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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Return of Jews to the Homeland: In the Beginning

Nadene Goldfoot
Though many of the most elite Jews had been killed or taken captive at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, many men and women also remained and continued to live in Eretz Israel, and were known as the Yishuv.  They built the first quarter outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.  As a little girl, we used to put our pennies in the Karin'ah meen Box, also known as Tzedakah or the Pushke box  at Sunday school for the poor Jews living in "Palestine".  A blue and white pushke box was for the Jewish National Fund, which shows that thousands of little Jewish children also helped to pay for land bought through this fund.

 A new movement had started in the 19th century of a revival of Jews returning to the promised land.   In the 1860's, 2 periodicals published in Jerusalem called for the return to the Land.  Mark Twain visited Palestine on a trip he set out on from Brooklyn, February 1, 1867 and wrote in his book, THE INNOCENTS ABROAD, just how desolate the land was. In 1870 the first Jewish agricultural college was established in Mikveh, Israel (today outside of Tel Aviv).  In 1878 Jews from Jerusalem, one of which was Yehoshua Stampfer, Rabbi Stampfer's father of Portland, Oregon,  founded the first new village in the Land--Petah Tikva (1973 had a population of 85,000) ten miles east of Tel Aviv. By 2009 the population had grown to 209,600.  Other villages were founded near Jerusalem and in the Galilee, but Safed had always been there with legends back as far as Noah himself.   

By 1881 on, Jewish immigrants from the Hibbat Zion (Love of Zion) movement arrived from Eastern Europe.  Some of the immigrants joined existing villages and others founded new ones.  Hadera and Rishon started off as villages and are now towns.  This first group of immigrants were called the First Aliyah.  Aliyah means ascent, so moving to Israel means going up, spiritually.  The conditions these pioneers lived under were just as bad if not worse than American pioneers,  as the land was in serious neglect and now contained swamps which held mosquitoes that carried malaria.  The Ottoman Empire was hostile and oppressive towards everyone.  New villages were lucky to survive.

In 1897 Theodor Herzl was in Basle, Switzerland and organized the First Zionist congress and founded the World Zionist Organization.  Zion is a synonym for Jerusalem and the entire land.  This came about to start with in France with the Dryfus Affair, where a Jewish serviceman was accused of being a traitor because he was Jewish but was innocent.  The many pogroms in Eastern Europe was enough to drive out the Jewish population.  Self-determination was a movement taken by other nations such as the Greeks, Italians and Poles.  Jews also realized they should follow this path.  Their goal was to allow a return of Jews to their ancient land and revive the national Jewish life in social, cultural, economic and political ways. Jews had been praying 3 times a day since 70 CE that next year they would be in Jerusalem.  It was time to return.

A 2nd Aliyah was underway from 1904-1914 which strengthened villages and founded new ones.  The Yishuv began to organize politically into socialist groups.  They were all highly idealists and were planning a Utopia for all.  In 1909 the first kibbutz, Degania Aleph was created on the southern shore of Lake Kinneret.  I was there visiting a friend.  Also in the same year Tel Aviv was founded on the sand dunes outside of Jaffa.  Hebrew was becoming the language of the Yishuv and they were creating Hebrew literature.  Life was immensely harsh and many pioneers left, but by 1914 there were 85,000 Jews in Eretz Yisrael.

By 1918 the land was occupied by Britain who governed it for 30 years.  This came about with the ending of World War I in 1917, and on November 2nd the British issued the Balfour Declaration which showed sympathy with the Jewish Zionist aspirations, promising support for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.  Their allies like the USA were parties to the negotiations and approved of this.  So did some of the principal leaders of the Arab national movement.

  King Hussein of the Hejaz, wrote that they saw these Jews coming in and knew that the country was for them, the original sons, and to them it was a sacred and beloved homeland.  (Al Qibla, Mecca. No. 183, 23 March 1918:  George Antonius, Arab Awakening. p. 269)  However, at the same time, leaders of the Arab national movement were negotiating with Britain for the recognition of Arab national rights in the former territories of the Ottoman Empire throughout the Middle East.

January 3, 1919 was an agreement between King Hussein's son, Emir Feisal, chief Arab delegate at the Paris Peace conference and Dr. Chaim Weizmann of the Zionists.  The Balfour Declaration was endorsed and Palestine recognized as a separate Jewish entity, with which the then imminent Arab State would maintain diplomatic relations, on condition that Britain and France met Arab demands in other territories.  At this time before 1948, both Jews and Arabs were called Palestinians.

Britain was given the mandate on July 24, 1922 which incorporated the wording of the Balfour Declaration regarding establishing in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people.  It recognized the historical connection between Jews and the land and called on Britain to be the facilitators of the Establishment of their national home.  This mandate extended over both sides of the Jordan River.  Britain, however,  turned around and divided the land up in two parts, establishing an Arab emirate in Trans-Jordan and deprived the Jews of rights to the land east of the river.  Not only that but they made the new rule of Jews being forbidden from then on to buy land or live there.  At certain times they allowed Jewish immigration and other times they restricted immigration and even prevented buying land.  They were not following through with the charge they
were expected to uphold but were making up their own rules and favoring who they wished.

 Britain had never been that friendly towards Jews. Here we have a reporter and a chemist trying to  save lives by making some good points with the staid Brits. They wound up with very little of the original promised piece of land which turned out to be the bad sections as well.  They didn't say no, though.  A piece was better than nothing.    The Arabs, who had been offered the biggest and best part, said emphatically and have been since then, NO.

Facts About Israel, Division of Information, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem

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