Shivat Tzion- The Return To Zion

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Resource Goal


1. You will gain some understanding of the history of modern political Zionism

2. You will begin to realize the hardships and challenges which faced the pioneers in Palestine from the turn of century to the mid 1900's and their dedication to overcome these obstacles.

3. You will begin to understand that Israel was not created in a day by the UN, but was really established through the sacrifices of those who came in response to the Zionist dream.

Resource Contents

This Chapter and You...

Introduction to Unit on Israel

On May 14,1948, with the establishment of the State of Israel, the long exile of nearly 2,000 years came to an end. Although the Romans and those who followed them tried to eradicate every Jewish connection to Israel, the dream and the prayer for the return to Zion persisted. The prayer "L'shanah Haba'ah B'yerushalayim", "Next Year in Jerusalem", was the centerpiece of every Passover Seder. It was the concluding prayer on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, the fast day of Yom Kippur. Wherever Jews lived, no matter how terrible the circumstances, even during the tragic days of the Shoah, the dream of returning to Israel and Jerusalem remained their eternal, sustaining hope.

This yearning would never have been fulfilled if certain events were not set in motion over 50 years before the birth of the state. In 1897, in Basel, Switzerland, Theodor Herzl convened the first World Zionist Congress. At that time he wrote in his diary: "In Basel I founded the Jewish State...Maybe in five years. Certainly in fifty, everybody will recognize it."

Herzl was wrong. It took 51 years!

Political Zionism was born, stimulating wave after wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine, laying the foundation of the Jewish State.

This chapter will help you understand the enormous contributions and sacrifices of those pioneering Jews who helped settle Palestine from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century.

"Im Tirzu aiyn zu agadah"

"If you will it, it is no dream"

Theodor Herzl

What is Zionism?

Zionism is the modern expression of the ancient Jewish heritage.

Zionism is the national liberation movement of a people exiled from its historic homeland and dispersed among the nations of the world.

Zionism is the revival of an ancient language and culture, in which the vision of universal peace has been a central theme.

Zionism is the embodiment of unique pioneering spirit, of the dignity of labor and of enduring human values.

Zionism is creating a society, however imperfect it may still be, which tries to implement the highest ideals of democracy - political, social and cultural, for all the inhabitants of Israel, irrespective of religious belief, race or sex.

Zionism is, in sum, the constant and unrelenting effort to realize the national and universal vision of the prophets of Israel.

Yigal Allon address the United Nations General Assembly in September 1975:

`Buber has written, "Israel is not a nation like other nations, no matter how much its representatives have wished it during certain eras. Israel is a people like no other, for it is the only people in the world which, from its earliest beginnings, has been both a national and religious community."'


1. Do you consider yourself a Zionist? Explain.

2. What is your own definition of Zionism?

Reading # 2

Theodor Herzl, the founder of Modern Political Zionism, was born in 1860 in Budapest, Hungary. Although not a fully assimilated Jew, he was raised in a liberal Jewish home, with very little concern about the Jewish People. The turning point in his life came when he was assigned to cover the Dreyfus Trial as a journalist.

Theodor Herzl - A Modern Moses

Excerpts from The Resurrection of Israel, by Anny Latour

Paris, December 19, 1894. In the audience chamber of the Military Tribunal, the public waited tensely for the entrance of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, accused of high treason...

He was a Jew and therefore guilty....

In the press box, the Paris correspondent of the Neue Freie Presse, the largest newspaper in Vienna, was writing his report:

A few moments slip by. There is a deathly silence in the chamber. All eyes are fixed on the little door. Suddenly the accused appears. The stares focused on him are charged with extraordinary tension. Trim silhouette, erect, somewhat taller than average, tightly clinched into the elegant dark uniform of an artillery officer, with the three gold stripes of his rank on his sleeve, head bent, Dreyfus passes through the crowd of spectators, ascends the three steps to the defendant's seat, pauses in front of the Court, bows stiffly and briefly. When he takes his seat, I can clearly see his face. He looks ten years older than his actual age. They say this change took place during his imprisonment. His close-cropped hair is grizzled and beginning to retreat in premature baldness. His nose is definitely aquiline, ears prominent, face and chin well-shaved, the thick mustache is trimmed short, the mouth reveals his suffering. He wears pince-nez glasses. The demeanor of Dreyfus is calm and firm.

