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Jerusalem, 1946

This is a revised edition of the Memorandum submitted by the
Jewish Agency for Palestine to
the Palestine Royal Commission in November, 1936.

Printed in Palestine, by Rubin Mass, Publisher, Jerusalem at M.
Shoham's Press, 6, Fin St., Tel Aviv

"Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical
connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds
for reconstituting their national home in that country..."
From the Preamble to the Mandate for Palestine.

The association of the Jewish people with the land of Palestine
presents an historical phenomenon as singular as the survival of
that people itself. It would, indeed, appear that the two phenomena
are closely inter-related, for historical experience has shown that
this attachment to the ancient home has been a potent factor in
maintaining the identity of the Jewish People during their long
exile. It was in Palestine that the Jews went through the unique
experience of the spirit which has for all time shaped their
character and destiny. But that experience has also exercised an
indelible influence on the land of Palestine. It has fixed its place in
the history of mankind.
No other people of the many that possessed it has left so deep a
mark on that ancient land. No other has been so profoundly
affected by it. When the Jewish Commonwealth was destroyed by
the might of
Imperial Rome, the Jews became a homeless and exiled people.
They ceased to be a political force in the life of mankind. Equally
so, the land of Palestine disappeared from the political map of the
world. It became a backward province of successive empires. It
never again
attained indigenous statehood. It was only in the Balfour
Declaration that both the Jewish People and the land of Palestine
reappeared as political entities. It gave international recognition
both to the people and to the land, and it did so by holding out the
promise of their reunion. The wheel of history has turned full

To trace the origin of that association, one has to revert to the early
pages of Biblical record. In the earliest account of divine revelation
to Abraham, the ancestor of the nation, the promise held out to the
patriach is for the settlement of his descendants in the land of
Canaan. In those first revelations, too, there significantly appears
the prophecy, so often repeated in subsequent records of
Hebrew prophetic vision, of temporary exile and oppression in a
strange land to be followed by a glorious return (GenesisXV, 13,
14). That prophecy reappears in the revelation to Jacob before he
sets out for Egypt ("I will go down with thee into Egypt and I will
also surely bring thee up again", Genesis XLVI, 4). In the early
record of Joseph, the first exiled scion of the race, in Egyptian
captivity, Palestine is characteristically referred to as "the land of
the Hebrews" (Genesis XL, IS). Threat of exile and promise of
eventual return are the ever-recurrent themes of the terrible
prophecies of Moses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. If the Jewish
people disobey the Divine command they are to be scattered
among the nations, their land turned into desolation and their cities
into waste. "Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their
enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to
destroy them utterly..... But I will remember the covenant of their
ancestors whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the
sight of the nations" (Leviticus XXVI, 44-45). "Then the Lord thy
God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and
will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord
thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the
outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather
thee, and from thence will he fetch thee. And the Lord thy God will
bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt
possess it; and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy
fathers" (Deuteronomy XXX, 3, 4, 5). Truly has it been said: "The
Zionism of the Bible is far anterior to the exile of Israel - even the
first exile. It dates back to the prehistoric days of Israel in Egypt;
and Moses was the first Zionist" 1).

1) "Zionism", in the series of "Handbooks prepared under the
direction of the Historical Section of the Foreign Office [of Britain;
DB]"-No.. 162 (H.M. Stationery office), 1920, p. 2.

The entrance of the Hebrews into Palestine proceeded, as recorded
in the Biblical narrative and confirmed by recent excavations, by
way of Transjordan. Several tribes immediately established
themselves in that territory, which remained an integral part of
Jewish Palestine until the dispersion. The bulk of the Israelites,
however, crossed the Jordan, reduced Jericho and the greater part
of the mountainous country and then penetrated into the zone of
the lower hills and, finally, to the coastal plain. In the fourteenth
and thirteenth centuries B. C. they held sway over the entire hill
country from Mt Hermon in the North to the Negeb in the south. In
the early records of the Book of Joshua all the expanse of the hill
country is already called by the name of “Mount of Israel”. (Joshua
XI, i6). Various Hebrew place names mentioned in the Bible, like
Kiryat Yearim, Kiryat Anavim, Bet Arava, Migdal Eder and Beth
Lehem, and other names denoting vineyards, wells, springs and
gardens, indicate that the Hebrews converted the country into a
settled region. Many of these names have been preserved to this
day, and testify to the truth of the Biblical story of how the
Hebrews dug wells which their neighbours were at times in the
habit of filling up again.
The ensuing centuries were a period of remarkable development.
Agriculture flourished, the plains and valleys were cultivated and
terraces built throughout the mountains. Tribal rule, as in force
during the earlier period of the Judges, who maintained the
spiritual unity of the nation and upheld the early theocratic
tradition of the pre-settlement era, was subsequently replaced by a
monarchical system. Under David and Solomon the Jewish State
attained a high level of political, military and economic
organisation, as proved by the recent archeological excavations of
Prof. Albright at Giv’at Shaul, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The
Hebrew Kingdom at that period stretched all along Palestine and
Syria from the River Euphrates to the borders of Egypt and from
the Lebanon to the Dead Sea. The Jewish kings held the trade
routes between Mesopotamia, on the one hand, and Egypt and the
Mediterranean countries, on the other. Similarly, by their tenure of
Aqaba and Etzion Geber on the shores of the Red Sea, they
controlled the roads to southern Arabia and to the shores of East
Africa. The recent excavations at Megiddo, Gezer, Lakhish and
Dvir have revealed the remarkable economic and cultural
development of the Jewish commonwealth during that period. The
buildings and fortifications unearthed indicate a high level of
architecture. Jerusalem was raised from a small village in the hills
to the cultural and religious centre of the Jewish nation. Hebrew
literature flourished. A great many literary works, historical,
religious and poetical, were composed during this period, not all of
them preserved in the Biblical Canon. This development continued
even after the Jewish State had broken up in the ninth century B.C.
into the Kingdoms of Judah and Samaria. The ruins of powerful
fortresses and splendid buildings discovered at Samaria, Mizpah,
Jerusalem and other places testify to the high level of development
reached during the later period of the Hebrew Kingdoms in the arts
of building and fortification, in the planning of towns and
aqueducts and in the production of ceramics and other works of art.
In the realm of spiritual creation this was the period of the great
Hebrew prophets, the sublime masters of religious inspiration and
moral teaching. It was the era of Elijah the Gileadite and Elisha
from the Valley of the Jordan, Amos, the shepherd of Tekoa and
Micah from the hills of Judea, Isaiah, the son of the capital, and
Jeremiah the villager from Anathoth, men who have revolutionised
the ethical standards of mankind.

The great political disturbances that began in Western Asia towards
the end of the seventh century B.C. brought about the end of the
Golden Age of Jewish statehood. In 720 B.C., the Assyrians
destroyed the Northern Kingdom and transplanted its inhabitants to
Central Asia. One hundred and fifty years later Jerusalem was
conquered by the Chaldeans after the Jews had for more than three
years fought a fierce struggle for their lives and liberties against
the superior forces of Nebuchadrezzar. The Hebrew inscriptions
discovered at Lakhish, one of the last Jewish fortresses to hold out
against the invaders, bear witness to the intensity of that struggle.
The Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed, the last King of Judah
with many thousands of the elite of the nation was exiled to
Babylon. Yet even before the Hebrew Kingdoms had been
destroyed and their inhabitants exiled, the return of the exiles and
the revival of Jewish statehood had been foretold by the very
prophets who had been the harbingers of the coming destruction.
In messages whose spiritual fervour transcends even the mighty
warnings of earlier prophecy, the picture of a new Zion of the
future was unfolded, re-peopled by the returned exiles, inspired by
a higher vision of moral truth and destined to become the spiritual
centre of a regenerated mankind. “I will return the captivity of My
people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit
them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof;
they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will
plant them upon their land and they shall no more be plucked up
out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord” (Amos
IX, 14, 15). “Many nations shall go and say: ‘Come ye, and let us
go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of
Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His
paths’; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the
Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah IV, 2). “For the Lord shall comfort
Zion: He will comfort all her waste places; and He will make her
wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness shall be found therein” (Isaiah LI, 3). Even while
being dragged into Egyptian exile the Prophet Jeremiah comforted
his fellow—sufferers with inspiring visions a glorious return:
“Again will I build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of
Israel…... Again shalt thou plant vineyards upon the mountains of
Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall have the use thereof…
… Behold I will bring them from the north country, and gather
them from the uttermost parts of the earth— A great company shall
they return hither. They shall come with weeping, and with
supplications will I lead them…… And they shall come and sing in
the height of Zion…… And their soul shall be as a watered garden,
and they shall not pine any more at all— For I will comfort them,
and make them rejoice from their sorrow” (Jeremiah XXXI, 4-13).
It was these visions of a divinely assured return to Zion which kept
alive the sense of national cohesion among the Jewish exiles in
Babylon. Unlike other nations conquered by the Chaldeans and
transplanted to new surroundings, they refused to become rooted in
the land of their captivity. “If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my
right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of
my mouth if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my
chiefest joy “ (Psalm CXXXVII, , 6). Their loyalty was rewarded
when, after his conquest of Babylon, Cyrus, King of Persia,
allowed the Jewish exiles to return to Palestine and reconstruct the
Temple in Jerusalem. Some 42,000 returned, led by a scion of the
old Jewish royal family. They found their native land in a state of
utter desolation, but immediately set to work, under prophetic
guidance, to rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem and the other towns of
Judaea and to reconstruct the Temple. Three further waves of re-
immigration followed during the next century. In spite of the
opposition of the local Persian officials and the intrigues of the
Samaritans and Ammonites who had usurped the land during the
exile of the Jews, the “remnant of the captivity”, supported by the
sympathy of the Persian kings, succeeded in reconstructing the
Jewish polity, the economic and political order of the country
being re-organised in accordance with Biblical precept. In the
words of Nehemiah, “everyone with one of his hands wrought in
the work and with the other held his weapon So we wrought in the
work; and half of them held the spears from the rising of the
morning until the stars appeared” (Nehemiah IV, ii, i5).
The period that followed was one of great economic and cultural
development. New cities were built, including many fortresses. An
effective measure of local self-government was introduced, the
townships being invested with authority for controlling economic
activities and supervising the administration of religious,
educational and charitable institutions. The Jews also had the right
to levy taxes and strike their own coinage. A Jewish police force
was organised, law-courts were set up and teachers and physicians
appointed throughout the country. Agriculture prospered again as
in olden days. The papyri discovered in the Zenon Archives at
Fayoum in Egypt reveal the economic expansion of Palestine
during that period. A large number of new Jewish communities
sprang up in the Sharon, Galilee and Transjordan. Jerusalem
resumed its former place as the political and cultural centre, the
High Priests becoming the virtual rulers as well as the spiritual
leaders of the nation. This form of Jewish home rule continued
after the destruction of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great
and the consequent transition of Palestine to Ptolemaic and
Seleucid rule. As in former periods of peace and prosperity, a
remarkable spiritual and intellectual development set in. The
Biblical Canon, comprising the eternal creations of the Jewish
genius in the land of its origin — the historical and prophetic
books, the Psalms and Proverbs, the Book of Job and the Song of
Songs — was compiled and edited. At the same time, a great many
poetical and historical books were composed, some of them like
Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah being included in the Canon,
others like the Books of Enoch, Tobit and Ecclesiasticus being
relegated to apocryphal rank.
