In 1825, Mordechai Emanuel Noah purchases Grand Island, near Buffalo New York as a homeland for downtrodden Jews. He calls it Arrarat. It flops.
Much later in the century, an idealistic Jewish newspaper reporter from Vienna covers the Dreyfus trial in France. He is shocked by the injustice. He is astonished to witness the anti-Semitic hatred in France, the cradle of liberty. He concludes that despite the nineteenth century advances and ideals, civilization has not progressed much beyond the Middle Ages.
He starts thinking. If the countries of the world dont take care of the downtrodden Jew then its time for the Jew to take care of himself. The Jew needs a country and a flag, to be like the other nations.
He starts talking and some people think that he is crazy. His name is Theodore Hertzel.
Hertzel captures the imagination of the masses in the First World Zionist Congress of 1897 and he leads the way towards establishing a Jewish homeland.
Many delegates envision this to refer to our ancestral homeland and set their sights on Palestine. The dynamic Hertzel somehow is able to negotiate with world powers and they offer him Uganda. It meets all of his requirements and he is ecstatic! Unfortunately, the thoroughly assimilated Hertzel doesnt sufficiently recognize the significance of Palestine over Uganda. At the next World Zionist Congress most of the delegates, especially the Eastern European block, bolt against the proposition. Hertzel takes it personal and lays down the gavel. "This is the best we can get," he says, either take it or I resign, and good luck to you all."
Uganda wins and the delegates return home, hoping they can sell this to the masses.
A year later Hertzel is dead, from frail health.
Chaim Weitzman, a dynamic East European visionary is elected president of the movement. They are back on the track to Palestine.
Modern Zionism comes in many flavors.
The West European Zionist wants a homeland for the downtrodden and seeks political recognition for the homeland from world powers. He sees the homeland as being culturally neutral.
The East European Zionist, representing the bulk of Jewry, wants a land for himself. Rather than being a dumping ground for welfare clients, he views the homeland as a center for the best and brightest, a place that will be a light unto the nations. Eastern European Jewry are victims of public opinion and exploitative governments. Therefore, they are not so concerned about obtaining permission and being recognized by other nations.
Some Zionists are militantly socialistic. They see the homeland as a place to promote their ideals.
Some Zionists are religious. Some deeply religious groups enthusiastically join the movement, hoping that this is part of the Messianic process. They seek a home with a Jewish character.
Many Zionists are not religious. The movement attracts many disillusioned Haskala Jews. They view the plans to associate the Jewish religion with the Jewish State as a cultural invasion.
Zionism becomes controlled by Western European secularists.
When they declare the State in 1948 there will be a special sub-committee to figure out whether and how to include the name of G-d on the declaration. They will finally agree to thank the Rock of Israel.
There is disagreement over the official language of this fledgling state. Some want French, others want German. One person, named Ben-Yehuda, wants Hebrew. He wins.
As you can see from the diversity, Zionism and the resulting State of Israel is quite a lively entity which appears to be miraculously held together. Yes, another miracle. Amazing.
Zionism is bitterly opposed by some groups.
The American and German Reform movements are hotly antagonistic, as the promotion of Zionism appears to imply a disloyalty to the host countries. In fact, as late as 1950, Dr. Elmer Burg, on behalf of the American Council for Judaism (Reform), will repeatedly testify in the United States Congress against the State of Israel.
Another source of intense opposition comes from the Jewish socialists, who see Zionism as competition for the generations young and idealistic talent.
A third source, much smaller but quite visible, comes from a minority within the religious circles that can not accept how a movement which is controlled by secular and religiously estranged people could achieve anything positive for the Jewish people.
The bitterest opponents are the Arabs, who start waking up to a dramatic increase in Jewish population in Palestine. There is a huge cultural between the two, West versus East . There is a huge religious gap between these two groups, Judaism versus Islam. The Zionists really dont know how to deal with this problem. They hope that their success will being economic opportunity to the region. It will. They hope that the success will make the Arabs content. It won't.
Near the turn of the century the Palestinian population is one-hundred-fifty-thousand people. Fifteen-thousand are Jews and the rest are mostly Arab. Within fifty years the Arab population will swell to two-million, due to the economic opportunities that the Jews generate and the resulting influx from the surrounding Arab countries.
The Arabs are infected with the virus of European anti-Semitism and view the Jews as being losers. However, the Jews are dramatically successful in building up the land. The Arabs are dumbfounded. How could Jews do this? Why couldnt they have done it, themselves? The success of the Jews drives the Arabs to prove that they are not inferior and stupid. Their pride will not have an opportunity to heal until the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Without experiencing that victory they will not be able to consider peace.
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