The return to Eretz Israel has a lot to do with the Zionist movement that emerged and grew during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Even though the longing for Zion has always been a part of the religious Jew, Zionism is for the most part a secular movement that grew out of an inability by the Jew to assimilate successfully, especially in Western Europe, so that many Jews have become secularized. It must be added that anti-Semitism plays an important role in this too. The pogroms that occurred near the end of the nineteenth century in Russia and the Ukraine have emphasized and confirmed this poor situation, and in turn created a strong desire to be delivered from it by striving for independency.
The Zionist movement is first and foremost a movement that aims to establish the validity of Israel as a nation and to influence its identity. Similar nationalistic movements occurred during the nineteenth century, for example among the ethnic groups in the Balkan region. Once the Jewish people are recognized by others as a legitimate nation, a nation in its own right, then it naturally follows they should also be entitled to their own land, state and independence.
Three Branches within Zionism
In the past, there have been multiple trends within Zionism which still influence the thoughts of the Jewish people today and the way they view their identity and handle their politics. The schools of thought are pragmatic, strongly focused on culture or religion. There are three dominant strands with the following characteristics.