A Jewish Palestine

"The idea of Judaism is inseparable from the idea of the Jewish people, and the idea of the Jewish people is inseparable from the idea of the Jewish land"

THE Zionist movement dates from A.D. 70, the year of the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish State. The Zionist Organization dates from 1897, the year of the first Zionist Congress. The Zionist movement is a longing and striving to restore to the Jewish people normal national life. The Zionist Organization is a particular instrumentality for achieving that end. The Zionist movement will continue until the Jewish people are once more living a normal national life, when it will be transformed into the active expression of that normal national life. The Zionist Organization, when the particular phase of Jewish national life which called into being this special instrumentality has passed, will merge into some other instrumentality.

There are some who deny that there is such a thing as the Jewish people, but the denial is a modern innovation. Very rare is the non-Jew who thinks of Jews as merely a sect without national quality; and it is doubtful whether among the Jews themselves there could be found a single instance of such a denial much earlier than the second decade of the nineteenth century. The negation of Jewish nationality was first presented by German Jews as part of what is called the 'reform ' movement in German Jewry, which itself was hardly separable from the movement for Jewish political emancipation in that country. From Germany it spread to other lands, but it has never had much respect among any save a small minority of Jews, and it has never had any respect at all from non-Jews, except when political expediency made it convenient for a Gentile statesman or diplomat to invoke this strange dogma.

Let us try to clear the ground by attempting, not so much a definition as a characterization of Judaism. Judaism is not a religion in the Western sense of the word. Judaism is the precipitated spiritual experience of the Jewish people. The idea of Judaism is inseparable from the idea of the Jewish people, and the idea of the Jewish people is inseparable from the idea of the Jewish land. You may see this in every form and expression of Jewish religious life. Individual prayer, prayer for the individual Jew alone, is exceedingly rare. When the Jew prays, he prays not simply for himself, but for all Israel; and this national conception permeates prayer even in what might be considered to be the most personal and individual incidents of life: birth, marriage, death.

The welding of the idea of the Jewish people with the idea of the Jewish land is manifest in every page of the Jewish Liturgy. When the lad is confirmed and assumes the full burden of the law, he prays that 'God may have mercy upon Zion, for it is the hope of our life,' and that 'He may save her who is broken in spirit speedily even in our days.' He thanks God for having planted eternal life in the Jewish people. 'Gladden us, O Lord our God, with Elijah thy servant, and with the Kingdom of the House of David thy anointed. Soon may he come and rejoice our hearts. Suffer not a stranger to sit upon his throne nor let others inherit his glory.'

Let it not be supposed that this passionate identification of the Jewish people with the Jewish land is an aspiration for some allegorical spiritual Zion that never was on sea or land. The Jewish people preserve to this day the calendar of a land from which they have been exiled for two thousand years. The seasons which they mark with observance, the times of sowing and of planting, of harvest and of vintage, are the seasons and the times, not of the lands in which they dwell, but of the land in which their fathers lived and from which they have been exiled. The name in the everyday speech of the Jew for the lands of the Diaspora is Galuth, exile. The Jewish sages celebrated the bitterness of exile in many a poignant phrase: 'The Galuth atones for all the sins of the Jews.' 'With him who dwells outside Palestine it is as though God were not with him.' 'Those Jews who dwell outside Palestine do not enjoy eternal life.' Such sayings of the rabbis bring out their conception of the meaning of exile.

Rabbinical literature is full of apophthegms that express the positive passion of the teachers of Israel for the soil, the air, the water, the physical being of the national land. 'Whosoever walks four cubits in Palestine is assured of the world to come.' 'It is better to dwell in a Palestine desert than to live in a land of plenty abroad.' 'To live in the land of Israel outweighs all the commands of the Torah.' 'The air of Palestine makes men wise.' 'Even the chatter of Palestine is worthy of study.' 'Palestine is the microcosm of the world.' 'Rabbi Abah used to kiss the rocks of Palestine. Rabbi Chazah used to roll in the dust of Palestine.' The whole doctrine of the rabbis in regard to the national home is summed up in the sentence: 'God said to Moses, "the Land is me and Israel is dear to me. I will bring Israel who is dear to me to Land that is dear to me.' Here is the triple thread which is Judaism -- God, the Jewish people, the Jewish land. What the rabbis taught and felt, the Jewish people believed and felt.

THE determination of the Jewish people to recover a normal national life never limited itself to faith in a miraculous restoration independent of the effort of the Jews themselves, although the conviction that the restoration was certain to come one day was part of the faith of every Jew. A continuous series of efforts to restore the Jewish national life in Palestine marks the centuries of exile. The rising of Bar Kochba against Hadrian threatened for a time the fabric of Roman dominion. The great outburst in the early years of the seventh century, in conjunction with the Parthians, expelled the Romans for a few years. The coming of Moslem rule diverted Jewish effort for a long time from the political to the quasi-miraculous. From the thirteenth to the eighteenth century was the period of the pseudo-Messiahs, of whom the two best known are that David Alroy around whom Disraeli wove a novel, and Sabatai-Zevi, of whom Zangwill has given marvelously penetrating study.

With the nineteenth century we come to efforts which are neither strictly political nor yet miraculous. The Jew begins to return to Palestine, but to return as an individual. It is probable that there never was a period when there was no Jewish settlement of any kind in Palestine. Mediaeval Jewish travelers have left records of Jewish communities, and there is evidence of the existence of Jewish agricultural communities, perhaps from the days of the Temple. In the seventeenth century, the illustrious Don Joseph Nasi and his mother conceived the idea of planting Jews on the soil of Palestine. Early in the nineteenth century, Jews from Eastern Europe began to drift in, brought thither mainly by the profound emotion of the bliss of dying and being buried in the dust of the Holy Land. Every Jew who settled in Palestine was a link between the Diaspora and the land of Israel, for it was the duty and the pleasure of his brethren to maintain in Palestine men given up to meditation and study and dedicated to the spiritual life.

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