|Part Two||Franz Kobler
"The Vision Was There"
and the Creation
of the State of Israel
|Contents by Subject||
Contents in Alphabetical Order
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. . .
There followed a five-point questionnaire about the attitude of the Jews to the project -the first attempt at establishing direct contact between the Restoration Movement and Jewry with a view to practical co-operation.
Public discussion of the Jewish return continued to spread.
In a letter of August 26 to The Times, "An English Clergy-man", pointing to the persecutions suffered by the Jews, demanded that Britain should acquire Palestine for the Jews. "The newspapers teem with documents about the Jews," Shaftesbury noted on August 29. On August 11, Palmerston had addressed a letter to Lord Ponsonby, British Ambassador to Turkey, in which, after a preamble dealing with the prospective return of the Jews to Palestine, he instructed Ponsonby "strongly to recommend [to the Turkish Government] to hold out every just encouragement to the Jews to return to Palestine". This was the first official British document to take cognisance of the idea of Restoration.
"This is a prelude to the Antitype of the decree of Cyrus", Shaftesbury, referring to Palmerston's letter, entered in his diary on August 24.
Then confining himself exclusively to political and economic arguments Shaftesbury drew up in the form of a letter to Lord Palmerston a far-reaching yet completely realistic and statesmanlike project. He based his demand that Palestine be handed over to the Jews for resettlement on arguments which must have been fully acceptable to them; the close bond of the Jews with their ancient homeland, their indestructible Messianic hope, their "prodigious industry and perseverance". " Long ages of suffering", he declared prophetically, "have trained their people to habits of endurance and self-denial; they would joyfully exhibit them in the settlement of their ancient country".
There is good reason to believe that Palmerston was favourably disposed to Shaftesbury's scheme. The Globe, commenting on the plan of Alphonse de Lamartine for the establishment of a Christian state in Palestine, wrote caustically:
M. de Lamartine intends to form a Christian kingdom at the sources of the Jordan and at the foot of Mount Lebanon. . . But what is odd in the whole affair is that Lord Palmerston has chosen the same spot. Where the celebrated Deputy dreams of a Christian state, Lord Palmerston projects a Jewish Republic.
Yet diplomatic records leave no doubt that nothing was further from the intentions of Britain's co-signatories of the London Treaty than the establishment of a Jewish Palestine.
Meanwhile Edward Bickersteth, in the second edition of his book, with reference to the London Treaty, pleaded for the creation of "a neutral Jewish state between the Sultan and the Pasha". The Church of Scotland addressed an appeal to Palmerston which, while dealing only with the protection of the Jews and of missionary activities, at the same time revealed a clearly pro-restorationist tendency. At the beginning of 1841, the Irish city of Carlow presented a Humble Memorial of the Undersigned Inhabitants of Carlow and its Vicinity, dated March 2, 1841, in which Biblical teaching and realistic prospects are impressively blended. The Memorandum culminated in a passionate plea that Great Britain should emulate the blessed work of "Cyrus the Great King of Persia" and should remember "the irreversible decree of Heaven that `the Nation or Kingdom that will not serve Israel shall perish'." _
The petition of the citizens of Carlow was sent to Palmerston with a covering letter (March 2, 1841), from which it appears that the 320 signatories represented a cross-section of all political parties and religious denominations.
Almost at the same time as the people gathered at Carlow to rejoice in the liberation of Palestine and to raise their voices in favour of the Restoration of the Jews, a brilliant party was held in Damascus on March 1, 1841, at the palatial home of R. Farhi, the head of the Jewish community, in honour of the victorious army. Among those present was Charles Henry Churchill; eldest son of Lord Charles Spencer Churchill and grandson of the fifth Duke of Marlborough, who had entered the Syrian capital with the victorious troops and had received from Sir Moses Montefiore the edict of the young Sultan Abdul Hedjid which assured equality of rights with the rest of the population to Jews resident in Turkey's Asiatic provinces. At the end of the party, Churchill, now British Resident at Damascus, addressed the distinguished gathering in the following terms:
May this happy occasion stand as a pledge of [England's] friendship and an augury for a bond and a union between the English and the Jewish nation, equally honourable and beneficial for both. Yes, friends, there has existed a Jewish people, renowned for learning and glorious in war. May the hour of Israel's liberation draw nigh! May the approach of western civilisation bring to this magnificent land the dawn of its reconstruction and its political revival. May the Jewish nation regain its rank and position among the nations of the world. The descendants of the Maccabeans will prove themselves worthy of their renowned forbears.
