Friday, July 10, 2015

Jews Moving to Palestine: Zionism and How It Began

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                              

Being the Chosen Ones has often been a burden to the Jewish people.  As Tevia said in "Fiddler on the Roof,"  Why did you have to choose us, Oh G-d?  Why couldn't you have chosen some other people?" Tevia lived in one of the states in the Pale of Settlement, land that Catherine II of Russia had allowed Jews to live in as they were refused entrance to Russia proper.  Jews had no land of their own, and for 2,000 years faced being thrown out of countries at the ruler's whim or being invited there to straighten out their finances.  They were wanted for their high math, financial  and economic skills by rulers and then hated for their religious beliefs.

 The Christians must have heard Tevia's plea for the Presbyterians and others of the same ilk have done just this.  They have this theory, "The Replacement Theory," that they have replaced the Jews and are now  the "Chosen Ones."  Jews are no longer important and so such acts as the BDS movement of forcing Israel to do their bidding instead of their own is taking place today.  Siding with the Palestinians is their thing; the heck with the Jews.  Jews have explained over and over that being chosen did not mean to be above others.  It meant they they carried the burden of being the light to show others the way of living with the Law of Moses.  They were to be a nation of Priests, the example for others to follow.  This means that Jews have been facing this new kind of anti-Semitism from this segment of Christians.

Back in the 1880s, the land of Israel had gone the way Pompeii had, lain waste. this is when Jews started moving back to Palestine in waves called aliyah of which there were about 5 in all.   The Ottoman Empire had control of the land and did nothing with it but let it lie fallow and feel the effects of Mother nature.  Much had either become swampland full of mosquitoes or had turned into desert full of weeds.

Britain and France were supporting the Sultan's regime against Russian invasion.  The Ottomans had restored a little of law and order and made a change in communal law:  non Muslims would be treated as equals to Muslims.  The Muslims didn't like that new law.  In Islam, Muslims considered it a natural law that Muslims should be treated as superior beings.  Other people were always 2nd-class citizens under their rule,  at least since the 700s,  called dhimmis.  Now there were many anti-Christian outbreaks and massacres in Syria, Mesopotamia and Arabia.  The French controlled Lebanon and  they sent in warships of theirs along with the British warships at Jidda to intervene on behalf of the victims.

The important point is that the Ottoman Empire had spent all their collected money causing Constantinople to have empty coffers and this brought about a reform in that they put up land for sale.  Most of it was in Syria and was considered as worthless land.  A small number of Arab families bought this unworked land which turned out to be too ancient for them to work.  Their farming methods weren't working and they wanted to leave this G-d forsaken place and go to Beirut or Paris and live comfortably with their new money from the Jews.  .    

Jews could buy it from these new landowners.  The catch was that the Ottomans caught on in the 1880s and were antagonistic toward them.  However, the Ottomans were faced with an organized movement of Hoveve Zion/Hibbat Zion (Lovers of Zion(Jerusalem-Eretz Yisrael), an Eastern European forerunner of the Zionist Organization which preached and practiced immigration and settlement in Palestine. It started from the 1881 pogroms against Jews.  By 1882 the Jews had created a movement to combat these attacks.  They had a slogan "To Palestine!"  This created tremendous enthusiasm and societies were organized in Russia, Poland, Romania and England to buy land in Palestine for settlement by their members.

