Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Israel – CCXXI. Where Are We Going? (1 of 4)

How did the modern state of Israel come about?

Behind this new state are a number of historical occurrences.  What follows next is a brief recounting of these events.

Since there are two parties (the Palestinians and the Israelis) here with diametrically opposed views on almost anything, finding research material that was totally unbiased was simply impossible.  Nevertheless, as much as possible, I have attempted to find the middle road (or present both views) and I hope this is reflected on what will follow.

Land acquisition

Our story starts in the 19th century at a time when Palestine was under Ottoman rule.  For the first half of this century, Ottoman policy forbade the sale of land to foreigners; and these restrictions stayed in force until 1867.  The purpose of the policy was to avoid losing control of Palestine to migrating Jews who were coming mainly from Russia.  Indeed, until the 1880s, the number of Jews allowed in Palestine was limited; and land acquisition was severely limited.  But, despite these restrictions, the Jews did acquire enough land in the late 19th century and the first four decades of the 20th century to establish a Jewish base in Palestine.  How did they do it?

They (Jewish institutions such as the Jewish National Fund) bought land legally from Palestinian Arabs and Ottomans Effendis (Ottoman title) at grossly inflated prices.  To overcome the legal hurdles, they gave substantial bribes to the army of Ottoman officials and other concerned parties (examples:  Local village notables, tenants residing on the land, mukhtars (heads of villages), brokers, squatters, and various land registry officials)  It was unbridled corruption, and these first Jewish pioneers took full advantage of that.

And the story doesn’t end there.  Sometimes the land acquired was nothing more than sand dunes, malarial swamps and marshes, or land with very poor quality soil.

It was a windfall for many people; and these early settlers were willing to pay to establish a beachhead in Palestine.  Was that a sneaky way of doing it?  Perhaps.  But this land was legally purchased, and the claim that Palestinians Arabs were being dispossessed, was therefore not tenable.

Theodor Herzl

Herzl had a short life; but during his short stay on this earth, he lay down the foundation of modern Zionism.  He was born in Budapest on May 2, 1860 in a well-to-do family. He first studied science, but switched to law; in the meantime, the family had moved to Vienna.  Theodor never practiced law, instead he became a journalist.

Anti-Semitism has been a constant in his life as well as the life of other Jews.  When his newspaper appointed him as the paper’s Paris correspondent, he was shocked to discover that the Anti-Semitism that existed in Vienna was prevalent in Paris too.

Herzl had first theorized that Anti-Semitism was a social problem that the Jews could overcome by totally assimilating themselves in the society they lived in.  Subsequent events, chief among them the Dreyfus affair, convinced him that he was on the wrong path.  The very existence of Anti-Semitism made assimilation impossible; and the only solution was for the Jews to have their own state; a country they could go to if the need arose.

Herzl was not the first to conceive of a Jewish state; the dream of returning to Zion is included in Jewish prayers.  Heads of state such as Napoleon and Disraeli had thought of establishing a Jewish state in the land of Israel.

In 1896, he published his famous pamphlet, “The Jewish State;” in it he argued that the Jewish problem was neither religious, nor social but, rather a political world question to be discussed and settled by the civilized nations of the world in council.

From that point on, Theodor devoted the rest of his life to propagate his ideas, and pave the road that would lead the Jews back to Zion.

He occupies a place of honor in modern Israel:  Streets are named after him; and he is an important part of this nation’s history.  His famous saying is memorized by every Israeli schoolchild:  Im tirzou, ein zou Haggadah (If you want it, it need not be a fairy tale).

He died on July 3, 1904.  He was only 44.

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