Enthusiastically acclaimed by his audience, Churchill decided to make a direct approach to western Jewry. On June 14, 1841, he addressed a letter to Sir Moses Montefiore which stated concisely: "It is for the Jews to make a commencement". Submitting no cut-and-dried project, Churchill suggested that the Jews should, "simultaneously throughout Europe" launch an intensive campaign for Restoration. The result he foresaw was that the Jews "would conjure up a new element in Eastern diplomacy".
"Syria and Palestine," Churchill wrote, " . . must be taken under European protection and governed in the sense and according to the spirit of European administration.
While Shaftesbury relied on direct negotiations with the Government, contact with Jewry being but a secondary concern, Churchill attached the utmost importance to the initiative of the Jews themselves. Indeed, never before had the Restoration Movement come so close to a Zionist point of view.
It is not known whether Colonel Churchill's letter was ever answered by Sir Moses Montefiore. During his second visit to the Holy Land (1839), Sir Moses had discussed vast schemes with Mehemet All, who was willing to grant the land needed for the planned Jewish colony and even to appoint a Resident to such a settlement. After discussing the promotion of this plan with Palmerston, Montefiore launched "The Fund for the cultivation of the land in Palestine by the Jews". Back from his journey in connection with the Damascus Affair (February 24, 1841), Montefiore was, however, faced with a new situation. Mehemet Ali's power was broken and negotiations for the return of Syria to Turkey were in progress.
In any case it would have been too late to change the march of time even by such an initiative. By the time Churchill's letter reached Montefiore, Palestine's fate was being decided for a long time to come. The London "Treaty for the Pacification of the Levant" sounded the death-knell of Lord Shaftesbury's bold projects and similar proposals by other Restorationists, inspired by the crisis of 1840-41. The heyday of the Restoration Movement was over.
The manner in which the Restorationists reacted to the failure of their relentless efforts was symbolic of the vitality of the Restoration idea. For Lord Shaftesbury and his friends of the London Society the collapse of their political expectations seemed offset by the realisation of at least some of their religious objectives, namely the establishment of a Protestant Bishopric in Jerusalem, and the appointment as Bishop of a British citizen of Jewish origin. He was Michael Solomon Alexander, who, after having served as reader and shochet in Plymouth, accepted baptism and became a zealous member of the London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews. The irony of an event which could have only a deterrent effect on any devout Jew was far from being realised by the Restorationists. On the contrary: the fact that a Jew was called to become the first Evangelical Bishop in Jerusalem appealed to them strongly as a symbol of promise.
The learned divines of the Church of England were not alone in persevering in their efforts to hasten Restoration at a time when the prospects of a practical success had suffered a depressing setback. Colonel Churchill again got in touch with Montefiore and confided to him his new plans. On August 15, 1842, he sent to Montefiore a letter with an attached address translated into German which he asked him to forward to Montefiore's friends in the German States. The address was based on the assumption that every effort would be made by the Jews "to accomplish the means of living amidst those scenes rendered sacred by ancient recollections, and which they regard with filial affection, and that only the dread of the insecurity of life and property which had rested so long upon the soil of Judea has hitherto been a bar to the accomplishment of their natural desire". Churchill proposed that "the Jews of England conjointly with their brethren on the Continent of Europe should make an application to the British Government through the Earl of Aberdeen, the Foreign Secretary [since August 1841], to accredit and send out a fit and proper person to reside in Syria for the sole and express purpose of superintending and watching over the interests of the Jews residing in that country". The document closed with a personal confession "God has put into my heart the desire to serve His ancient people".