Most of the religious leaders initially stood aside.  Opposition came from assimilated Russian Jews and many Jews in Western Europe.  The Turkish authorities were against it who in April 1882 imposed a prohibition against them, but somehow they got through as work and colonies in Palestine were founded in 1882 anyway.  So by 1890, the Turks rescinded the ban on Jewish settlement and the Russian authorities approved the existence of the Hoveve Zion movement.  Many Russian Jews immigrated to Palestine in 1890.  In 1897 they joined up with the World Zionist Organization that was newly-founded.  this led to the demand for practical work in Palestine.
 The Turks put a double curse on the Jews by forbidding their entry and of any Jews buying the land.  Many Jews entered the country as pilgrims, then, and managed to buy land from owners wanting to get out of the country.  The prices were always set extremely high.  It wasn't the owners' fault that there were these crazy people around accepting their high price.  The land was ravaged and desolate, good for nothing, they thought.  They should never had bought it.  To the Jews who knew of its history, it was just a challenge and a call for their care and love to restore this sacred land.  They had left a hateful land full of pogroms and needed this land like they needed air to breathe.
Safed's old city
By 1914 the countryside was dotted with Jewish villages.  Jews became the majority in Jerusalem by mid-century;  and that's when they developed the city outside the walls as well.  They worked to restore Haifa, Safed and Tiberias, and by 1909 had expanded the borders of Jaffa.  Then they founded their first modern all-Hebrew city:  Tel Aviv.   These returning Jews directly or indirectly helped to improve the peasant Arab's farming methods and raised their standard of living.

My neighbors, Joan Padrow's parents,  came from Tel Aviv.  Mimi's family of Robinson  had owned a hotel there.  I can't think of Tel Aviv without remembering Mimi's stories about growing up with the Arabs working in their orange groves.  She spoke of good times and peace, but the riots going on in 1929 brought them to Portland, Oregon.  Her husband was a dentist and a pharmacist and opened his own store not far from his home which was on my block.  Mimi's brother was also in Portland teaching Hebrew at the Hebrew Academy.
Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) born in Budapest, Hungary, founded the Zionist Organization in 1897 of the longing for the return to Zion (Jerusalem) after 17 centuries of having to stay away.  The door of entrance was ajar but kept swinging back to an almost closed position.  The Ottoman administration was decrepit, backward and corrupt.  The ravaged country presented physical hardships and dangerous perils.  1914 saw the World War I  break out and the Ottomans sided with Germany.  The future was that the Turkish Empire could be defeated which would break their hold on Palestine.  The Jews decided to take the Turk's enemy's side.  What could they do?  They had no sovereign power and no national base and were just a collection of minorities scattered over the world.  Jews found themselves on both sides of this war.  The thing they had in common with each other was their passion for Eretz Israel and a new hunger for independence.
Chaim Weizmann
Chaim Weizmann, Zeev Jabotinsky and Aaron Aaronson were 3 men responsible for this new Zionist awareness of gaining back their lost land.  I'm pleased to see that a tome of a novel with 832 pages, "THE SETTLERS" by Meyer Levin, followed closely, point by point this history.    Each of these men helped to give Britain and her allies their help to win the war.  At the time, there were many Jews living in the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires and they had a fairly  tolerable life.  It was much better than those Jews had living in Russia's Pale of Settlement such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

From 1871 through 1921 there had been anti-Jewish pogroms in the towns of Russia's Pale of Settlement.   Russia was on Britain's ally,  but they were highly anti-Semitic.  This meant that a victory for the Allies would mean a victory for tsarist tyranny against Jews as well.  Now, if Jews were thought to be anti-Turkish, they might lose what they already had in Palestine, and their communities had grown there.  It was in 1882 that 750,000 Jews living in Russia were forced to re-settle in the Pale of Settlement.  This went on till 1890.  In 1891 Jews were expelled from Moscow and St. Petersburg.  My grandfather had been born in Telsiai, Lithuania on August 5, 1872.  No wonder he got out when he could and immigrated to England, then Ireland, Canada and reached the USA finally in an out of the way hamlet of Council, Idaho.

Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952) born in Motel, near Pinsk, Belarus,  was a chemist, leader and 1st president of Israel.  He had international reputation for his discoveries in organic chemistry relating to the fermentation of acetone butyl,  and other things. He's the person who received the Balfour Declaration from the Brits and the agreement with Emir Feisal.  He had improved the ammunition of the Brits which enabled them to be winners in WWI.
Zeev Jabotinsky (1880-1940) born in Odessa, Ukraine,  newspaper reporter under name Altalena,author,  leader in self-defense units, minority rights, revival of Hebrew.  Pushed for fighting on Brit's side as Zion Mule Corps in 1915, and 1917 Jewish battalion groups.  1920 Arab onslaught led first Jewish self-defense.  Was the spiritual father and head of Irgun Tzevai Leumi, and demanded a Jewish army in WWII.
Aaron Aaronson (1876-1919) Born in Bacau, Rumania, immigrated in 1882 at age 6 with parents, one of founders of Zikhron Yaakov, studied agronomy in France,  lived in Palestine and was a scientist.  He discovered wild wheat called emmer (triticum dicoccoides)  growing there, the mother of today's wheat.  The Turkish government had chosen him to direct the campaign against the plague of locusts that ravaged the country during the first year of the war.  The war had just begun and Aaronson found out that the Ottomans had exterminated 2 million Armenians who were subjects of the Ottoman Empire!  At the time, Jews in Palestine were being selected as subjects of terrorization, despoliation and deportation.  How could the Jewish underground continue to fight against the Turks?   It only made Aaronson more sure that Britain had to win.   He organized the Nili group, an intelligence service for the British behind Turkish lines.  He became a most important adviser at British HQ for the future invasion of Palestine under General Allenby.  Aaronson's chief collaborator, Avshalom Feinberg, was killed by Bedouins.  2 men were hung in Damascus and many others were put in prison and tortured, Aaronson's sister among others.  She was able to commit suicide by pistol.  Aaronson died in an air crash in 1919.   Part of the Jewish population opposed the activities of Nili, but without it the British may not have won.  These were Palestinian Jews fighting in a world war against tyranny and for the democratic values of what the West had then to offer the world.

From 1919 to May 14, 1948,  385,065 Jews from America, Europe and Oceania immigrated to Palestine which made up 89.6% of the new immigrants.
In 1919 alone, there were 1,806 Jewish immigrants to Palestine.
44,809 came from Asia and Africa or 10.4%.  A total of 452,158 had entered.

Many had to reach Palestine on dilapidated ships that members of the Jewish resistance organizations had smuggled in.  Between August 1945 and May 1948, 65 "illegal immigrant ships carried in 69,878 people from Europe.  They were illegal because Britain had not allowed them.  They had stopped their immigration through the time before WWII broke out, and that's when Jews needed Israel the most.  In August 1946 the British caught ships and had them go to Cyprus and placed them in holding camps.  50,000 people were detained in these camps..  28,000 were still imprisoned when Israel declared their independence May 14, 1948.

Why did the British act like this?  Their excuse was that they didn't want to jeopardize the traditional position of the Arabs in Palestine by Jewish settlement.  Of course potential oil fields had nothing to do with their choices.  Jewish settlement gathered Arabs like flies since they were hungry for jobs, and Jewish building meant jobs for them.  Arabs weren't hurting from the presence of Jews.  The Jews brought doctors and hospitals to the area.  Jewish presence somehow drove out the damned mosquitoes.  They learned new skills and were able to make a living.  Life was better.  The same thing has happened with this G-dawful BDS movement of the newly Chosen people.  By not buying goods from Judea or Samaria, they have stopped the jobs that Arabs had with companies.  The Arabs are the ones most hurt by these meddlers who understand nothing.  The results of such meddling was that Jews lost 80% of land they thought had been promised to them after all their sacrifices of helping the British.  They have learned not to trust someone's word and for them, being paranoid must be a common state of mind in order to survive to the next generation.

Resource;  Facts About Israel
Battleground, fact and fantasy in Palestine
Myths and Facts-a concise record of the Arab-Israeli conflict by Mitchell G. Bard, Joel Himelfarb
The New Standard Jewish Encycloopedia

No comments:

Post a Comment