To describe Zionism purely as a modern, socio-political phenomenon makes about as much sense as to explain my career entirely in terms of events since the day I was ordained a rabbi, as if my genetic heritage, my childhood and adolescence, my undergraduate studies and extracurricular activities had nothing to do with making me what I am today.
Of course there have been external tendencies and trends which have helped shape the nature of Zionism, among them Emancipation, Enlightenment, massive anti-Semitism, and the burgeoning of nationalism throughout the world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But these have been like the winds and rains which influence the ultimate growth of a tree. Without seeds and roots, wind and rain would produce only gullies, not living organisms. To understand Zionism in anything more than a superficial sense, we need to examine its indigenous origins in Jewish tradition.
Roland B. Gittelsohn, Partners in Destiny: Reform Judaism and Zionism (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1984), 1.