Saturday, February 2, 2013

Why Jews Became Zionists and Yearned to Live in Palestine

Nadene Goldfoot
Several months ago I lost a facebook friendship with a young Afghani who genetically was related to my paternal side of the family through sharing the same DNA haplogroup. This means a Jew and a Muslim had found a connection between them.  He had conceded to himself that I was indeed that scurrilous thing--a Zionist.  Though I had told him that I was Jewish and taught in Israel, it just hadn't dawned on him;  either that or deciphering the English language was a bit cumbersome for him, or peer pressure caused him to drop our friendship.

I should have questioned what type of Zionism bothered him?  There have been the socialist Zionism, Zionist Zionism, Cultural Zionism, and Mizrach Orthodox Zionism for starters.  Why the sudden big push that started up in the 1800's to live in our ancient land, anyway?  Weren't we happy campers being homeless?  In fact, didn't everyone belong to some other country by now?  There were German Jews and American Jews; what was the big deal?  After living in Germany for hundreds of years, 1939 was another year that proved they had to get out or get killed.

Jews living in the Middle East were not citizens.  They were Dhimmis or 2nd class citizens, again people without any form of power who lived under someone else's power. The Koran teaches that Jews are consigned to humiliation and wretchedness. It's amazing that the term, anti-Semitism wasn't invented until 1879 in Germany.    After 1881's pogroms in Russia,  Jews were immigrating to Palestine and starting to immigrate to the USA. Many opted for the USA because they chose the society that offered the greatest freedom and opportunity.  Palestine offered mosquitoes, unrelenting hot sun, camels and fanatic Arabs.  You had to be young, physically fit and dedicated to choose Palestine.

About the only country one could feel was their home was the USA where Emma Lazaras (1849-1887) a Jewish immigrant, who wrote a poem that was added to the Statue of Liberty lived.  It said, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," and certainly appealed to the suffering Jews in Russia and the rest of Europe.

The Jews of France had had a scare.  They thought they had been emancipated finally, but the "Dreyfus Affair" happened in France and taught them all otherwise.  A Jewish career officer was part of the General Staff, Captain Alfred Dreyfus.  In 1894 somebody had passed military secrets to the German embassy in Paris, and immediately the Jew, Dreyfus became suspect.  He was quickly convicted of treason by a secret military  court-martial, stripped of his rank and sentenced to life in the penal colony, Devil's Island."  There he was greeted with "Welcome to the penal colony at Devil's Island, whose prisoners you are, and from which there is no escape." French newspapers such as La Libre Parole crucified him.

 Theodor Herzl was a Jewish newspaper reporter from Vienna, Austria.  He was pretty much secular and happy as an integrated Austrian, but realized what this really meant to all Jews in Europe.  They really weren't free citizens after all in this new age.  They were still hated.  Jews could still be attacked and hated for any crime at anytime.  Herzl started the Zionist movement, which meant that he and others urged Jews to return to Palestine which had been the Jewish Homeland their ancestors called Eretz Israel.  They had been thrust out 2,000 years ago and now it was time to go back and reclaim the land that nobody wanted  which was either arid or swampy and join those Jews who had never left.

Herzl had wanted a Jewish state backed by international agreement and thought of other locals for the Homeland such as Africa.  No one yearned to go there, though some did after finding Great Britain too anti-Semitic. They became citizens of South Africa.   In prayers for 2,000 years that Jews had been saying, "Next year in Jerusalem,"  and prayers that said, "If I forget thee, may I lose my right hand." kept in their hearts the yearning to return to their ancestral land.    No, Africa would not do.  It was time to return to Jerusalem.

By being stateless, Jews have been wanderers for the last 2,000 years living at the mercy of some king who found them to be useful.  They were living in England and then were thrown out. This happened in many places.   When their usefulness was over, they were kicked out. Russian Jews were confined to the Pale of Settlement consisting of Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine and Belarussia. When a Russian family, the Iskowitz's,  wanted to immigrate to the USA in the early 1900's, they had to pay a tracker and sneak out at night.  They weren't allowed in Russia proper.  

Jews had no power until Europe eased up a little by emancipation for all.  Then everyone decided that the Jews had power and detested them.  Jews were damned if they did and damned if they didn't.  They couldn't win, and neither did Dryfus for some time.  He was eventually found to be innocent and was exonerated and freed in 1906, but  after 12 years of prison. Then he accepted his reinstatement and went back in as a major.  He served in WWI and became a Lt. Colonel, showing he was a fit and capable person.

Even in the democratic USA, anti-Semitism has been a part of the Jewish life.  It really didn't start diminishing until the 60's when Blacks were just starting to gain freedom they were promised 100 years before.  So when Israel was created in 1948, many realized that we were the generation that saw the rebirth of Israel and decided that the immediate attack on this precious land was so unfair and wrong that Jewish started immigrating from all over the world, even the USA.  That's why I made Aliyah in 1980.

Book:  Jews and Power by Ruth R. Wisse
Letters From Israel by Nadene Goldfoot

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