The name of the journalist who wrote this account was Theodor Herzl. He was born in Budapest in 1860 and spent his youth in Vienna, where he made a name for himself as the author of more than ten comedies which appeared in Viennese theaters. During his three years in Paris, he could be found attending the sessions of the Chamber of Deputies, at trials in the Court of Assizes, and at political meetings. His black beard, his large, deep-set eyes, the nobility of his features, and the radiance of his personality attracted people's attention. Already troubled about the Jewish question after reading certain anti-Semitic writings, it needed only the shock of the Dreyfus trial definitely to awaken in him his Jewish consciousness:

All the unleashed fury had been directed at Dreyfus. Had it been possible, the general public would have tarred him, quartered him, and subjected him to I know not what tortures. Why? These were no longer cries of revenge against a military betrayal, which, as a rule, hardly excites people in peace time. This angry outburst was of an entirely different nature, like the excesses of a mob or of a people in revolt. They did not disguise their accusations. They did not yell, "Down with Dreyfus!" but, "Down with the Jews!"

From the conservative right to the extreme left, one hears only a single cry: "Out with the Jews!" There is an atmosphere of unrest, and those who are primarily involved in this matter are blind and deaf. They keep saying it will blow over. To be sure, all this will blow over, but how?

It was then that Herzl, (the visionary prophet, conceived the idea that salvation could only come from Zion:

The Dreyfus trial represents more than just a miscarriage of justice. It expresses the wish of a great majority of the people of France, condemn one Jew, and through him, all Jews. Ever since then, "Down with the Jews" has become a battle cry. And where? Why, in France. In republican France, modern, civilized, a hundred years after the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The Dreyfus trial can only be compared, in history, to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. It has rendered void the conception born in the Great Revolution. And if a progressive and highly civilized nation can behave in such a manner, what can one expect from other nations?...

...In Paris, in the spring of 1895, Herzl wrote in his diary:

I have been working for some time at a labor of incalculable size. I do not know yet whether I shall bring it to a successful conclusion. It looms like a gigantic dream. And yet for days and even weeks, it possesses me to the point of making me lose my mind. It is always with me, it hovers over banal conversations, it looks over my shoulder at this funny sort of journalistic work, it upsets me, it goes to my head....

This book was to become a fact. It was not a novel, but a vision, realistic and prophetic at the same time, of a Jewish state yet to be, conceived in all the details of its organization. It was not to be called The Promised Land, but The Jewish State.



1. Assume you were assigned today to cover a trial similar to the Dreyfus Trial. How would you react?

2. What would you do about these feelings?

3. How did Herzl react? Can you understand why?

4. Herzl went on to establish the modern Zionist Movement which culminated in the birth of the State of Israel. Is this an answer to the question: Can one man change the course of history? How could that apply to you?

Reading #3

This is a brief history of the Jewish resettlement of Palestine, beginning in the mid-19th Century through 1930. It will set for you the most recent historical background, which led to the birth of the State of Israel.

Excerpts from: The Return to Zion. edited by Aryeh Rubinstein, Keter Books, Jerusalem


There can be no doubt whatsoever that the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 is one of the most important events in Jewish history. That a nation cut off - in the main - from its land for nearly two thousand years should regain its sovereignty is amazing enough. That it should do so immediately after suffering the worst disaster any people in recorded history has ever suffered and, from a military point of view, against overwhelming odds, compounds the astonishment and indeed awe that any spectator must feel. With good reason, many people, both Jews and gentiles, saw the hand of God in the miracle of 1948.

Still, it would be wrong to understand these events as though they occurred in a vacuum. Love of Zion and the yearning for a return to it have always constituted a major theme in Judaism. Throughout the ages sporadic attempts were made by individuals and groups - often under the most frightful conditions - to "go up to the Land" and settle it. In the 19th and 20th centuries organized efforts were made to achieve that end, and their description forms the bulk of this chapter.

The story of the Return is fascinating and exciting, and it is hardly possible to understand and evaluate the meaning of the State of Israel or what the Jews feel about it without knowing that story and the conditions in which it unfolded.