Montefiore submitted the memorandum together with the covering letter and the previous letter to the Board of Deputies, of which he was president. The resolution passed at the meeting of the Board on November 7, 1842, reads:
That the President be requested to reply to Colonel Churchill to the effect that this Board, being appointed for the fulfilment of special duties and deriving its pecuniary resources from the contributions to the several congregations it represents, is precluded from originating any measures for carrying out the benevolent views of Colonel Churchill respecting the Jews of Syria; that this Board is fully convinced that much good would arise from the realisation of Colonel Churchill's intentions, but is of opinion that any measures in reference to this subject should emanate from the general body of the Jews throughout Europe; and that this Board doubts not that if the Jews of other countries entertain the propositions those of Great Britain would be ready and desirous to contribute towards it their most zealous support.
The Board even refused, at least by implication, to forward the proposition to the Jews of the Continent, pleading lack of authority. Churchill's proposition was treated as applying only to the Jews of Syria, and not one word revealed that the representatives of British Jewry shared the "natural desire" supposed by Churchill to be a general feeling of the Jewish people.
Thus the "benevolent views of Colonel Churchill" were filed away in the archives of the Board of Deputies. His own warm and dignified reply, dated January 8, 1943, has also been preserved. The hope expressed in this letter of a direct understanding between British and Continental Jews on the subject of Palestine was to remain unfulfilled. Disappointment over Jewish inaction may explain the fact that, although Churchill continued to promote the welfare of the Jews in Syria, we hear no more about pro-Zionist activities during the rest of his life, which ended after an eventful military career in 1877. But in his three-volume work Mount Lebanon, published in 1853, Churchill predicted: that should "Mount Lebanon cease to be Turkish, it must either become English, or else form part of a new independent State which, without the incentive to territorial aggrandisement, or the means of military aggression, shall yet be able to maintain its own honour and dignity and unite the hitherto divergent races of mankind in the humanising relations of fraternity and peace. . . ." Even though Churchill omitted to make explicit reference to the Jews in this forecast, it clearly re-echoes the prophecies of his youth.
But new fighters for the Restoration idea soon appeared who were not willing to acquiesce in the settlement of the Eastern question as provided by the London Treaty. In 1843, Alexander Keith published an unusual travel book, The Land of Israel according to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. The book was one of the first to produce masterly daguerreotypes of scenes from the Holy Land. The chief object of these pictures and of a full description of the country was clearly to underline the contrast between its former glory and its then state of desolate neglect, "which for previous centuries no man enquired after." Keith pointed to the shameful discrepancy between the Abrahamic covenant and the worldly agreements just concluded between the Powers. He regarded them as null and void and put forward his solution: "Greece was given to the Greeks; and in seeking any government for Syria, may not a confederacy of kings, for the sake of the peace of the world, be shut up by the course of giving it -if they think it theirs to give -Judaea to the Jews? "
In 1884 two clergymen, Samuel Bradshaw and Thomas Tully Crybbace, independently of each other, called for political action of a sort. Bradshaw's Tract for the Times, being a plea for the Jews warned the Gentiles against making the Jews abandon "their ancient right to Palestine", and declared it "their duty to aid the liberation of God's ancient people from the present depressed and scattered condition by promoting to the utmost their return to the land of their fathers". He suggested that a fund of five million pounds should be raised to this end, four-fifths of it by the Government with the consent of Parliament, the balance to be made up by the Church. While Bradshaw was content to publish his proposal, T. T. Crybbace worked from the outset to organise a popular movement to avert the threat to the return of the Jews. He suggested that England should ask the Sultan to hand over the whole area of Palestine and to accept appropriate compensation. In April 1844, Crybbace voiced this demand at a meeting convened "in favour of a British and Foreign Society for promoting the restoration of the Jewish nation to Palestine". Seeing the Restoration as a way of liberating the Jewish people, he asked that Britain should urge the Czar and other oppressors to free them, and should then constitute herself the protector of the Jews in Palestine. This address, dedicated to the Queen, Parliament and the People of England, appeared in print shortly afterwards. At a later meeting, Crybbace was attacked by Jews in the audience who, bewildered by the appointment of Bishop Alexander, alleged that conversion was behind the scheme to be promoted by the new Society. Only the prospectus of the Society remains as a record of the first attempt made in England to create an organisation "to excite interest in the British Isles, and throughout the world in the restoration of the Jews".
III. JEWS JOIN THE MOVEMENT
The increased political activity during the period of the Eastern Question was accompanied by the intensification of contacts between the Restoration Movement and the Jews themselves.
