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THE ZIONIST MOVEMENT.
BY DR. J. M. TANNER, PRESIDENT OF THE STATE AGRICULTURAL
Within the past three years, annual conferences have been held at Basle by eminent Jews throughout the world, who have had in view the restoration of the Jewish race to national life. These conferences are creating yearly more interest in the question of the return of the Jews to the home of their ancestors. More than forty years ago the movement toward Palestine began. Among the first to return to the home of their fathers were the Asiatic Jews, chiefly those speaking the Arabic language. They came from as far East as China, but mostly from Persia and the valley of the Mesopotamia. These early home-comers had little or no thought of colonization when they entered Palestine, but had been enthused with the idea that somehow or other it was a sacred duty to return to Jerusalem to die. On the western slope of the Mount of Olives they purchased burial places, some at fabulous prices. They were zealous to be buried within the shades of the walls which enclosed Mount Moriah, the spot where their sacred temple once stood. As early as fifteen years ago, this slope was
fairly well covered by modest slabs of rock that simply marked the final resting places of home-wandering Jews. Little by little the population of Jerusalem was thus increased and other places, sacred to the memory of the Jews, were sought out, and Jews went there to live and die.
The places next to Jerusalem most favored in Jewish thought were Tiberias, on the seashore, and Safed, a small town in the hills of northern Galilee. Some of these Jews had limited incomes, barely sufficient to maintain a scanty existence, while others were in a destitute condition. Thus located in the land of their ancestors and afflicted by various degrees of poverty, they made strong appeals to their wealthy brethren in Europe and America. Sometimes these appeals fell unheeded, but stories of their sufferings and devotion soon awakened interest in the wealthier Jews whose alms ameliorated the sufferings of members of their race who apparently preferred to die of starvation, in the land of sacred and cherished memory, than to live in ease and comfort on any other spot of the earth. The restrictions of the Turkish government had been partially removed, and thus one by one the Jews wandered back either as pilgrims to Jerusalem, or with the avowed intention of spending their remaining days about this sacred city. The pilgrims left their alms, bought souvenirs, rendered what aid they could, and carried the story of their suffering brethren to their homes. And thus began the awakening of modern Israel. In that awakening, too, the idea that the country might be reclaimed, also began to take root. There were rich valleys and broad plains that offered a reward for honest labor.
In the meantime, the condition of the Jews in Russia and Roumania became a matter of deep concern to their more fortunate brethren of western Europe, and Baron Hirsch, who always had the interest of his unfortunate race at heart, began the establishment of a fund looking to the colonization of the Jews in foreign countries. The new colonization was intended as an escape from the arbitrary decrees of the czar, and Baron Hirsch began now to look about the world for some suitable place where his brethren could secure a livelihood by engaging in agricultural pursuits. Investigations were made both in the western and eastern hemispheres, and the spot which commended itself at that time most
favorably to the consideration of those who were about to establish these new colonies was the Argentine Republic. This new land was a long way distant from the center of Jewish life. Many of the orthodox Jews, who had been accustomed to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land, felt that the establishment of the Jewish nation in the Argentine Republic meant the deportation of the race farther and farther from the land they loved best. The effort met with strong opposition. It created an opposing faction, who, although they did not offer Palestine as a place for colonization, felt that the Argentine Republic was too far from home. was away from the busy marts, from those centers of civilization which offered progressive Jews the best opportunities, and the argument then often offered against the colonization of that country was that it committed the Jews to an exclusively agricultural life. They had been merchants, and if not merchants, peddlers. They had carried on a business of one kind or another in a large or a small way. They were willing to abandon that life in part, but they had stronger inclinations for mechanical and industrial pursuits, for manufacturing of various kinds, than they had for agriculture.
The efforts met with less and less encouragement. The Jews were unwilling to go there, even though the most encouraging promises were held out. Finally the efforts of Baron Hirsch created a rivalry among his rich brethren, and Baron Rothschild began the establishment of Jewish colonies in Palestine. For each family the latter built a small brick house, consisting of two or three rooms.