Zionism in its modern sense was born in August 1897, when the First Zionist Congress adopted Theodor Herzl's "Basel Program" which declared that "Zionism seeks to secure for the Jewish people a publicly recognized, legally secured home in Palestine." Herzl's powerful personality and his audacious, one-man diplomacy cannot fail to capture the imagination, but Herzl did not start from scratch. He was preceded not only by 1,900 years of yearning for Zion on the part of Jews scattered among the nations, but also by earlier 19th century writers who broached the idea of the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland and even by some modest beginnings of practical colonization in Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel.

The Hibbat Zion Movement

Lilienblum Smolenkin became leader of Hibbat Zion ("Love of Zion"), a loosely organized movement of Hovevei Zion ("Lovers of Zion") societies in Russia and Rumania, which favored emigration to Eretz Israel, as against those who favored the United States. (Only a small minority of the active Jewish public opposed emigration altogether).

The First Aliyah

Carrying their theories into practice, small groups of Hovevei Zion made their way to Eretz Israel, with the aim of working on the land. The first organized group consisted of 14 members of Bilu, which had been organized in Kharkov in January 1882 as a reaction to the pogroms. (The name Bilu was derived from the Hebrew initials of Beit Ya'akov Lekhu ve-Nelkha; (House of Jacob, come ye and let us go.) By 1884 six settlements had been established (including Rishon le-Zion, Gederah and Zikhron Ya'akov), and Petah Tikvah revived.

These villages would have collapsed at the outset, however, had it not been for the aid extended to them by Baron Edmond de Rothschild of Paris, who had become active in Jewish affairs immediately after the pogroms of 1881.

The Old Yishuv

When the vanguard of the First Aliyah arrived in 1882 there were between 20,000 and 25,000 Jews in the country, two-thirds of whom lived in Jerusalem. There were smaller communities in the three other "holy cities" - Safed, Tiberias and Hebron - and two more recently established ones in Jaffa and Haifa. There was a considerable number of artisans, unskilled laborers, and small shopkeepers who led a life of poverty and want. For social and political conditions under Ottoman rule militated against the participation of the Jewish population in the economic life of the country. Moreover, many of the immigrants were elderly people who had come to the Holy Land to die and be buried there, and there was a high proportion of widows and orphans. Hence, the old yishuv had to depend for its sustenance on contributions from Jews aboard, known as "halukkah." In the 1880's this amounted to 100,000 pounds (sterling) a year, then equivalent to about $400,000.

The great majority of the old "yishuv" were strictly Orthodox and accepted the authority of the rabbis, who were opposed to all modern trends and resisted the winds of change that were blowing in from Europe. The help of Jewish philanthropists abroad was readily accepted so long as it did not involve any change in the traditional way of life: attempts to establish modern schools and to train Jews for productive employment in agriculture and handicrafts was met with fierce resistance by the leaders of the "halukkah" regime. Nevertheless, even among the "old `yishuv'" (as the pre-Zionist Jewish community came to be called), there were those - including the editors of the first newspapers published in Jerusalem - who called upon the Jews to earn their living by their own labor.

The Second Aliyah

The first impetus for the new wave of immigration - which lasted till the outbreak of World War I and is known as the Second Aliyah - came from the Kishinev pogroms of 1903. The impotence of the great Russian-Jewish community in the face of these savage mob attacks, and of further pogroms in 1905, shocked thousands of young Jews into a new determination to build a Jewish homeland. As in the case of the First Aliyah, however, now too those who made their way to Eretz Israel -some 40,000 between 1904 and 1914 - constituted only a small part of a great migration of Jews from Eastern Europe. The newcomers who stayed, together with natural increase, brought the Jewish population to 85,000 in 1914; this was 12% of the country's total population.

It was this new society - this workers' commonwealth - that the young immigrants of the Second Aliyah wished to build. To correct the lop-sided occupational structure of the Jews they came up with the concept of "kibbush ha-avodah" (the "conquest of labor"), meaning that the Jews themselves would carry out all the economic tasks necessary for the functioning of their new society. This ideal was linked with that of "halutziyyut" (pioneering), which inspired the individual not only to support the national revival but to be ready himself to settle in the homeland as a "halutz," or pioneer, prepared to do any kind of work, however arduous, unaccustomed or dangerous, that might be required at the time, to build this new national society.