The initiative was taken by the Restorationists. For the favourable situation caused by the momentous events in the Near East coincided with a period when increasing emancipation was beginning to dim the Messianic dreams of large sections of the Jewish people. As we have seen, the "wealthy and influential members of Jewish society", whom Colonel Churchill had expected to take the lead in the reconstruction of Palestine, cold-shouldered his scheme. Though Sir Moses Montefiore had in view a large-scale colonisation action which would bring thousands of Jews to the Land of Israel, he, too, was not in favour of political action for the resettlement of the Jewish people in Palestine and he consistently dissociated himself from the bold projects of the English Restorationists.
And yet the hopes of the Restorationists of co-operation with the Jews were not entirely unfounded. As early as 1836, Zevi Hirsch Kalischer, Rabbi of Thorn, had written to Anselm Meyer Rothschild of Frankfurt "that the beginning of the redemption will be in a natural way, by the desire of the Jews to settle in Palestine and the willingness of the nations to help them in this work". Roughly at the same time, Rabbi Yehuda Hai Alkalay, driven by the urge to prepare the return of Israel to its ancient homeland, travelled all the way from Semlin in Slovenia to England and laid before the heads of the London Sephardi community a scheme for the establishment of a society the object of which was to set the great work in motion. The weekly journal Der Orient, founded in 1840 by the Jewish scholar Dr. Julius Furst, regularly carried detailed reports of the English Restoration Movement from its London correspondent, A. de Sola. On June 27, 1840, Der Orient published what was editorially described as a "strange appeal" signed D.V.H. to the "People of Jehovah, to arise from your age-old slumber and to take possession of the land of the fathers ".
This anonymous manifesto had an electrifying effect on large sections of Jewish youth and promptly reached the English press. A full translation appeared in The Times on December 24, 1840. The Restorationists gladly hailed it as an expression of a widespread sentiment. On June 24, 1841, Der Orient carried a long letter from Palestine in which the writer advocated the resettlement of Palestine and the appointment of a Jewish administration under the protection and guarantee of several of the Great Powers. He quite openly referred to the dominant role to be played by Great Britain and to the incalculable advantages which she would derive from such an arrangement. He argued that by establishing a Jewish state between the Nile, the Euphrates and the Taurus, England would restore the threatened balance in the Near and Middle East.
In Prague a Jewish students' group proposed to found a Society for the re-establishment of the Jewish state. Abraham Benisch, the most energetic member of the group who settled in London in 1841 argued that England, by introducing Protestantism into Palestine would antagonise sections of Christendom and the fanatical Moslem populations, thus causing fresh embarrassment to the Porte. He suggested, "the establishment of a colony in some well situated part of Palestine. . . . The colony to be under Turkish Government and protection, and England to guarantee the maintenance of the conditions under which the colony shall be formed".
Although obviously opposed to the missionary trends of the Restoration Movement, Benisch's scheme tried to harmonise Jewish with English and Christian interests, and to induce the British Government to take the initiative. But Benisch's endeavours received little support from British Jewry.
The opposite extreme to the attitude of leading British Jews towards the question of Restoration was once again provided by the indefatigable Mordecai Manuel Noah on the other side of the Atlantic. No longer concerned with a provisional refuge for the Jews on American soil, his Discourse on the Restoration of the Jews, published in 1845, was the first attempt since Menasseh ben Israel's Hope of Israel to bring the Restoration Doctrine into accord with Jewish concepts. Noah declared the United States to be destined to "present to the Lord his chosen and downtrodden people, and pave the way for the restoration to Zion". Shunning all violence of expression, he tried to outline a peaceful solution in the nature of a compromise.
Combining, like the Christian Restorationists, religious and political arguments, he concluded a survey of the political history of the Levant in the preceding quarter-century with the words: " . . . With the consent of the Christian Powers, and with their aid and agency, the land of Israel passes once more into the possession of the descendants of Abraham. Christian and Jew will together, on Mount Zion, raise their voices in praise of Him whose covenant with Abraham was to endure for ever, and in whose seed all the nations of the earth are to be blessed. .."
The book soon found its way to England, where a new edition appeared under the title The Jews, Judaea and Christianity.