Each member of the family received the use of the house and the land for a specified number of years, and a stipend of so much per month for each member of the family. Jews were invited thither from Roumania and southern Russia. A half dozen colonies thus began in the valley of the Esdrælon, but the most of them were located in the large plains of Sharon which skirt the shores of the Mediterranean. In the beginning these efforts seemed almost hopeless. The writer remembers visiting the colonies in the year 1886-7. The colonists had but little idea of pioneer or agricultural life. They would sometimes leave the farm in the middle of the day, go into their homes, clear aside the little furniture that afforded them small conveniences, start up the fiddle and
begin the dance. There was a lack of thrift and a spirit of idleness all around, and it really appeared as if the efforts of colonizing the Holy Land must be entirely futile.
But these discouraging features of colonial life were not regarded as insurmountable obstacles. Little by little the Jews found wealth in the soil. Men took courage from neighbors' successes; splendid vineyards were planted, and it was found that the land was possessed of latent wealth. Other colonies were established. But the Turkish government afforded little opportunity for trade with the outside world. It was difficult to transport the products of the soil. There were no markets abroad. These economical problems soon began to attract the attention of the more thoughtful and business-like Jews throughout Europe. They felt that if commercial schools could be established, if factories could be built, and some suitable relationship established between the Jew in the Holy Land and the Jew abroad, business might thrive in Palestine as it had thrived centuries ago.
At bottom, then, this recent Zionist movement is largely one of an economic character. It is also one that has forced itself upon the minds of thoughtful Jews by reason of the development that is now going on throughout Asia. Those who have followed the march of events in Asia Minor, who have witnessed the building of new railroads, who have seen what is likely to occur when the trans-Siberian railroad shall be finished, who look upon the partition of China as a foregone conclusion, who marvel at the wonderful developments of the Japanese race, need not be surprised that the Jews thought that Asia was to be redeemed, that the ancient seat of religion and civilization was again to come into prominence, that its rich soils, with the treasures of its mountains, were all to offer their abundance in response to the efforts and ingenuity of man. The Mediterranean, which had become almost as much deserted as the great Sahara, is now increasing its commerce and ships are traversing it in all directions, and it is clearly seen that Palestine must be, in some measure, in modern times what she was in the past-the great highway between the East and the West.
The idea, therefore, of a return to the Holy Land has its historic justification. It has found its gradual development in the movements of the past forty years. It is also an economic one, for
it offers great inducements for the future. And there is still another reason for this idea which is now taking growth in the Zionist movement. During the last century there has been a gradual development of liberty for the Jews throughout all Europe-Russia and Roumania excepted-and even in Russia there has been a growth of power, and in Europe there has been among the Jews an intellectual development that has created feelings of national pride. The Jew begins to feel his power, his place, and his influence in the world as he has not felt them for more than two centuries. He is an important factor in politics as well as in commerce. The Jewish schools, within the last thirty years, have turned out some of the most brilliant and promising scholars of the world; and with the feeling of this power comes the thought of its exercise. I speak chiefly of the orthodox Jew who has no idea that his race can ever become assimilated with other races, or that his habits and religion will ever so change that he can take on the characteristics of other races. The Jews have never so united as to become a partisan factor in national politics. In America there is no Jewish vote. They do not consolidate in Europe to achieve any race advantages or national purpose. They are constantly overshadowed by the fear of anti-semitism. They prefer to surrender their privileges or forego their political rights rather than to venture upon a career which they feel sure must result in the strongest race prejudice, prejudice that may be as direful to the Jew as it has been calamitous in the past. They have the power, they feel it; how and where shall it be exercised? Not in a Jewish faction in other countries; that is really impossible. It must be exercised where the Jew himself constitutes the great majority, where the Jewish idea is the prevailing one; and there is no country in the world, which the Jew can look upon, that affords as excellent an opportunity for working out the manifest destiny of his race, as he now sees it, as Palestine.
So that within the last ten years new ambitions, new economic questions, religious rivalry, and race communion, have all conspired to create a feeling in favor of the Holy Land. Dr. Hertzl, an eminent journalist of Vienna, was one of the first to fully grasp the situation. He wrote a pamphlet on the subject. However, at first the appeal was little noticed, but it soon created