The Emergence of the Kibbutz

The early "kevutzot" had small memberships based upon the idea that the community should be small enough to constitute a kind of enlarged family. After World War I, when larger numbers of pioneers arrived, larger communal villages, combining agriculture with industry, were founded, for which the name "kibbutz" was used. Today, however, the distinction between the two terms has all but disappeared. By 1914 there were 11 "kevutzot" established on Jewish National Fund land under the responsibility of the Zionist Organization, and the number grew to 29 by the end of 1918.

The "kevutzah," or kibbutz, is a voluntary collective community, mainly agricultural, in which there is no private wealth and which is responsible for all the needs of the members and their families.

Not all of the Second Aliyah immigrants worked on the land. Some of them joined the old "yishuv" and settled in the four "holy cities," especially in Jerusalem where they built new quarters, such as Zikhron Moshe and Romemah. The newcomers also introduced an enterprising spirit into other towns. It was on their initiative that the modern suburb of Tel Aviv was founded on the outskirts of Jaffa in 1909, its population reaching 2,000 by 1914.

The pioneers of the Second Aliyah brought with them high standards of Jewish and general culture, lofty ideals, and a deep conviction that ideals are proved only through living by them. Included in its numbers were several leading personalities, who were destined to be future leaders in the State of Israel.

Effect of World War

World War I had a disastrous effect on the "yishuv" and brought the Second Aliyah to an end. In the first three years of the war, Palestine served Turkey and her allies as a base for their attempts to launch an attack upon the Suez Canal and Egypt, and, together with Syria, it had to provide the supplies required by the 4th Turkish Corps. In addition to large-scale recruitment, the population suffered from heavy taxes, compulsory labor service such as road building, and the confiscation of horses, wheat and other property. In December 1914, 700 Jews who were nationals of enemy states were deported to Egypt. This led to a mass exodus of foreign Jews, in the course of which 11,300 (over an eighth of the entire Jewish population) left the country.

On October 31, 1917 the British opened an unexpected offensive and took Beersheva, going on to Gaza and Jaffa. On December 11, General Allenby entered Jerusalem, bringing 400 years of Ottoman rule over the Holy Land to an end. It was Hanukkah, and in the entry of the British the Jewish population saw a fresh divine miracle for their liberation.

The Balfour Declaration

On November 2, 1917, Balfour issued the famous letter to Lord Rothschild which has since become known as the Balfour Declaration. It read as follows:

His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The Declaration was approved on April 24, 1920, at the Allies' conference at San Remo and was incorporated in the Mandate on Palestine conferred upon Great Britain by the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.

The impact of the Balfour Declaration on Jewish public opinion was immediate, and enthusiasm spontaneous. In many countries there were huge demonstrations displaying the Union Jack side by side with the Zionist flag. For the first time since the Dispersion a great power had given official recognition to the Jewish people's claim to Eretz Israel.

The Jewish State in the Making

The outbreak of the war in 1914 had brought the Second Aliyah to an end; when immigration resumed in 1919 the world was a very different one. The Czarist regime had been overthrown in Russia and the Bolsheviks were in power, the Ottoman Empire was no more, and the Balfour Declaration established the right of Jews to settle in Palestine. No longer would Jews have to "infiltrate" into Eretz Israel: they could now settle there as a matter of right. Postwar pogroms and excesses in the Ukraine, Poland and Hungary constituted a further motivation for leaving those countries, but since the westward road to the United States was still open, most of those who chose to go to Eretz Israel did so out of Zionist convictions.

The Third Aliyah

Many of the immigrants of the Third Aliyah (1919-23) were members of Zionist- Socialist youth organizations. On the whole, they came better prepared than their pre-war predecessors. Many had undergone agricultural training, they spoke Hebrew better than the Second Aliyah pioneers, and they came in organized groups.

The "halutzim", then, were the leading element in the Third Aliyah. They did not merely find their places in the existing economic and social structure; they were a creative force, which transformed the character of the "yishuv" and played a prominent part in its leadership. Golda Meir was part of the Third Aliyah and so were Eliezer Kaplan, Meir Ya'ari, Mordechai Namir, Israel Bar-Yehuda, Ya'acov Hazan, Abba Khoushi and Zalman Aranne - all future leaders in the State of Israel. Together with their predecessors of the Second Aliyah, they founded the Histadrut (the comprehensive countrywide labor organization), expanded the map of Jewish settlement, and played a leading role in the creation of the Haganah defense organization.