But Noah's efforts to mobilise the United States were as abortive as his attempts in 1825 to induce the Jews of Europe to settle in his City of Refuge. Instead, his Discourse provoked a series of violent attacks on the author by both English and American Jews. The London Voice of Jacob branded his conduct as "anti-Judaic"; writing in Occident, Noah's friend, Dr. Isaac Leeser, America's leading Rabbi, declared that Noah's attitude to Restoration was incompatible with the principles of Judaism. Noah attempted to defend himself in an article which Occident published in 1845. Denying "anti-Judaism", he had no hesitation in advocating "a more candid union between Jews and Christians". Danger, he said, threatened not from the Gentiles but from apathy, from indifference, from a want of nationality -from ourselves". It sounded like an echo of Charles Henry Churchill's appeal to the English Jews when Noah declared:
Nothing in my opinion will save the nation from sinking into oblivion but agitating this subject of the Restoration. We should pass the word around the world -"Restoration of the Jews", "Justice to Israel", "The Rights and Independence of the Hebrews", "Restore them to their country", "Redeem them from captivity". Christians and Musulmans should be invoked to aid them in the good cause.
More than any other of his utterances this statement has the ring of Mordecai Manuel Noah's political testament, though his death occurred only six years later.
IV. THE EPIC AND THE EPILOGUE: "JUDAH'S LION" AND "TANCRED"
The epic of the period during which the Restoration of the Jews became a nation-wide issue was written by a woman, Charlotte Elizabeth Browne. An Evangelical and philanthropist like Shaftesbury and, like him, moved by the love and admiration for "God's ancient people", she wrote under the name of Charlotte Elizabeth. The book which stamps Charlotte Elizabeth as the mouthpiece of the Restoration Movement was Judah's Lion, published in 1843.
From the literary point of view the book was a product of the romantic-sentimental school. But Judah's Lion was lifted above the usual level of such works by a sincerity which gives it the character of a personal confession. Charlotte Elizabeth wove into the plot not only her unshakeable faith in the indestructibility of Israel and in its Restoration, but also her theory of a "Church of Circumcision" which would reconcile Christianity with Judaism. The action is laid in 1840. The hero, a young English Jew, Nathan Alexander Cohen -nicknamed Alick in order to "Gentilise" him -who "deemed it his chief glory to be an Englishman", undergoes a deep spiritual transformation on a voyage to the Near East. Under the influence of Gentile fellow-passengers all of them strong believers in the Restoration of the Jews Cohen becomes conscious of his Jewishness and of his mission to blend Judaism and Christianity so as to clear the way for the Restoration of the Jewish people with the help of England. Da Costa, a young Sephardi, symbolises the early Zionists. He has settled in Palestine, speaks a "choice Hebrew", and his strong attachment to Judaism renders him more impervious to missionary persuasion than his friend Alick. Cohen is eventually converted and even Da Costa, on the verge of death, is almost brought to believe in the Messiahship of Jesus. The story ends with these words of Cohen:
May it be England's privilege to labour in our cause, that she may rejoice in our joy, when our tribes shall assemble and our cities be built, and the land of Israel rest in unbroken peace, under the shadow of Judah's Almighty Lion.. .
The historical significance of the novel is by no means diminished by its odd theories and proselytising tendency. In shedding light on certain features of the Movement which other sources do not record, Charlotte Elizabeth performed an important service. We are made to realise that it had become customary for Gentiles to debate with Jews problems of Jewish Restoration and events in Palestine; that the fate of the Jewish people was of common interest; that Byron's and Moore's Hebrew melodies moved all hearts; and that the belief in England's mission to become the instrument of the Restoration was shared by many at all levels of society.
While Charlotte Elizabeth dreamt of her christianised Jewish national hero who would forge an everlasting bond between England's Israel, a great living neo-Christian, Benjamin Disraeli, also looked for the integration of Jewish and Christian tenets. With his conception of race as the very source of human values and with an almost fanatical conviction of the Jews' superiority, he combined a desire that they may cease to "persist in believing in only one part of their religion" and a passionate expectation of a Jewish revival. The literary expression of all these tendencies is to be found in Disraeli's novel Tancred or The New Crusade (1847).