The intensity of the national spirit of the Jewish people, of its
attachment to its land and its spiritual heritage, was revealed when
Antiochus Epiphanes, a later Seleucid ruler, endeavoured by
forceful methods to Hellenise the country. His attempt produced
the great religious and national revolt of the Maccabeans which
ended with the liberation of Judaea by Judah the Maccabee, and
the re-establishment of the Jewish kingdom in Palestine, which
thereafter was ruled for almost a century by the scions of the
victorious family. It was a period of even greater prosperity than
the preceding one.
Agriculture, trade and commerce, both on land and on sea,
flourished. The cities in the interior and along the coast were
thickly populated, while new settlements sprang up in Transjordan,
in the Jordan Valley, on the borders of the desert and even along
the shores of the Dead Sea. Not since the days of David and
Solomon had the Jewish State held a position of such authority in
the Eastern world. Jewish culture reached another peak of its
development. Most of the apocryphal books date from this period.
The Sanhedrin, apart from acting as the supreme court of law,
became the centre of religious, legal and moral studies and the
body directing education throughout the country. There was also a
characteristic Jewish artistic development at that period, as proved
by recent archeological discoveries. The end of this era of
prosperity came when Pompey conquered Jerusalem in 63 B.C.,
after which Judaea fell under the sway of the Roman Empire. The
Roman Senate appointed Herod, an Edomite adventurer, as King of
Judaea. He was allowed to develop a comprehensive Jewish
principality under Roman suzerainty. New towns, such as the port
of Caesaria and Antipatris, were founded in that period; fortresses
were established n Jericho and along the western coast of the Dead
Sea. Jerusalem was beautified and extended and
the Second Temple restored. In Transjordan, Jewish agriculturists
were settled in the Hauran and Bashan provinces and large tracts of
waste lands reclaimed on the borders of the desert. Despite the
King’s Hellenistic tendencies, the Jewish religion and culture
maintained their hold on the people. Great spiritual leaders, such as
Hillel and Shamai, exercised a profound influence on the
development of both religious and secular law. On the death of
Herod the country was divided among his successors, but actual
authority was vested in the succeeding Roman Procurators who
ruled the country with an iron hand. A number of revolts occurred,
each of them ruthlessly suppressed by the Roman forces. It was at
that period that the first Messianic movements sprang up among
the desperate Jewish rural population. In the end, a great national
revolt broke out which, after five years of bitter warfare, led to the
conquest of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple.
Even then a few isolated fortresses held out against the Romans,
the most heroic instance being that of Masada, perched on the
forbidding cliffs overhanging the Dead Sea. When it was at last
taken after a siege which outlasted that of Jerusalem by three years,
the Romans found a city of the dead, the last defenders having
committed suicide rather than fall into the hands of their merciless


The destruction of the Temple shook the structure of Jewish life to
its very foundations. It set in motion the movement of enforced
emigration which was gradually to sap the Jewish hold on the
country. It struck a fatal blow at the creative relationship that had
bound together Jewish spirituality and the land of Palestine. It
marked the end of Jewish independence. It also marked the end of
Palestine’s statehood. Never again has the country evolved a
national polity of its own.
On the eve of the final revolt the country was very thickly
populated, its population being estimated to have amounted to
4,000,000. Jerusalem alone is reported to have numbered a quarter
of a million inhabitants. During the five years’ war many Jewish
villages and townlets in Galilee, in Transjordan and in the South
were razed to the ground and tens of thousands of their inhabitants
killed by the Roman legions or sold into slavery. The Jews lost all
political freedom; political suppression and economic exhaustion
combined to drive large numbers into exile. Nevertheless, the mass
of the people still remained rooted in the soil, and new spiritual
centres sprang up in the provincial townlets. Judaea, Galilee, the
South and Transjordan remained Jewish in population, in custom
and in manners.
After two generations had passed, another general rising against
Roman rule broke out, led by Bar Cochba who succeeded in
reconquering Jerusalem. He was supported by Rabbi Akiba, one of
the great spiritual heroes of Jewish history. For three years the
Jews fought against the Roman legions all over the country and it
was only after the fall of Bethar, the last stronghold, and the
destruction of the entire countryside of Judaea, in which not a
single olive tree is said to have been left, that the Jews were finally
crushed. According to Dio Cassius, the Romans destroyed 50
Jewish fortresses and 985 Jewish villages, while nearly 600,000
Jews fell by the sword. Jerusalem itself was transformed into a
Roman colony and given a Latin name. Similarly, in the official
designation of the country the name of Judaea was replaced by that
of Palestine. The inhabitants of Jerusalem were expelled and
foreigners settled in their places. Jews were in fact forbidden to
visit Jerusalem on pain of death except once a year, the day of the
destruction of the Temple, when they were allowed to come and
bewail their ruin. All over the country the Roman Military
Governors carried on a fierce war of extermination against all
those whom they suspected of complicity in the national revolt or
of potential leadership in the future. One noble family after another
was exterminated. The population dwindled from year to year;
large sections of the people found themselves compelled to leave
the soil of their native land and to emigrate to Egypt,
Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean Islands, Greece and Italy, and
thence northwards to France and Germany. Yet after a while, when
the Roman pressure relaxed, Jewish life re-established itself in
various parts of Palestine, the countryside again became covered
with olive groves and vineyards, and a number of smaller towns
were revived. The hopelessness of a national insurrection against
Rome having been demonstrated by the failure of the revolt of Bar
Cochba, Jews settled down under a system of local national
autonomy which was recognised by their Roman rulers. The
Sanhedrin transferred from the South to Usha in Galilee and thence
to Tiberias, became the political centre of the Jewish nation. It was
presided over by the “Nasi” [Prince (sic; should be ‘president’;
‘prince’ is ‘nasikh’ in Hebrew’; DB.)], a title that passed from
father to son in the family of Hillel, who himself was a descendant
of the House of David. For four hundred years this system
remained in force. The Nasi was recognised by the Romans as the
head of the Jewish Community in Palestine and as the
representative of Jewry at large. He supervised the Jewish
municipal and village self-government and the educational system
and was the recipient of regular taxes paid by the Jewish
Population of Palestine and abroad. The Church Fathers, notably
Origen, refer to the rule of the Nasis as the last remnant of
dominion retained by the Jews of Palestine. The edict of the
Emperor Diocletian to the fourth Prince (again, should be
‘president’; DB.) of Judaea indicates that at that time the Jewish
courts and institutions were recognised by the Romans as
possessed of public authority. The position of the Nasi grew in
importance during the reign of the Emperor Septimus Severus,
when the Roman attitude towards the Jews became more friendly
and the economic position of the Jewish community improved
considerably. Recent archeology finds indicate that, during the late
Roman and early Byzantine periods, a large and wealthy Jewish
community was again to be found in Palestine. In all more than
fifty ruins of synagogues dating from that era have been
discovered, some of them of highly artistic architecture. The most
famous are those of Capernaum near Tiberias and Beth Alpha in
the Esdraelon Valley; the striking mosaic floor of the latter was laid
bare in 1928 by Jewish pioneers digging an irrigation canal ― a
significant illustration of an attachment spanning the centuries.
The legal provisions contained in the Palestinian Talmud, which
was compiled at that period, concerning agriculture and land
tenure, indicate that in the sixth century the greater part of the soil
of Palestine was in Jewish possession. Most of the Jews were
agriculturists and artisans; they lived in well-organised
communities all over Galilee, Transjordan and Judaea along the
coast of the Mediterranean and even in the area, now desolated,
between the Dead Sea and Akaba. The writings of the Fathers of
the Christian Church, especially St. Jerome, who lived and worked
in the country in the fourth and fifth centuries, contain interesting
details of the fairly prosperous and well-established position of the
Jewish community during the early Byzantine period. It was only
in Jerusalem that the Jews were not allowed to live, but not a few
came to pray at the ruins of the Temple. It was during this period
that in the Jewish centres of Tiberias, Ludd and Caesaria, the first
codifications of Jewish law the Mishnah and the Palestinian
Talmud — were compiled, summarising the religious and cultural
heritage of Judaism during the preceding periods and laying down
the principles and precepts of the Jewish religion as practised to
this day. This late flower of Jewish political autonomy and spiritual
creativeness came to an end at the beginning of the fifth century
when the Emperor Theodosius II. abolished the position of the
Nasi. Once during that period there had even been a prospect of the
re-establishment of the Jewish State. When the Emperor Julian the
Apostate set out on his Persian War he issued a declaration holding
out to the Jews the promise of the rebuilding of the Temple and the
restoration of their independence. It provoked a wave of keen
enthusiasm, but before effective steps could be taken to carry out
the promise, the Emperor died and Jewish hopes were again
The last three centuries of Byzantine rule in Palestine were a
period of ever-deepening gloom. The Christian rulers of the
Eastern Empire pursued a policy of harsh repression against the
Palestinian Jews, expropriating their land, subjecting them to
extortionate taxation and attempting their conversion en masse.