In all, the Third Aliyah brought in some 35,000 immigrants, almost nine-tenths of them from Russia and Poland. The new "yishuv" was now in the majority and the old "yishuv's" efforts to resist the onset of modern trends were doomed to failure.

The Fourth Aliyah

Whereas there were many similarities between the Third Aliyah and the Second, the Fourth Aliyah (1924-28) was quite different in social composition from all of its predecessors. Mainly because of the ban on emigration from Soviet Russia there was a drop in the influx of "halutzim." On the other hand, there was a rise in the immigration of storekeepers and artisans, mostly from Poland.


1. According to this article, what was an "Aliyah"? How many were there? Who arrived in Palestine on each Aliyah?

2. What was Hibbat Zion?

3. What was the Balfour Declaration

4. List the hardships faced by early settlers in Palestine.

Reading #4

The following dates mirror the previous narrative concerning the Jewish return to Palestine from the mid-19th Century to 1930.


A State in the Making: 1838-1948

1838 Moses Montefiore proposes founding a Jewish state.

1854 Jewish Hospital established in Jerusalem.

1861 Mishkenot Sha-ananim, first neighborhood outside Jerusalem city walls, is built.

1863 First Hebrew periodical, Havaselet, published.

1870 Mikve Israel agricultural school opens.

1878 Petah Tikvah, founded by Jews from Old City of Jerusalem.

1882 Leon Pinsker, in Auto-Emancipation, envisages solution to anti-Semitism in Jewishmajority in their own land.Large-scale immigration from Russia, Romania and Yemen begins, known as First Aliyah (aliyah, Hebrew term for Jewish immigration to Land of Israel).

1887 Baron Edmond de Rothschild establishes Zichron Yaacov.

1894 Dreyfus trial spurs Theodor Herzl to formulate political Zionism.

1895 Herzl publishes Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State).

1897 World Zionist Organization (WZO), founded at First Zionist Congress convened by Herzl in Basel, aims "at establishing for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home inPalestine."

1903 Offer by Britain to found Jewish state in Uganda rejected by Sixth Zionist Congress.

1904 Second Aliyah begins, mainly from Russia and Poland in wake of pogroms.

1906 First Hebrew high school established in Jaffa.Bezalel School of Arts and Design opens in Jerusalem.

1909 Degania, first kibbutz, founded on shores of Lake Kinneret.Tel Aviv, first modern Jewish city, established north of Jaffa.Jewish self-defense movement, Hashomer (The Watchman), is organized.

1914 World War I begins; Britain declares war on Ottoman Empire.

1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, secret British-French pact for division of Holy Land, excludesarea west of Jordan River from Arab independence.

1917 Balfour Declaration pledges British support for establishment of "Jewish national home in Palestine."General Allenby enters Jerusalem, ending 400 years of Ottoman Turkish rule.

1919 Weismann-Feisal Agreement accords mutual recognition of Jewish and Arab rights in Palestine.Third Aliyah begins, mainly from Poland; majority establish new agricultural settlements.

1920 Mandate for Palestine, including TransJordan, is granted to Britain by League of Nationsat San Remo.Herbert Samuel appointed High Commissioner for Palestine.Histadrut, Jewish labor federation is founded.Arab militants mount anti-Jewish riots.Haganah, clandestine Jewish defense organization, is organized.

1921 Emir Abdullah of Hejaz invades TransJordan and is established as its ruler by Britain.

1922 League of Nations, "recognizing...the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine," charges Britain "to facilitate Jewish immigration and settlement on the land."Britain bars Jews from settling in TransJordan.

1924 Technion-Israel Institute of Technology opens in Haifa.Fourth Aliyah begins, primarily from Poland; majority settle in towns.

1925 Hebrew University inaugurated on Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem.

1929 Arab militants perpetrate massacre of Jews in Hebron.

Reading #1

Related Resources can be found under:

» All > Eretz Yisrael > Aliya

» All > Eretz Yisrael > Settling The Land

» All > History > Towards Establishing a state 1890-1948

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