75 words for 75 years of Israel – Tzion/Zion

In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!

Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available now!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.

Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!

צִיּוֹן

TZION

TZEE-YOHN

ZION

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we thought of Zion.” (Psalms 137:1)

על נהרות בבל שם ישבנו גם בכינו בזכרנו את ציון.

“For the sake of Zion I will not be silent, for the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still, till her victory emerges resplendent and her triumph like a flaming torch.” (Isaiah 62:1)

למען ציון לא אחשה ולמען ירושלים לא אשקוט עד יצא כנגה צדקה וישועתה כלפיד יבער.

Tzion, Hebrew for “Zion,” most specifically refers to Mount Zion, one of the hills that surrounded ancient Jerusalem, but at times is also used interchangeably with Jerusalem. Zion also refers to the land of Israel generally, specifically regarding the longing of the Jews to return there from their exile in foreign lands. For this reason, the return of the Jewish people to Israel after the first Babylonian exile in the 6th century BCE was called Shivat Tzion, “Return to Zion.”

The movement that inspired the modern return of Jews to Israel, beginning in the 1880s, is called Zionism, for it was inspired by the nation’s ancient longing for Zion. One of the very first Zionist organizations that helped Jews buy land and establish farms in Israel during the late 19th century was called Hibat Tzion, or “Lovers of Zion.” 

In 1948, when Zionist leaders were preparing to declare the independence of the new Jewish state and debated what to call it, Zion was one of the leading names they considered. Though it was not ultimately chosen, many communities around Israel contain the name Zion, including one of the very first modern Jewish communities established in Israel, Rishon L’Tzion, meaning “First to Zion.” 

In Jewish liturgy it is written that “a redeemer shall come to Zion.” This is based on the tradition that the Messiah will reign in Jerusalem and from there he will teach the world to know God and follow His righteous ways. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “For the sake of Zion I will not be silent” (Isaiah 62:1), for he understood the central role Jerusalem will play in the redemption of the world. May we soon see that day!

The Israel Bible Team

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