Driven to despair, many left the country and settled in
Mesopotamia, where an important Jewish centre developed during
the following centuries. Yet it is noteworthy that even at this period
of harsh repression and large emigration, the framework of the
Jewish settlement in Palestine was not shaken. The number of
villages and townlets having a Jewish population which are
mentioned in the Palestinian Talmud and in the Midrashic literature
of the period amounts to about 400. These settlements were to be
found all over the country, along the coast and in the Negeb, in the
hills of Judaea and in the Valley of Esdraelon, in Galilee and in
Transjordan and as far south as the Gulf of Aqaba and the coast of
the Red Sea. In maintaining themselves against the repressive
measures of the Byzantine rulers, the Jews of Palestine had the
strong support of the Jewries throughout the Diaspora. The link
between Pa1estine and those who had been forced to leave it
remained a powerful one. There was even at that dark period an
immigration into Palestine, and “emissaries of Zion” found the
ready assistance of the communities of the Exile. Despite the rise
of new centres of learning abroad, the academies of Palestine
continued to retain the allegiance of all the Diaspora. Though the
calendar had been fixed, the Diaspora waited for the sages of
Palestine to proclaim the incidence of the intercalary year. Such
attachment assumed political importance in the war between Persia
and the Byzantines. When at the beginning of the seventh century,
the Persian King Chosroes II. invaded Palestine, thousands of Jews
from Galilee, Syria and Babylon, encouraged by Persian promises
of the re-establishment of the Jewish kingdom, flocked to his
colours and participated in the conquest of Jerusalem. The
promises, however, were not kept and Jewish complaints were met
by the new conquerors with penalties and banishment. Fourteen
years later the city was recaptured by the Byzantines, who took
brutal revenge on the Jews and renewed the policy of expropriation
and enforced conversion. So bitter was Jewish resentment against
their oppressors that, when seven years later the Arabs began their
attack against the Byzantine Empire, they found themselves
everywhere actively supported by the Jews. In 637 an Arab army
led by the Caliph Omar routed the Byzantines and occupied

The position of the Jewish people at the time of the Arab invasion
presents a picture of tragic complexity. They had ceased to possess
any measure of political independence or national autonomy in
their native land. Long periods of repression and persecution had
resulted in the emigration of large sections and the growth of a far-
flung Jewish Diaspora. By the destruction of the Temple the nation
had lost its central shrine. Important centres of Jewish learning had
sprung up in Mesopotamia. In Egypt and in the Mediterranean
islands, the Jews had come under the influence of Hellenistic
civilisation, and new systems of thought and spiritual movements
had resulted from such contact. Yet, in spite of all these
developments, Palestine retained the spiritual allegiance of the
entire Jewish people. In the theory and practice of Jewish law, as
maintained throughout the Diaspora, it remained the national
centre. In saying his prayers the Jew, wherever fate had exiled him,
turned to the holy Mount of Moriah. The Jewish liturgy was
permeated by supplications for the gathering of the exiles and the
rebuilding of Jerusalem. At the mid night hour the devout Jew
would rise, sit on the floor and cover his head with ashes to mourn
the destruction of Zion and pray for its redemption. In the morning
service he would pray: “0 bring us in peace from the four corners
of the earth and make us go upright to our land,” and the great
central prayer of the Jewish service recited in the morning, at mid-
day and at night, contained fervent supplications for the restoration
of the exiles and the re-building of Jerusalem “speedily and in our
days”. The days of fasting and mourning of the Jews calendar are
nearly all memorials of national disasters. “Next year in
Jerusalem” is the note upon which conclude the most solemn
services of the Jewish ritual, those of the Passover Night and of the
Day of Atonement. The national restoration forms the central
theme in every service, public or private, in the Sabbath prayers
and the solemn liturgy of the high festivals, in the grace after
meals, at the consecration of a new house, in the marriage service
and in the memorial for the dead. The liturgical formula of comfort
to mourners is: “May the Lord comfort ye among all those that
mourn for Zion and Jerusalem”. When the new-born was received
into the community a blessing was pronounced that he might
“become worthy to ascend in the holy pilgrimage of the three
festivals”, and when the dead was laid to eternal rest a small sack
of earth from Palestine was placed under his head that he might
rest in the soil of the land of Israel, a practice which is still in
general use to-day. At the marriage ceremony it was customary for
the bridegroom to put ashes on his head, so as to “set Jerusalem
above his chiefest joy”. Similarly, the jewellery of the bridal dress
was to be incomplete, while an empty space. at the feast was to
remind the guests of mourning Jerusalem and of the defective
status of the nation. Though resident in far-off lands where climatic
conditions differed widely from those in Palestine, the Jew
continued to pray for rain and to intercede for dew at the seasons
when the climate of Palestine demanded it but when such prayers
were utterly meaningless in the land of his sojourn. And whatever
beautiful synagogues he might build in distant countries, the ruin
of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem remained to him the holiest site
on earth. Similarly, the return to Zion formed the central theme in
the Hebrew literature of the exile. Elaborate treatises were written
and continue to be written to this day on the subject of religious
rites which cannot be performed outside Palestine, on the law of
the first fruits and the gleanings, of the tithe and of the seventh
year, of the heave-offering and the shekel dues. Truly was it said
by Benjamin Disraeli: “The vineyards of Israel have ceased to
exist, but the eternal Law enjoins the children of Israel still to
celebrate the vintage. A race that persists in celebrating their
vintage although they have no fruits to gather will regain their
Hardly less significant are the provisions of Talmudic law,
elaborated during this period and in force ever since, regarding the
priority of Palestine in legal relations, religious and secular. A man
is not allowed to force his wife to move with him from Palestine to
a foreign country even though in Palestine he may have stayed in a
place where Jews are few, while abroad he might live in a town
with a Jewish majority. If, however, he goes to settle in Palestine
and she refuses to accompany him he can divorce her. Rabbinical
law in general discourages emigration from Palestine save in
exceptional circumstances. It is permitted even on the Sabbath,
when all other business transactions are prohibited, to enter into a
contract for the purchase of a house in Palestine. Innumerable are
the Talmudical sayings in praise of Palestine: “He who has walked
four yards in Palestine is assured to a place in the world to come”.
“It is better to dwell in the deserts of Palestine than in palaces
abroad”. “It is sinful to spread evil reports about Palestine”. “The
merit of residence in Palestine equals that of the fulfilment (sic;
DB.) of all the commandments of Divine Law”. “Rabbi Abba used
to kiss the stones of Acco. Rabbi Hiyyah would roll in its dust, as it
is written: ‘for thy servants take pleasure in her stones and love her
dust’.” (Psalm CII, 15). “God says: dearer to me is a small group of
students in Palestine than a large Sanhedrin abroad”. “The air of
Palestine bestows wisdom”. “Rabbi Jose said to his son: if thou
wouldst behold the Divine Presence in this life—go and study the
Torah in Palestine”.
The legal provisions and sayings quoted in the preceding chapter
illustrate the place which Palestine held in the affections of the
Jewries of the Diaspora. They were not abstract rules and poetical
fancies. To live in Palestine was regarded as a real privilege, and at
all times men of learning and of social distinction “ascended”, as
was the characteristic phrase, from places in the Diaspora to live,
study and die in Palestine. Thus, in spite of the many persecutions
of the preceding period, there was a considerable Jewish
community, estimated at between 300 and 400,000, in Palestine
when the country was invaded by the Arab Caliph. During the first
period of Arab rule the position of the Jewish community improved
materially. The Caliph not only permitted the Jews to live in
Jerusalem but also entrusted them with the supervision of the
Temple site and its vicinity. According to a statement made by the
Armenian Bishop Sebeos, a contemporary resident of Jerusalem, in
his “History of the Emperor Heraclius”, they were even permitted
to erect a synagogue on the Temple Mountain next to the Wailing
Wall. Apart from Jerusalem, large Jewish communities existed at
the time at Ramleh, in the coastal towns and in Galilee. The Jews
were, as before, agriculturists, artisans and traders. Lands which
had been confiscated from them by the Byzantine government as a
penalty ‘for their participation in the revolts were returned to them
by the Arab conquerors. In the eight century, however, when
Palestine became involved in the internal quarrels and wars
between the several Arab dynasties, the position of the Jewish
community began to deteriorate. The decline became more marked
when the centre of the Moslem Empire was transferred from
Damascus to Baghdad. The administration of Palestine then fell
into the hands of autocratic governors — at first Persians, and later
on Turks — who suppressed and persecuted the non-Moslem
communities. The historical sources of the period mention, in
particular, the expropriation of Jewish land by the governors and
the concentration of vast areas, formerly owned by Jews and
Christians, in Moslem hands. They also mention the incessant
incursions of desert tribes with their flocks and herds into the
fertile districts. All these factors combined to impoverish the
Jewish agricultural population. Towards the end of the ninth
century, Palestine fell under a condominium of the Baghdad
Government and the Turkish rulers of Egypt, which was followed a
century later by its attachment to the Egyptian Caliphate. The first
Fatimid Caliphs attempted to employ the Jews in their wars against
invaders from the desert and the sea. The Jews were given a
number of forts - the most important of them being Haifa and
Banias-Dan, and played an active part in the defence of the country
and the maintenance of security. Under the later Fatimid rulers,
however, the political and economic conditions of the country went
from bad to worse. Turkish, Berber and Beduin governors
maintained a rule of extortion and brought about the economic ruin
of the population, especially its non- Moslem sections. Under the
Caliph Al Hakem, a terrible wave of religious persecution, directed
against both Jews and Christians, set in, which wrought havoc
among the Jewish community. In the later half of the eleventh
century Palestine sank into complete anarchy, wild Beduin tribes
seizing power and fighting each other all over the country. In the
end the country was conquered by the Seljuk Turks who governed
it for half a century until its occupation by the Crusaders.
At the time of the first Crusade there still existed a fair-sized
Jewish agricultural population which was deeply rooted in the soil,
especially in Galilee. There were also a number of important
Jewish communities at Jerusalem, Acre, Haifa, Jaffa, Ramleh,
Ascalon and Gaza. All of them, however, had suffered terribly
from the long reign of anarchy and the repeated famines during the
preceding century. Yet it was at this very period of chaos and
oppression in Palestine that a new wave of Messianic yearning
swept the Jewries of the Exile. Its characteristic embodiment was
the movement of the “Mourners for Zion”, which was to exercise a
powerful influence on coming generations and to produce
successive waves of re-immigration from all parts of the Diaspora.
Benjamin of Tudela, the famous Jewish traveller of the twelfth
century, gives the following description of the adherents of the
movement: “They eat no bread and drink no wine. They are
dressed in black garments and live in caves. They fast all their
lives, except on the Sabbath and the Holy Days, and pray
incessantly for the return of the exiled sons of Israel’.’
The reign of the crusaders constitutes one of the darkest periods in
the history of the Jewish community in Palestine. The invaders
from the West who described themselves as the “Hosts of the Lord
in the Land of Israel”, destroyed most of the Jewish congregations
in the country. The Jews defended themselves valiantly. They were
the last on the walls of Jerusalem, while Haifa, their fortified city,
withstood the siege from sea and land for a whole month in spite of
the vastly superior strength of the attackers. Tens of thousands of
Jews were slain in the course of the crusaders’ progress. Slaughter
was followed by expulsion. Jews were everywhere driven out of
the country, many of them sold into slavery. All the Jewish
communities of the neighbouring countries were during that period
full of refugees from Palestine. It was only in the remote villages
of Galilee that Jewish agricultural settlements survived. Half a
century after the beginning of the rule of the crusaders, Benjamin
of Tudela found a considerable number of Jewish families living
only in a few of the cities, such as Ascalon, Ramleh and Caesaria.
During the later period of the Latin Kingdom, however, these
communities were strengthened by new settlers, Jewish immigrants
from Europe being admitted in order to promote the development
of commercial relations with the countries of the Continent. In
general, however, the century of the endless war between Cross
and Crescent was a period of intense gloom for the Jewish
Community in Palestine. It was further decimated by the terrible
Mongol invasion under Holagu which devastated the country in the
middle of the thirteenth century.
