Page:A Jewish State 1917.djvu/9

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Jewish history. It was seeing and hearing these things, as an observer rather than as a participant, that Theodor Herzl came to the Jewish people with an old thought, "We are a people—one people," and an old corollary, "The restoration of the Jewish State"; unaware that, except in a vague way, there was at least fifteen years of active work, and some propaganda behind him. Fearful, perhaps, of being regarded as a visionary, he vaguely designated the land of the future Jewish State simply as "over there." And "over there" it would undoubtedly have remained had not the "Jewish State" responded to a thought, definite and concise, long pent up in Jewish bosoms. "Over there" must be Palestine. Herzl, as a cool thinker, argued that the propelling force needed to create a Jewish State exists in the misery of the Jews. The volume of that misery is unmistakable; but his book was taken up by and his following was created out of an element who, though in close touch with misery, often the actual sufferers, found within themselves a still greater motive power to national restoration than misery: to wit, love, faith and hope, a bundle of emotions wrapped in the praying shawl of the Jew; and these, when spread out, make up a flag which can only float in the breezes of Zion.

This "Jewish State," therefore, went through such violent natal sufferings as only great ideas suffer. The very fact that on this vision of a Jewish State, other visionaries wrote yet a more cloudy word: Palestine, was sufficient to condemn it in the eyes of most Western Jews. They had from the beginning of the century, in the endeavor to reconcile old Judaism with modern life, passed through several phases, sometimes concurrently, sometimes separated and distinct from each other,—spirituality, assimilation and science (Judaism is again being reduced to knowledge) in all of which the Palestinian and the one people theories were absent, obliterated and often forgotten. The Jews had become a religious community, and Judaism a religion with an extensive ritual. As a Western Jew, Herzl was a freak; his book, except as the dream of an idle moment—intolerable, and as a political suggestion, unthinkable and absurd. A popular verdict was that it was an "egregious blunder," notwithstanding which, the masses being brought into touch with the author, listened and approved. For the first time in modern history the Jewish masses—it was the first opportunity given them—began to move of their own accord. And the author of a political plan became, in a day and a night, the leader of a Jewish party, which decided to use modern methods to attain their goal—Palestine. Rabbis might proclaim every city as Zion; the rich might frown and refuse support—the modern Zionist movement "leapt full bodied into being," and asserted its existence six months after the author had spoken face to face with the "poor and lowly," who offered him at once their loyalty and their enthusiasm, and who, linking his profession as writer to his doctrine as Jew, regarded him as a new Ezra.

Dr. David Kaufmann, in his notable criticism of "Daniel Deronda" in 1879, observed: "Feelings and sentiments which are worthy to be cherished and preserved in the nation's soul against all the influences of time are wont to concentrate themselves in great personalities, and to impart to them a power of attraction before which moderation and half-heartedness fly like leaves before the storm. The history of Israel presents a number of such figures. Ezra and Nehemiah succeed to the Prophets of the Captivity; John of Giskala stands beside Judas Maccabaeus; Akiba ben Joseph defends the Star-Son of Bethar, and even through the darkness of the middle ages the fiery pillar of Jehudah ben Levi gleams forth. Shall we some day be able to say—'and so on?'" The Jewish masses, whose greatness is that they have miraculously conserved