somewhat familiar with social and political events in Israel, and over 80 percent strongly or somewhat agreed that Israel is the spiritual center of the Jewish people; 81 percent of British Jews were, according to a 1997 survey, strongly or moderately attached to Israel; and 86 percent of respondents to a 2002 survey of French Jews said they felt “very close or close” to Israel. The importance of Israel in the identity of world Jewry today is manifested through various means of engagement with the Jewish State.
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