The longing for a return to Zion had not been diminished by
the terrible tales of slaughter and persecution which had reached
the communities of the West. Their aspirations found sublime
expression in the poetical and philosophical works of Judah ha-
Levi, the greatest of Hebrew poets, from the dispersion until
modern times. A native of the flourishing Jewish community of
Toledo in Spain, brought up equally in Jewish and Arabic culture
he voiced the national longing in songs of moving appeal and in
philosophical writings which illustrate the central place held by
that aspiration in the consciousness of the prosperous Spanish
communities of the period, who suffered no persecution and took a
very active part in the intellectual life of their environment. His
elegy to Zion is the classic of mediaeval Hebrew poetry:
Hast thou no greeting for thy prisoned sons,
That seek thy peace, the remnant of thy flock?
I would pour forth my soul upon each spot
Where once upon thy youth God’s spirit breathed.
Prostrate upon thy soil now let me fall,
Embrace thy stones, and love thy very dust!
Shall food and drink delight me when I see
Thy lions torn by dogs? What joy to me
Shall daylight bring if with it I behold
The ravens feasting on the eagle’s flesh?
But where thy God Himself made choice to dwell
Lasting abode thy children yet shall find ?“
More abstractly the quintessence of mediaeval Jewish attachment
to Palestine is expressed in the poet’s great philosophical treatise,
the ‘Kozari’. To him Zion, the ravaged and devastated, still is the
Motherland, not a “spiritual centre”, not a “New Jerusalem”
situated in supernatural spheres, nor merely a historical site of
sacred memories, but the hearth and home, sacred yet of ever-
present reality, of the historical Jewish nation. His was not a
visionary dream. In the fullness of fame and earthy possessions he
set out on his memorable journey to Palestine where his life was to
end—himself a witness to the intense reality of the aspiration to
which his poetry and thought had given immortal expression.
In 1187, the Kurdish Sultan Saladin defeated the Crusaders and
occupied Palestine. Saladin’s dynasty, the Ayubides, governed the
country from Damascus and Cairo until the middle of the thirteenth
century. They were followed by the Mameluke Sultans, most of
them Turks or Circassians, who resided at Cairo. At the beginning
of the fifteenth century, the Mameluke Empire was destroyed by
the Osmanli Turks, and in 1517 Palestine was conquered by Sultan
Selim. During the Mameluke period, the country was ravaged by
the invasion of Mongol hordes under Tamerlane.
Under the rule of the Kurdish sultans the position of the Jewish
community in Palestine gradually improved. Saladin, on the
intervention of Maimonides, the famous Jewish philosopher, who
was the Sultan’s physician, allowed Jewish settlers to return. As a
result, an important re-immigration set in during the thirteenth
century from all parts of the Diaspora, even from distant France,
England and Germany. Most of the settlers were scholars,
merchants and professional men. A new important communal and
spiritual centre arose at Safad. With the advent of Nachmanides,
the great philosopher and mystic of the thirteenth century, the
Jewish community of Jerusalem, which had been almost destroyed
during the period of the Crusaders, was re-established, The
literature of the period reflects the aspirations of the returning
exiles. Maimonides, in dealing with the theory of Jewish
Messianism, writes: “But as for those who would persuade
themselves that they can remain in their dwelling place until the
King Messiah arrives in the Occident and would only then go up
with him to Jerusalem — I do not know how they can escape evil.
They commit great sin, and it is of them that the Prophet says:
‘They think they may heal the suffering of my people lightly by
saying: ‘Peace, peace.’ But there is no peace’ (Jeremiah VI, 14).”
Nachmanides writes: “Since we were driven out of the country she
has received no other people or tongue and all the nations are
trying but in vain to settle here.” The Land of Israel, according to
him, is intended for Israel alone and it is solely within Israel’s
power to restore its former glory. Accordingly, he urges his
brethren to devote themselves whole-heartedly to the re-building of
Palestine in spite of the terrible suffering by which it was then
visited as a result of the Mongol invasions. He declared it to be a
religious duty to settle in Palestine and not abandon it to desolation
or to occupation by other nations. The same conception is reflected
in many Jewish treatises of the period.
During the Mameluke era the Jewish community in Palestine
increased considerably. The new settlers established themselves in
Galilee and Transjordan, in the coastal cities and in Judaea. Many
took up agriculture, but the bulk of the newcomers settled in the
cities, which became important economic and spiritual centres of
the renascent Jewish community. Jewish learning flourished,
distinguished biblical, talmudical and mystical scholars from
Egypt, Italy and even France and England returning to what was
again a land of freedom and a growing national centre.
During the 400 years of Turkish rule in Palestine the Jewish
community went through periods of great prosperity and of terrible
suffering. It was an era marked by successive waves of mass
immigration, beginning with that of the Spanish Jews who were
banished from the Peninsula in 1492, and ending with that of the
Jewish pioneers from Russia and Eastern Europe at the end of the
nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. Messianic
movements of tremendous proportions and unprecedented ecstasy
were followed by attempts at re-settlement and colonisation,
ranging from the Galilean settlement scheme of Don Joseph Nasi
in the middle of the sixteenth century to the establishment of the
first modern Jewish colonies at the end of the nineteenth.
The first Turkish Sultans looked with favour on the
establishment of a large Jewish community in Palestine, which was
recruited for the most part from the Spanish refugees who brought
with them considerable capital and much technical skill. Among
these immigrants were wealthy merchants and manufacturers as
well as great rabbis and scholars. Their aspiration was to re-
establish in Palestine the ancient Sanhedrin as the spiritual centre
of the whole of Jewry. In Safad alone there lived in the sixteenth
century about 15,000 Jews. The town became a great centre of
rabbinical studies and mystical exercise and hundreds of students
flocked to it from all over the Diaspora. The frame of mind of the
new settlers is well illustrated by the following passage from the
writings of Rabbi Joseph Caro, the codifier of rabbinical law:
“After nearly 1500 years of exile and persecution, God has
remembered unto his people his Covenant with their fathers, and
brought them back from their captivity, one of a city and two of a
family, from the corners of the earth to the land of glory, and they
settled in the city of Safad, the desire of all lands.” It was in Safad
that the first Hebrew printing- press was set up in the sixteenth
century. Under Selim II., Don Joseph Nasi, Duke of Naxos, a
refugee from the Portuguese inquisition who had risen to high rank
at the Turkish Court, obtained permission from the Sultan to
rebuild the ruined city of Tiberias and to establish in it and in its
rural neighbourhood a new Jewish settlement. He sent
proclamations to all parts of the Diaspora calling upon Jews to
immigrate to Palestine and become farmers and artisans in the new
community. Owing to revolts which broke out at the time in the
Lebanon and in Northern Palestine, the enterprise failed to make
progress, but its vestiges are still to be found in some ancient
villages of Galilee.
This flourishing development came to an end as the power of the
Turkish central authorities weakened and the country fell more and
more into the hands of local Pashas. Public security declined,
Beduin hordes invaded the country year after year, the cities and
villages became a prey to robbers and a general stagnation set in.
The new enterprises established by Jews during the first era of
Turkish rule were destroyed, the agricultural settlements
deteriorated, and the Jewish cities of Tiberias and Safad were
sacked several times by Druze and Arab marauders. Nevertheless,
the Jews, though greatly impoverished, maintained their position.
After every wave of destruction they arose again to rebuild their
ruins. At the beginning of the nineteenth century some 4,000 Jews
lived at Safad and more than 3,000 at Tiberias. The Jewish
agricultural settlements suffered more acutely. Of the dozens of
Jewish villages in Galilee and the Lebanon only a few — Shafa-
Amr near Haifa, Kafr Yasif near Acre, Pekiin (El Buqeia) in Upper
Galilee and Der-el-Kamar and Hasbeya in the Lebanon — survived
into the nineteenth century. Of this remnant only the village of
Pekiin has continued to exist until this day. Its inhabitants, Jewish
fellahin who differ in nothing but their Jewish descent and their
Judaism from the surrounding Moslem, Christian and Druze
peasants, maintained an unbroken tradition of Jewish agricultural
settlement dating back to early times. They proudly assert that they
never went into exile and never lost their connection with the soil
of Palestine.
In spite of the growing political deterioration of the Jewish
community in Palestine — a contemporary document reports that
“every ruler and judge, every official and Moslem tyrant, trampled
them underfoot at his wicked heart’s desire” — these centuries of
Turkish misrule witnessed a continuous sequence of movements of
re-immigration. The Spanish Jews of the sixteenth century were
followed by Jews from Eastern Europe in the seventeenth, by
several great Hassidic waves of immigration in the eighteenth and,
finally, by numerous groups of Lithuanian, Austrian, Russian,
Polish, North African and Oriental Jews in the nineteenth. In the
eighteenth century an organisation was created which exemplified
the universal attachment of the Jewries of the Diaspora to
Palestine. As it was held that every Jew, wherever he lived, was
under a religious obligation to return to and settle in Palestine,
which, however, was clearly impossible to the majority, a system
of regular contribution towards the support of an elite of learned
settlers in Palestine — the so-called “Halukah” — was established
by the Rabbinical Authorities throughout the congregations of the
Diaspora, the individual Jew being, as it were, “represented” in the
national home by those whom he maintained by his support. The
underlying conception of “representation” was emphasised by the
organisation of the system on territorial lines, each country being
responsible for a distinct group of settlers, whereby a note of local
attachment was introduced. The organisation, which exists to this
day, has kept alive many of the older Jewish communities and
thereby contributed to maintaining the continuity of Jewish
settlement in Palestine.

If the successive waves of re-immigration and the
organisation of the “Halukah” resulted in the return of a spiritual
elite, the powerful Messianic movement inspired by Sabbatai Zevi
of Smyrna, which occurred during the early period of Turkish rule,
testifies to the extraordinary intensity of the national aspiration of
the Jewish people as a whole. There had, indeed, been a continuous
chain of Messianic waves ever since, and in fact even prior to, the
destruction of the Jewish State. Moses of Crete in the fifth century,
Serenus of Syria and Abu Isa of Ispahan in the eighth, David Alroy
of Baghdad in the twelfth, Abulafia of Messina in the thirteenth,
Asher Lemmlein of Istria at the end of the fifteenth, David Reubeni
and Solomon Molcho in the sixteenth, all these pseudo-Messiahs
of suc-ceeding ages indicate the ever-present readiness of the
Jewish masses throughout the Diaspora to abandon at a moment’s
notice what they considered as their merely temporary homes,
relinquish their wordly possessions and embark on the precarious
journey to the land of their destiny. The leaders might be genuine
mystics or ambitious impostors, the call for the return to Zion was
as irresistible in the sixteenth century as it had been in the fifth. In
the wake of the overwhelming tragedy of the expulsion of the Jews
from Spain and of the fearful massacres in the Ukraine in the
following century, the Messianic longing assumed an
unprecedented intensity. It reached its apogee in the movement led
by Sabbatai Zevi who, in the middle of the seventeenth century,
proclaimed himself Messiah and produced a spiritual upheaval
such as had never before shaken the Diaspora. Active preparations
were set on foot in all parts of the Jewish world. The Messianic
ecstasy found its adherents in equal measure among the
enlightened communities of Amsterdam, Hamburg and London
and among the mystically inclined Jewries of Egypt, Syria and
Turkey. Such was the intensity of the movement that it deeply
stirred even the non-Jewish world. Bets were taken at Lloyds as to
the date when Sabbatai Zevi would enter Jerusalem in glory. The
Messianic conception had also played an important part in the re-
admission of the Jews to England, it being held by the Puritan
theologians that such re-settlement was a necessary preliminary to
the Jewish restoration in Palestine.