Fourteen years earlier (1833) he had published The Wondrous Tale of Alroy, the story of the adventurous "Prince of Captivity", David Alroy, who attempted to re-establish the Jewish realm by force of arms in the twelfth century. The book was the fruit of a journey to the Levant in 1831. The week he spent, in Jerusalem left the deepest impression on his soul. There, in the words of his biographers, Monypenny and Buckle, "the thought may have passed through his mind that the true aim of his political ambition which was beginning to shape itself within him should be to win back the Holy Land for the chosen people and restore the sceptre to Judah". Cecil Roth, Disraeli's most recent biographer, points to even a much earlier possible source of this "ideal ambition" by presuming that "the matter had perhaps been discussed at home with his father, who had touched upon it sceptically in 1787 in his Vaurien". If such reminiscences had a share in the origin of Benjamin Disraeli's ideals, the most vehement protest against his father's deprecation of the Messianic hope may be found in the glowing words with which the High Priest Jabaster in Alroy discloses the author's own longing:
You ask me what I wish: my answer is, a national existence, which we have not. You ask me what I wish: my answer is, the Land of Promise. You ask me what I wish: my answer is the Temple, all we have forfeited, all we have yearned after, all for which we have fought, our beauteous country, our holy creed, our simple manners, and our ancient customs.
Alroy forms, as it were, the prologue to the Fastern Question, while Tancred may well be said to be the epilogue to the political drama that unfolded itself in those fateful years.
If Alroy was a story of the past, Tancred reflected political, religious and spiritual ferment of the present. Well-known motifs were transformed and presented with it, irony and a generous dash of scepticism. This was no story with a moral like the Evangelical Charlotte Elizabeth's novel. With Tancred the renaissance of the Jewish people and of Palestine made its entry into modem fiction.
Tancred in some respects strangely resembles Judah's Lion. It, too, is a story of a journey to Palestine, and its central character forms an interesting counterpart to the Jewish hero of Charlotte Elizabeth's novel. Alexander Cohen dreamt of a renewal of Judaism through acceptance of the belief in Christ; the young Lord Montecute, son of the Duke of Bellamont, who from his crusading ancestor Tancred inherited a longing for the Holy Land, has visions of a blending of East and West. That Tancred's restoration plans are only hinted at is in conformity with the subtle technique of the novel, but in conversations between the characters, Disraeli sets forth his views of the chances offered to a Restoration of the Jews during the Eastern Question period.
Tancred openly confesses his belief in Restoration. He asks why there is no Jewish government in Palestine, and his interlocutor says: "That might have been in '39 -but why speak of a subject which can little interest you?" This provokes Tancred to the exclamation
"Can little interest me!... What other subject should interest me? More than six centuries ago the government of that land interested my ancestor, and he came here to achieve it."
In this answer the true meaning of the "New Crusade" is clearly revealed. But the plot itself stops short of the deed which is replaced by a symbol: Lord Montecute seals his alliance with Israel by loving Eva Besso, a Jewess proud of her race. The new crusader's belief in theocracy, his determination to stay in the Holy Land, Eva's ardent allegiance to the Hebrew race all these point unmistakably towards the Messianic hope of the Jews.
The effect of the book on the contemporary public can scarcely be overstated. The popularity of Tancred induced even those who had formerly ignored the problem of Restoration to take sides one way or the other. An article in the Edinburgh Review (July 1847) is of particular interest. The reviewer drew a surprising parallel between Disraeli and Sir Henry Finch:
James I said, on the publication of Sir Henry Finch's Calling of the Jews, that he was "so old that he could not tell how to do his homage at Jerusalem"; and now the intellectual world is indeed too old to do so at Mr. d'Israeli's bidding but we can do what James never thought of doing -we can obliterate the political distinction between Jew and Gentile and raise the one without humiliating the other.
It would have been difficult to state the novel's kinship with the centuries-old Restoration Movement more succinctly. Like many another statement elicited by Tancred, this review ushered in a discussion, which never ceased thence, about Jewish revival, Restoration and emancipation, and about their interplay. Doubts about the compatibility of Jewish national revival and Restoration with emancipation, were dispelled by events. The Restoration Movement kept pace with emancipation but was not halted by its completion.
|Part Two||Franz Kobler
"The Vision Was There"