Much of this enthusiasm, Jewish and Christian, was
millenarian mysticism, but the practical and rationalist spirit of the
age also tended to direct it into more constructive channels.
Already one of the late pseudo-Messiahs, David Reubeni, who in
the early sixteenth century disturbed the communities of the West
with an alleged appeal from the Jewish princes in Arabia for a joint
re-conquest of Palestine by European and Arabian Jews, had
apparently been the protagonist of a secular Messianism. His aim
was not so much the setting up of the Kingdom of God as the re-
establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine. He became the
forerunner of a considerable number of political visionaries,
Jewish and Christian, from the seventeenth to the nineteenth
centuries who pleaded for the restoration of the Jews and the re-
establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine. Among such
protagonists were the Danish merchant Paulli, who submitted
elaborate schemes to King William III. of England, Louis XIV. of
France and other European monarchs, the French Priest Pierre
Jurieux, and the Prince de Ligne who, in 1797, published a lengthy
memorandum in which he pleaded for the re-establishment of the
Kingdom of Judaea in Palestine, arguing that such a restoration
would benefit both Palestine and the Jews and would also improve
the position of those of the race who remained in the Diaspora. It is
well known that when Napoleon invaded Egypt and Syria in 1799,
he published an appeal to the Jews of Asia and Africa inviting them
“to join his colours in order to restore ancient Jerusalem”. A “letter
addressed to his brethren by a Jew”, which was published in the
preceding year by a French Jew and which indicates that the ideal
of a Jewish return to Palestine was at the time popular also among
French Jews, may have inspired Napoleon to issue his
During the nineteenth century the idea of a Jewish national
restoration in Palestine, which was kept alive by the writings of
theologians and philanthropists (note 1), continued to engage the
attention of the chancelleries of Europe. When Mehemet Ali, the
Viceroy of Egypt, over-ran Syria in 1832, the question of the
political future of Palestine became an international issue. It was
suggested that a Jewish buffer state be set up in Palestine between
Turkey and Egypt. The most notable advocate of a Jewish
restoration was the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885). In
1838, he pleaded for the five Powers of the West to enable the
Jews to return and settle in Pales tine, seeing that “everything
seems ripe for their return”. In an article published in the following
year in the “Quarterly Review”, he developed the subject in greater
detail, stating that he had learned on good authority that thousands
of Jews in Poland and Russia had “recently bound themselves by
oath that as soon as the way is open for them they will immediately
go thither,” and recording that the same sentiments had been
expressed by Jewries in India and “in the remotest quarters of
Asia”. In 1838, Sir Moses Montefiore the distinguished English
Jewish philanthropist, submitted to the Egyptian Viceroy a scheme
for Jewish colonisation in Palestine. During the London
Convention of 1840, Lord Shaftesbury addressed a memorandum
on the subject to Lord Palmerston. In an article published in the
“Times” of the 17th of August, 1940, it was stated that “the
proposition to plant the Jewish people in the land of their fathers,
under the protection of the five Powers, is no longer a mere matter
of speculation, but of serious political consideration”. On the 26th
August, the “Times” printed the earlier memorandum in full,
together with encouraging replies from most of the sovereigns
addressed. A further memorandum on the subject appeared later in
the year, voicing the opinion of a group of statesmen, in which the
view was expounded that “the cause of the Restoration of the Jews
to Pa lestine is one essential generous and noble”, that the
colonisation of Palestine by the Jews would be a remedy for
contemporary conflicts and that “it would be a crowing point in the
glory of England to bring about such an event” The subject
continued to engage public opinion. “Palmerston was not
unfriendly, but these was no Jewish organisation capable of
handling so big a matter, and so the ambitious project was whittled
down to the official protection by England of Jews in the East. And
yet, this concession has proved by no means insignificant, for it is
the logical precursor of Mr. Balfour’s Declaration of November
In 1841, Mehemet Ali was driven out of Syria and Palestine
restored to Turkish rule. The question then lost its political
importance, but it continued to engage public opinion, as
evidenced by the formation in 1844 of the “British and Foreign
Society for promoting the restoration of the Jewish nation to
Palestine”, and the publication of E. L. Mitford’s “Appeal on
behalf of the Jewish nation in connection with British policy in the
Levant”. In this appeal it was proposed that a Jewish State be set
up under the guardianship of Great Britain, which would ultimately
develop into an independent State. Similarly, the establishment of
Jewish colonies in Palestine as “the most sober and sensible
remedy for the miseries of Asiatic Turkey” was proposed in 1845
by Col. Gawler, the founder and second Governor of South
Australia. ‘It is now for England”, he wrote, “to set her hand to the
renovation of Syria, through the only people whose energies will
be extensively and permanently in the work — the real children of
the soil, the Sons of Israel”. Col. Charles Churchill, Staff Officer in
the British Expedition to Syria, equally pleaded for the re-
establishment of a Jewish kingdom in Palestine. In a similar strain
Dean Stanley in his book on Palestine wrote: “In the changes of the
Turkish Empire the Jewish race, so wonderfully preserved, may yet
have another stage of national existence opened to them; they may
once more obtain possession of their native land, and invest it with
an interest greater than it could have under any other
In America, too, the idea found sympathetic support in high places.
John Adams, the second President of the United States, was one of
its enthusiastic supporters. In a letter addressed to Major M. M.
Noah, he wrote: “I really wish the Jews again in Judaea, an
independant nation, for, as I believe, the most enlightened men of
it have participated in the amelioration of the philosophy of the
age; once restored to an independent government, and no longer
persecuted, they would soon wear away some of the asperities and
pecularities of their character...” Major Noah himself, one of the
most prominent of American Jews, became the leading American
advocate of a Jewish national restoration in Palestine.
The idea of a Jewish return to Palestine was further popularised by
prominent figures of English literature. The subject of Jewish
homelessness and Jewish attachment to Palestine found moving
expression in Lord Byron’s “Hebrew Melodies”. The Jewish
tragedy has never been summarised more concisely and poignantly
than in his famous lines:
“The white dove hath her nest, the fox his cave, Mankind their
country, Israel but the grave”.
The young Disraeli was similarly affected by Zionist conceptions.
In his novel on David Airoy, the mediaeval Jewish hero who
believed himself to be the Messiah, his own attachment to the ideal
of a Jewish national restoration is clearly reflected. In “Tancred” he
voiced his conviction of an ultimate Jewish return to Palestine in
the classic passage previously quoted. More comprehensively the
idea was treated in George Eliot’s great noved “Daniel Deronda”,
which appeared in 1876. It was a powerful plea for the
reestablishment in Palestine of “a new Jewish polity, grand simple,
just, like the old”. The Jewish race was to have “an organic State, a
heart and brain to watch and guide and execute; the outraged Jews
shall have a defence in the court of nations”. The Jew was to carry
the brotherhood of his own nation “into a new brotherhood with
the nations of Gentiles”. These visions summarise the quintessence
of modern Zionism.
1) Characteristic examples are: “The Restoration of the Jews—the
Crisis of all Nations”, by the Rev. James Bicheno, published in
London in 18oo, and ‘An Attempt to Remove Prejudice concerning
the Jewish Nation”, by Thomas Witherby, published in London in

The Jewish national revival began like that of so many other
peoples in the cultural sphere. The second half of the nineteenth
century witnessed a revival of Hebrew literary production such as
had not been known for many centuries past. Though the Hebrew
tongue had at all times been alive among the Jewish people as the
language of prayer and faith, it had not for many ages served the
uses of secular speech and literature. Its revival as a medium of
poetry and fiction marked a turning point in the spiritual history of
the Jewish people. It is characteristic that that revival was from its
earliest beginnings permeated with the Jewish national strain. Its
initial phase opened with novels on Biblical subjects, written in
almost pure Biblical Hebrew and instict with a passionate
attachment to Palestine. In 1869, the first modern Hebrew review
made its appearance under the title “The Dawn”. It was from its
first issue devoted almost exclusively to the advocacy of the
Jewish national cause. The line taken by the new school was that
the Jews were not a religious sect, but a people with all the
attributes of a nation except a land of their own, and that both for
their own sake and for that of their relationship with the outside
world, it was essential that they be re-established in their old
national home, where they might develop in accordance with their
own aspirations and national characteristics.
These aspirations received a powerful impetus when the anti
Jewish persecutions which broke out in Russia in the early eighties
of the nineteenth century revealed the precarious position in which
the great mass of Jews lived in Eastern Europe. The new outlook
was first translated into political terms in an article published in
“The Dawn” in 1881 by Eliezer Ben-Yehudah—subsequently to
become the first and foremost pioneer of spoken Hebrew in
Palestine—who pleaded for the establishment of a Jewish
commonwealth in Palestine. More comprehensively, the Jewish
question was treated in a little pamphlet, entitled “Auto-
Emancipation”, published in the following year by Dr. Pinsker of
Odessa. His thesis was that the Jews were “everywhere aliens and,
therefore, despised,” that their civil emancipation had not given
them real freedom, and that their abnormal position in the world
could only be rectified by “their emancipation as a nation among
nations, and by the acquisition of a home of their own”. That
essential emancipation, he pleaded, could not be achieved except
by the concentrated efforts of the Jewish people itself. Pinsker’s
analysis of the Jewish problem has remained true to this day. He
saw its essential cause in that the Jewish people had since its exile
lacked the essential attributes of nationality True, we have not
ceased even in the lands of our exile to be spiritually a distinct
nation; but this spiritual nationality, so far from giving us the status
of a nation in the eyes of the other nations, is the very cause of
their hatred for us as a people. Men are always terrified by a
disembodied spirit, a soul wandering about with no physical
covering; and terror breeds hatred.” Similar ideas had been
expressed twenty years earlier by Moses Hess, a prominent
German Jewish political thinker, but his views had met with little
response among the indifferent Jewries of the West. The position
was different in Eastern Europe, where lived large Jewish masses
in whom the attachment to Palestine and the aspiration for a Jewish
revival had been actively alive long before they had received
theoretical formulation.
The practical outcome of the new movement was the establishment
of the organisation of the “Lovers of Zion” which originated in
Russia and gradually took root also amongst the Jewries of
Western Europe. It found, in particular, considerable support
among leading English Jews. Its objects were described to be :—
(a) To foster the national ideal in Israel.
(b) To promote the colonisation by Jews of Palestine and
neighbouring territories by establishing new colonies, or assisting
those already established.
(c) To diffuse the knowledge of Hebrew as a living language.
(d) To further the moral and material status of Israel.
The most important result of the movement, however, was the
active commencement of a new Jewish colonisation in Palestine.
Its pioneers were groups of student idealists, mainly from Russia,
who went out in the early eighties (1880s; DB.). Service for the
nation and the land was their motto and their statutes excluded any
form of private gain. Prior to their arrival, two significant
foundations had already taken place in Palestine. In 1870, the
“Alliance Israelite Universelle” of Paris had established near Jaffa
the Agricultural College of “Mikveh Israel” (“The Hope of Israel”;
DB.) for the purpose of providing the Jews of Palestine with
facilities for agricultural training. In 1878, some Jews from
Jerusalem had founded near the river Auja, north-east of Jaffe, an
agricultural settlement to which they gave the name of a “Petah
Tikvah” (‘Gate of Hope’).
In 1882, a few hundred Jewish immigrants entered Palestine. In
July of that year they established their first settlement south of
Jaffa, named “Rishon-le-Zion” (‘A Harbinger unto Zion’ – literally,
“The First to Zion”; DB.). It was followed by the foundation of
similar rural settlements at “Rosh Pina” (‘The Corner Stone’) in
Galilee and “Zichron Jacob” (‘Jacob’s Memorial’– literally,
“Jacob’s Remembrance”; DB.) in Samaria. During the following
ten years a number of kindred settlements sprang up in various
parts of the country. The new effort aroused keen interest among
the Jewries of the Diaspora, notably among those of Eastern
Europe. The first immigrant colonists were followed by others. In
the thirty years between 1882 and 1914, some 4000 entered
Palestine and settled there. The task of the new settlers was a
formidable one. Few of them had any agricultural training or
experience. Their financial resources were limited. The country
was in a most primitive condition. Malaria prevailed in almost
every district and took terrible toll of the newcomers. At an early
stage of the new colonisation, the organisations of the “Lovers of
Zion” in the Diaspora rallied to the assistance of the settlers. More
powerful help came when Baron Edmond de Rothschild of Paris
turned to their support. He advanced to the colonists investments
and working capital, acquired additional land and built houses for
them, and sent agricultural instructors to train them in husbandry
and vine culture which soon became the staple industry of the
settlements. He also founded several new colonies. In 1900 he
vested the administration of the settlements under his control in the
Jewish Colonisation Association, from whom it was taken over in
1924 by the Palestine Jewish Colonisation Association (PICA).
The new settlers presented an entirely novel and distinctive type of
Jew. “They were neither pilgrims nor mere refugees. There was
nothing to prevent them from seeking asylum in the West; nor, on
the other hand, were they moved by the old-world sentiment which
craved for the pious consolations of the Holy Cities. They came to
Palestine with the deliberate purpose of redeeming its soil, and
with it their own self-respect”. The history of their sufferings and
tenacity is a record of true heroism. No people rooted for centuries
in the soil of its native land could have clung with such
stubbornness and such indifference to suffering and deprivations,
to the self- imposed task of reclaiming long-deserted, malaria-
ridden and seemingly barren expanses of land as did these newly
arrived settlers. When the first colony, Rishon-le-Zion, was
founded, the very acquisition of the land, sandy and desolate as it
was, met with almost insuperable obstacles, because under Turkish
law foreign subjects were not allowed to purchase property. It was
only through the intervention of the British Vice Consul of Jaffa,
acting in accordance with the general instructions issued by the
Foreign Office since the days of Palmerston to its representatives
in the East to extend their good offices to Jews no matter what their
citizenship, that permission for the acquisition was obtained. The
settlers were men without any agricultural training or experience.
They invested all they had, but the problems with which they were
faced day after day, especially the water question, baffled all their
efforts and sacrifices. Nor was it long before they were beset by
bands of marauding Beduins. Malaria took a severe toll. They lost
practically all they had brought with them. Yet they held out and,
in the end, Rishon-le-Zion, built literally on sand, became one of
the most prosperous of pre-War settlements. Very similar was the
history of the neighbouring colony Ness-Ziona, established on land
which had been originally acquired by a German Christian colonist
of the Templar Community who had given it up after his wife and
two daughters had fallen a prey to the ubiquitous malaria.
Perhaps the most heroic record of these early settlements is that of
Hadera, situated in the Sharon Valley. It was founded in 1891 in a
district notorious for its deadly swamps. There was a Circassian
village on the edge of the colony, but almost all its inhabitants had
fallen victims to the deadly fever and only a few cripples had
remained. Undaunted by such grim warnings a small group settled
in the area. There were no houses; building could not be begun
before permits had been obtained from the Turkish Government in
Constantinople, a lengthy procedure. No railway was available and
roads were bad and dangerous. The local Turkish officials
maintained an unfriendly watch over every move of the
newcomers. The neighbouring Beduins prowled about the huts
stealing whatever they could. When the settlers in despair began to
build a house without waiting for the permit from Constantinople,
Turkish soldiers were sent down by the local officials to destroy
the foundations and incidentally also the huts. Soon malaria broke
out among the settlers. One after another of the pioneers was struck
down, old men, little children and young labourers. The settlers
could not afford a resident physician and the nearest hospitals were
many hours away.
“Things went from bad to worse. The mark of death was on our
foreheads, the certainty of death in our hearts. Friends and relatives
came from all parts of the country pleading with us to leave. ‘Save
your lives!’ they begged. ‘Save the good name of Palestine! When
this becomes known abroad, Palestine will be condemned as a land
that eateth up the inhabitants thereof!’ “.
“Nevertheless, no man stirred from his place. Were we to run away
from the battle? Leave Hadera to revert to its former state? How
could we? Some even said: ‘Better to die for Hadera than to live
without her!’”
At the beginning of the second year the settlers were still living in
their few huts, but they had made progress. Cereal crops had been
so successful that larger areas could be sown. Things of the spirit
began to receive more attention, and a teacher was brought from
Jaffa. But the heavy rains produced a new terrific wave of malaria.
Fathers and children were struck down. At this critical moment
Baron de Rothschild intervened and undertook to have eucalyptus
trees planted on the borders of the colony and round about the
swamps. The medical advisers of the Baron insisted, however, on
the settlers leaving Hadera as soon as the trenches had been dug for
a year or two until the drainage had been completed. They refused
and an epidemic broke out. There were more victims, more
medical warnings, a few were forced to leave, but the settlement
held out. In the meantime the very drainage that was to root out
malaria was fostering it. A stern choice was placed before the
settlers by the physicians: unless they left Hadera for two years the
drainage must stop; and unless that operation was carried through
they would all die of the fever and Hadera with them. They
promised to think it over. “Resolutions were adopted, delegations
appointed, and then. .,.. nothing whatever was done. When it came
to the point, they could not bring themselves to desert Hadera. As
the epidemic spread, this or that family was forced by the
physicians to leave for a time. But Hadera itself was not
evacuated”.’). The colony survived all these trials. It lost almost all
its early settlers. It passed through a period of severe suffering
during the War, but was able to offer refuge to the colonists of the
South when they were evacuated by the retreating Turkish armies.
Today Hadera is one of the most flourishing Jewish agricultural
colonies. It has some 5,ooo settlers and numbers more than 700
houses. Malaria has been completely stamped out. Great groves of
oranges and grapefruit, lemons and citron surround the colony
which recently has also become a centre of meat and dairy
produce. Since 1933, the swampy expanse of forty years ago has
been able to provide a new home for hundreds of German Jewish
Such and similar has been the experience of most of the earlier
Jewish colonies in Palestine. Yet the devotion and sacrifices of the
settlers would not have won through had they not felt that the
Jewish people as a whole was rallying in support of the work of
national reconstruction. In the last decade of the 19th century, the
aspirations which had been alive among the Jewish people ever
since the destruction of their state, which had been latent in prayers
and religious rites, which had time and again become active in
Messianic eruptions and waves of re-immigration, emerged into a
new political movement of national scope and intense appeal.
In February 1896, Dr. Theodor Herzl, a distinguished Jewish
author of Vienna, published a pamphlet entitled “The Jewish
State”. It was a powerful plea for the establishment of a Jewish
common wealth as a solution of the problem of Jewish
homelessness which the anti-Jewish persecution in Russia and the
growth of anti-semitism in Western Europe had revealed to be one
of acute urgency. Such a solution, the author maintained, would
relieve the problem of Jewish oppression, for, apart from
improving the lot of those who emigrated, it would transform the
position of those who stayed behind, inasmuch as it would free
them of the stigma of homelessness and re-establish their dignity
and self-respect. The realisation of his scheme the author
visualised through the medium of a chartered company which
would organise the great transmigration and the establishment of
the settlers in heir new home. The choice of the homeland he was
prepared to leave to Jewish public opinion, but Palestine, he
pleaded, was a magic name. “Palestine is our ever-memorable
historic home. The very name of Palestine would attract people
with a force of marvellous potency’ The new state should be
neutral; it would remain in contact with all Europe and should be
placed under the guarantee of the European states.
This bold plea electrified the Jewish world. The author, a member
of the Viennese Jewish upper class, who until then had had little
contact with the mass of Jewry, found himself transformed
overnight into a national leader. Within a few months Zionist
groups sprang up all over the Jewish world, and a year later the
first Zionist Congress met at Basle under Dr. Herzl’s chairmanship,
the first representative political assembly of the Jewish people
since its dispersion. The Congress formulated the aims of the new
movement in the following terms, which came to be known as the
Basle Programme:
“Zionism strives to create for the Jewish people a home in
Palestine secured by public law. The Congress contemplates the
following means to the attainment of this end :—
1. The promotion on suitable lines of the colonisation of Palestine
by Jewish agricultural and industrial workers.
2. The organisation and bringing together of the whole of Jewry by
means of appropriate institutions, local and international, in
accordance with the laws of each country.
3. The strengthening and fostering of Jewish national sentiment
and consciousness.
4. Preparatory steps towards obtaining Government consent where
necessary to the attainment of the aim of Zionism.”).
The programme reveals the two-fold inspiration of the new
movement. In the conception of its founder, the factor of external
pressure, as exemplified in physical persecution in the East and
social ostracism in the West, had held first place. He had witnessed
in his gene the pogroms in Russia, the rise of anti-Semitism in
Germany, the Dreyfus affair in France. His aim was to establish the
eternal wanderer in a territorial home of his own so as to protect
him from persecution and regain for him a place of security and
respect in the human family. But for the great mass of its ad-
herents the new movement meant something more than a mere
effort to find security and protection. It was to them a new
embodiment of the age-long aspiration for the re-establishment of
a full national life in the ancient home of the race, for relief from
the perennial burden of alien status and adjustment to ever-
changing environments. The programme of the new movement, as
adopted by the first Congress, represented a synthesis of the two
tendencies. The essential character of the new Zionism was that of
a movement of liberation. Its aim was to set the Jews free, free
from external pressure and domination, but free also from spiritual
bondage, from the need of constant adjustment, from the legacy of
centuries of enslavement. It aspired to set them up again as a
normal people rooted in the soil, able to develop a full communal
life in accordance with their national aspirations. The essential
advance of the new movement beyond its precursors lay in its
basic thesis that true liberty could not be secured by the mere
establishment of isolated settlements in Palestine, but only by the
attainment of an effective measure of political autonomy secured
by international guarantee.
It was in accordance with this new orientation that the first efforts
of the leader were directed towards obtaining a charter of
settlement from the Turkish Sultan, to be guaranteed, it was hoped,
by the Great Powers. For five years Dr. Herzl conducted negotia-
tions to this end, but they failed to produce any concrete results.
During this period, however, a great advance was made in winning
over Jewish public opinion to Zionism and in organising the
machinery of the movement. The Zionist Organisation was set up
on democratic lines, its basis ‘being a congress elected by the
adherents of the movement throughout the world, meeting every
other year and electing an Executive Committee responsible for the
direction of its affairs. A “Jewish Colonial Trust” was established
in London as the financial instrument of the Organisation, while a
“Jewish National Fund” was to provide the requisite funds for the
purchase and occupation of land which was to become the
inalienable property of the nation, leasable only on heritable terms.
Both institutions owed their financial support mainly to the
contributions, small but constant, of the Jewish masses in Eastern
and Central Europe. Few of the more prosperous Jews of Western
Europe were to be found among the early supporters of Zionism.
The devotion of the impoverished and downtrodden Jews of
Eastern Europe, for the majority of whom there was no prospect of
personal settlement in Palestine, to the Zionist funds was a spirit
akin to that of the early colonists. The blue box of the Jewish
National Fund became a piece of household furniture in the poorest
‘of Jewish homes. On every festive occasion in the life of a family,
in many houses even day by day, a contribution, perhaps merely a
small coin, was slipped into the box. It became customary to mark
birthdays and weddings by making special contributions for the
planting of olive trees in the groves of the National Fund to be
named after the celebrants. In the course of forty years, over
£4,ooo,ooo has been contributed in this way, largely by gifts from
the very poorest.
More strikingly, that attachment became evident in the larger,
political sphere when, after the failure of the negotiations with the
Turkish Sultan, the British Government at the instance of Mr.
Joseph Chamberlain, then Colonial Secretary, offered the Zionist
Organisation some territory in British East Africa for Jewish
settlement. At an earlier stage, Chamberlain had revealed his
interest in Zionist aspirations by supporting a Zionist project for
the establishment of a Jewish settlement near El-Arish in the Sinai
Peninsula. That project had failed to materialise for technical
reasons. Chamberlain’s new offer was a significant mark of British
sympathy and an indication that the young movement was being
taken seriously in official quarters. (note 1 below). It came at a
moment when all efforts to obtain a charter from the Turkish
Government had proved futile and when the intense urgency of the
Jewish question was again being demonstrated by the terrible
Russian pogroms of the first decade of the new century. Yet, it was
significantly the Russian Zionists who were solid against the
acceptance of the proposed scheme. They insisted that while they
were deeply grateful to the British Government for its magnani-
mous offer, a solution of the Jewish problem was not feasible
anywhere except in Palestine, and that the acceptance of the offer
would be a betrayal of the aspiration, maintained through all the
martyrdom of the dispersion, for a national restoration in the Holy
Land. Scenes of moving intensity were witnessed in the Zionist
Congress as the critical division approached. The ultimate aim of
the Movement was, indeed, never in doubt, the President
repeatedly declaring that the goal of the Jewish people could only
be Palestine and that immigration elsewhere could provide no
more than a subsidiary outlet. In the end the Congress adopted a
resolution that an expedition be sent out to East Africa to
investigate the proposed area of settlement. The Russian Zionists,
however, supported by a number of other Zionist groups, continued
their opposition to the scheme.
1) The official letter from the Foreign Office conveying the offer
contained the significant passage that the Foreign Secretary had
studied the question with the interest which His Majesty’s
Government must always take in any well-considered scheme for
the amelioration of the position of the Jewish Race.”
As it turned out, the report of the Commission of Enquiry proved
to be unfavourable, and the project was thereupon shelved, the
danger of a schism thus being avoided. The dispute revealed,
however, how deep and unshakable was the attachment to
Palestine of the Jewry of Eastern Europe which formed the bulk of
the Jewish people, that very Jewry whose position had become so
catastrophic and which had most to expect from the proposed
statement. Another development, which emerged from the Uganda
dispute was hardly less significant. A group of Zionists from
Western Europe, headed by Israel Zangwill, formed a new body,
the Jewish Territorial Organisation, for the purpose of promoting
Jewish colonization outside Palestine. The J.T.O. explored a
number of projects of colonization in various parts of the world,
but none of them materialized. Though led by prominent Jewish
public men it was never able to gain any support from the masses
of the Jewish people. It was finally dissolved by its founder in
The rejection of the East African project had yet a further
important result: it turned the Zionist Organisation towards con-
structive colonisation work in Palestine. The original tendency of
the movement had been adverse to any active effort of colonisation
before a charter had been secured, but as the prospect of its attain-
ment ever receded further, a policy of complete abstention from
practical work clearly became untenable. Accordingly, in 1908, the
Zionist Organisation established in Jaffa a “Palestine Office”,
which was designed to promote Jewish colonisation in Palestine,
both by active settlement and by granting support and advice to
other colonising agencies. During the six years that elapsed until
the outbreak of the War (WWI; DB.), the new Office developed a
comprehensive activity. It granted long-term credits for the
establishment of a Jewish garden suburb adjoining Jaffa the
nucleus of present-day Tel Aviv. That small garden suburb became
the centre of the new directing agencies of the Jewish settlement. It
housed the first Hebrew secondary school in Palestine, the “Herzl
Gymnasium” an endowment of Jacob Moser, the Jewish Lord
Mayor of Bradford. The suburb was designed on modern garden
city lines. From its very beginning it enjoyed a wide measure of
local self-government. A second important creation of the Palestine
Office was the “Palestine Land Development Company”, which
was intended to acquire, ameliorate and parcel out land for new
settlers. It was on the areas acquired by that Company that the first
experiments in workmen’s colonies were undertaken. The labour
settlements of Kinnereth near the Lake of Tiberias and Ben
Shemen and Hulda in Judaea owe their origin to these first efforts.
A further important agricultural institution established during this
period was the Agricultural Experiment Station at Atlit.
This period witnessed a further large wave of Jewish immigration
from Eastern Europe. The new immigrants contained a large
element of young intellectuals who came to Palestine imbued with
the fervent aspiration to establish in the land of the Bible a com-
munity inspired by the ancient prophetic ideals of social justice.
They insisted that if the National Home was to be of sound
economic and social structure it was vital that the new community
be essentially a working community and that it be firmly rooted in
the soil. The task of the new settlers was perhaps even harder than
that of the earlier pioneers. They had to go through the same toils
and sufferings as their precursors. In contradistinction to the latter,
how ever, they came without any means of their own and had to
find employment as best as they could with the earlier colonists. In
this they had to compete with cheap Arab labour, and it was only
by an uncommon measure of frugality and by evolving new forms
of co-operative effort that they were able to establish themselves in
the country. The Palestine Office of the Zionist Organisation, reali-
sing from the beginning the importance of the labour problem in
Palestine, devoted much energy to finding suitable forms for their
settlement. Under the auspices of the Office, settlements for
labourers employed in Jewish colonies were established in close
proximity to the latter, consisting of small houses surrounded by
vegetable gardens. At a later stage two co-operative labour
settlements, organised on communal lines, were founded at
Degania on the shores of Lake Tiberias and at Merhavia in the
centre of the Valley of Esdraelon. These became the forerunners
and prototypes of the many communal settlements which have
been established in Palestine since the War in which many
thousands of Jewish workmen and their families have found
permanent settlement and which today represent some of the most
prosperous and well-organised of Jewish village communities in
A further important development of the pre-War period was
indicative of the new spirit pervading the growing Jewish
community in Palestine: the revival of Hebrew as a spoken
language. The first colonists had for the most part been using the
Yiddish vernacular of their countries of origin. For the settlers of
the second period the adoption of Hebrew as a language of daily
intercourse as well as literary expression was an essential tenet of
their national creed. Hebrew became the language of agriculture
and trade, of workshop and factory, of kindergarten and college.
The last phase of the pre-War period witnessed the foundation of a
Hebrew College of Technology on the slopes of Mount Carmel and
the initial preparations for the establishment of a Hebrew
University, for which immediately before the War a panoramic site
was purchased on Mt. Scopus, facing Jerusalem.
When the War broke out, the new Jewish settlement could look
back upon three decades of promising development. Some 43
agricultural colonies, comprising a population of 12,000 and
covering an area of 1oo,ooo acres, had been established. Their
annual output was estimated at approximately £200,000. It
included 90% of the wine, 30% of the oranges and the bulk of the
almonds produced in the country and constituted one-half of the
total export of Jaffa. In the towns, too, there had been a rapid
growth of the Jewish population. In Jerusalem the Jews
outnumbered all other communities, having increased from about
14,000 in 1881, to 45,000 in 1913. In Jaffa, the Jewish population
at the outbreak of the War was estimated at 9,000 as compared
with 2,000 in 1882 There was also a growing Jewish community at
Haifa. In all, the Jewish population of Palestine at the outbreak of
the War numbered some 80,000, of whom the recent settlers
constituted about one-half. The Jewish percentage of the total
population was larger than that in any other country. What was,
perhaps, more significant, was their vocational distribution. In no
other country in the world was the percentage of Jews in produc-
tive occupations, more especially in agriculture, as high as in
Palestine. It had been proved that in Palestine, European Jews,
coming in the main from urban centres, could become farmers, that
they could evolve effective modes of self-government, both
economic and civic, and that they had in them the capacity of
community building. It was a consecutive achievement of
remarkable character, but it “would have had no far-reaching
significance had its scene been any other country than Palestine.
What gave the new settlement an importance out of all proportion
to its size was the distinctive quality and flavour of its corporate
life. Invigorated by contact with the soil of Palestine, the Jews
were already beginning to emerge as an organised and articulate
society with a well-marked character of its own. The Jews had not
only established themselves as a valuable element in the economic
life of Palestine; they were gradually building up a vigorous and
many-sided society, in which their fellow-Jews elsewhere saw,
with hope and pride, the promise of a Jewish renaissance”.
Similarly remarkable had been the progress of the Zionist
movement throughout the Jewish world. “To a multitude of Jews,
far beyond the ranks of its professed adherents, it had given a new
self-confidence and a new self-respect. It had taught them to lift
their heads and square their shoulders. It had ennobled and
dignified their instinctive struggle for existence… It fortified them
with the assurance that the time would come when the Jews would
vindicate themselves as a constructive force and again make their
characteristic contribution to the common stock”.
Such was the position of Jewish Palestine and of the Zionist
Movement when the European War broke out, from which was to
emerge the international recognition of the Jewish national aspira-
tions, first in the Balfour Declaration and subsequently in the
Mandate. During the period of the War Jewish progress in
Palestine was unavoidable held up, but despite much economic
suffering and harsh persecution on the part of the Turkish
authorities the Jewish settlement held out. The War gave the
Jewish people an opportunity of demonstrating their attachment to
Palestine in a new sphere. As the British Army entered Palestine,
Jewish volunteers from England, America, Canada, the Argentine
and Palestine itself flocked to its colours. In the final stage of the
campaign, 4,000 Jews served in the 38th, 39th and 40th Royal
Fusiliers. The Foreign Office Hand book on Syria and Palestine
reports that “practically the whole available Jewish youth of the
colonies and many of the townsmen of military age came forward
for voluntary enlistment in the Jewish Battalions”, and that “the
initiative in favour of the recruiting movement took place as the
result of the demand of the Jewish population itself, rather than
from any desire or even encouragement from the British
It is not possible within the scope of the present survey to
summarise what has been achieved in Palestine during the past two
decades in the wake of the international recognition of Zionist
aims. This only may be said in this context: what has been created
during these twenty years has revealed the forces latent in the age-
long aspiration of the Jewish people for its national restoration in
Palestine. It was not a bond of mere romantic attachment. It was a
relationship of living force and creative potentiality. Given a
chance, the first real chance since their dispersion, the Jews have
shown that they can remake Palestine, which had remained
desolate throughout the long centuries of their exile. They have
also shown that Palestine can remake them. In his Report on the
Administration of Palestine during the first five years of the
mandatory regime, the first High Commissioner drew a vivid
picture of that regeneration
“Most observers who have studied the new type of character that is
being produced in these villages have been struck by the
cheerfulness of the people. In spite of disappointments sometimes,
of hardships often, of heavy work always, these men and women
seem remarkably happy. The reason is not hard to find... It is
chiefly, I believe, because there are three factors in their lives
which make them contented. The first is that they are workers on
the land, close to nature, enjoying that satisfaction which belongs
especially to those who feel that they are causing the earth to yield
produce for the sustenance of mankind. The second is that they are
on an intellectual level distinctly above that of the ordinary
peasant; they are much more than hewers of wood and drawers of
water; they read, they think, they discuss; in the evenings they
have music, classes, lectures; there is among them a real activity of
mind. And the third factor is that they are fully conscious that they
are not engaged in some casual task, without special significance
other than the provision of their own livelihood; they know quite
well that they are an integral part of the movement for the
redemption of Palestine; that they, few though they may be, are the
representatives, and in a sense the agents of the whole of Jewry;
that the daily work in which they are engaged is in touch with the
prophecies of old and with the prayers of millions now. So they
find the labour of their hands to be worthy in itself; it is made
lighter by intellectual activity; it is ennobled by the patriotic ideal
which it serves. That is the reason why these Pioneers are happy”.
That spiritual transformation is the essential vindication of the
reality of the Jewish historical connection with Palestine.

In the light of the above survey, the character of the historical
connection of the Jewish people with Palestine may be briefly
summarised as follows:
(1) The Jews were the first civilising occupants of Palestine. They
took root in it and governed it for a period infinitely longer than
that of any of its numerous subsequent rulers. During that period
they set up in the country a state of their own, the only native state
Palestine has ever had. They developed it politically, economically
and culturally. In the process of that development and under the
influence of the country they grew into a nation of distinctive
character. They found in it a relationship of their own to the
Infinite. To that spiritual experience they gave significant expres-
sion in classic literature, which in its turn has shaped the character
of the Jewish nation and has also deeply affected the religious and
moral history of the human race.
(2) The Jews were driven out of Palestine by the overwhelming
forces of the Assyrian and Roman Empires. They clung to their
native soil with fierce tenacity, as evidenced by the literature and
the historical monuments of their conquerors. They never resigned
themselves to their exile, as did so many other conquered nations
of antiquity. As soon as they were released they returned from the
Babylonian captivity, and it was Jewish noblemen and high
officials in the Persian service who headed the returning exiles.
They fought with unparalleled courage and resource against the
imperial power of Rome. The last phase of the second Jewish state
was an almost uninterrupted series of revolts against the Roman
provincial governors. The final revolt, known as the Judaean War,
was, according to Roman records, one of the fiercest national
struggles which the Roman legions ever had to face. Even after the
conquest of Jerusalem and the destruction of their national sanctu-
ary, they did not give up the struggle for their independence. Fifty
years later they rose again in a great national insurrection and for
many months defied the Roman forces until at last they were
crushed. It was as the result of that devastating defeat that the
Jewish political power in Palestine was finally destroyed. Yet for
centuries after that destruction the Jews continued to cling stub-
bornly to the country, and it was only the policy of extermination
and expropriation pursued by the Romans and Byzantines which in
the end drove the bulk of the Jewish people out of Palestine.
(3) Though the major part of the nation was forced into exile, there
has always remained a Jewish settlement in Palestine. Its fortunes
varied from generation to generation, but its continuity was never
broken. However terrible the oppression, the Jews never
abandoned their native land. Nor did they merge into any of the
numerous racial and religious communities which held sway in
Palestine in subsequent centuries. They remained a distinctive
national-religious entity, temporarily subjugated, but never doubt-
ful of their ultimate restoration.
(4) Throughout the centuries of their exile the Jews con tinued to
regard Palestine as their national and religious centre. The Jewish
liturgy and religious rites, their sacred and secular literature, the
provisions of Rabbinical Law and the folklore of the Jewish
Diaspora — all these bear testimony to the intense attachment of
the dispersed communities to the national home. Had the Jews lost
their attachment to Palestine they would have ceased to exist as a
separate national group and to suffer by reason of such distinc-
tiveness. In a very real sense the Jewish world-tragedy may ulti-
mately be traced to that tenacious attachment.
(5) The many proposals and schemes for a Jewish national
restoration in Palestine which emanated at various periods from
non-Jewish sources, indicate that the Jewish connection with
Palestine was a conception deeply rooted also in the consciousness
of the non-Jewish world. As the instances quoted show, it was
particularly strong in England, not merely in theological and
literary circles, but also among men of affairs and prominent
statesmen. The Balfour Declaration represents but the final
consummation of a development which dates backs to the era of
Puritan political philosophy.
(6) The numerous Messianic and pseudo-Messianic movements
which sprang up generation after generation in one part or another
of the Diaspora prove that the Jewish attachment to Palestine was
not of a mere esoteric or romantic character. Jews were always
ready to leave all they possessed and “ascend” to Palestine. They
frequently fell a prey to visionaries or impostors who knew how to
exploit that ever-present readiness.
(7) From the days of the return from the first captivity to the era of
the Balfour Declaration, the Jews have seized every opportunity
that offered itself to return to Palestine. Century after century has
seen movements of re-immigration. To go back and live in the
Holy Land was regarded as the fulfilment of a sacred
duty, and to the devout Jew the crowning glory of his life and the
realisation of his most cherished dream was to end his days on the
holy soil of the Land of Israel. Whenever political conditions
permitted, attempts were made to effect a re-settlement. The
present wave of imimgration and settlement is only the latest phase
of a movement that has never ceased since the destruction of the
Jewish State.
(8) The supreme vindication of the reality of the Jewish attach-
ment to Palestine is to be found in the extraordinary intensity of the
present effort of reconstruction. It was only because they felt
themselves to be the protagonists of the redemption of the people
and the land of Israel, that pioneers of the new settlement were
able to produce the achievements and endure the sacrifices
recorded in preceding pages. No scheme of Jewish colonisation in
any other country — there have been several such enterprises in
the New World — has elicited that supreme devotion and self-
sacrifice which is depicted so vividly in the last quoted Report of
the first High Commissioner; none has so focussed the creative
energies of the Jewish people as a whole. The Jews have felt exiles
throughout the ages of their dispersion. They have never again
created a polity of their own anywhere else. It was the latent
energy accumulated during that long-drawn exile which found
creative expression in the new effort of community building in
Palestine, which for its part, too, had remained unproductive,
physically as well as spiritually during those many centuries. The
new Jewish Palestine has been re-created virtually out of nothing.
It has been built up under conditions which, according to all
normal standards, could not be regarded as other than utterly
hopeless. None but spiritual forces can explain such phenomena as
the successful establishment of agricultural colonies in a malaria-
ridden country by settlers without any training or experience, or as
the growth within two decades of a city like Tel Aviv literally out
of sand. None but spiritual forces can explain the rejection by the
pogrom-harrassed Russian Jews of the generous offer of a vast
territory in East Africa. These spiritual forces, as revealed by the
events of the last few months, are still at work. In the very midst of
the disturbances, while almost daily people were being shot and
killed, trains derailed and houses and crops destroyed, some 20,000
new immigrants entered Palestine. Among these were hundreds of
young boys and girls sent by parents who themselves could not
come but who felt no hesitation in letting their children go. No
people settled for centuries on the soil of its native land could have
given a more genuine proof of the reality of its attachment to that
land. It is the survival of that spiritual attachment which ensures
the continuance of the achievements and sacrifices of the past also
in the future. It is the very abnormality of the conditions under
which the Jewish effort proceeds which holds the secret of its
(9) It is in the light of these facts that the unparalleled character of
the Jewish historical connection with Palestine will be apparent. It
is a connection sui generis There is no other instance of a people
driven out of its country maintaining an attachment so intense and
unbroken during so many centuries. It is that basic fact which is
ignored when the facile allegation is made that the Jews are “in-
truders in an Arab country”. “If the Arabs”, said Lord Milner in the
course of a memorable speech in the House of Lords (House of
Lords Debates, 1923, Vol. 4, col. 669.), “go to the length of
claiming Palestine as one of their countries in the same sense as
Mesopotamia or Arabia proper is an Arab country, then I think they
are flying in the face of facts, of all history, of all tradition, and of
associations of the most important character — I had almost said
the most sacred character….. The future of Palestine cannot
possibly be left to be determined by the temporary impressions and
feelings of the Arab majority in the country of the present day.” It
is sometimes sought facetiously to belittle the significance of the
Jewish connection with Palestine by comparing it with other
historical instances of former dominion. It is asserted that it might
similarly be pleaded that the Italians had a claim to a national
home in Great Britain because that country had once formed part
of the Roman Empire. The conclusive reply to that specious
argument is that the Italians were never settled in England and that
they have and always have had a home of their own in Italy, whilst
the Jews are not merely the ancient rulers but also the former
settlers of Palestine and never had and to this day do not possess
any other national home. It is ‘because of that homelessness and
because “they have never forgotten” that the Jews have a claim to
the restoration of their national life in Palestine.