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From Political Zionism to Synthetic Zionism
ten years between 1904 and 1914 constituted an extremely important period
in the history of the Zionist movement on the one hand and Jewish
settlement in Eretz Israel on the other. This is the period "after
Herzl," the first Zionist leader, who rose like a comet only to fall
suddenly in the summer of 1904, less than a year after the Uganda crisis
broke upon the scene and threatened the continued existence of the
settlement enterprise in Eretz Israel. The subject of Uganda continued to
occupy the Zionists for about a year, until it was removed from the agenda
of the Seventh Zionist Congress that was held in Basle in the summer of
1905. Here the Basle Program was reconfirmed, at whose center was Eretz
Israel. This Congress signaled an irrevocable split with the
Territorialists, who asked for alternate territory on which the Jewish
people would establish its independence.
In the coming years, Zionism continued to be conspicuous in two particular ways: through political work, in order to achieve the longed for charter on Eretz Israel from the Turks, and through practical work in the country itself. During these years a third approach took hold, becoming known as "synthetic Zionism" - a synthesis between the two previous approaches. The leader most identified with synthetic Zionism, in the first stage, was Russian-born Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who served as a chemist at Manchester University in England, and was to take a central place in Zionist history in the period after the outbreak of World War I.
In 1908, the World Zionist Organization opened the Palestine Office in Jaffa, which became the center of activities in Palestine. At its head stood Dr. Arthur Ruppin, a German-Jewish sociologist who in the years to come would have a tremendous influence on the Yishuv, especially in the area of settlement - both agricultural and urban. It is hard to imagine the Yishuv's development without Ruppin's Palestine Office and Ruppin himself.
At the same time, those in favor of spiritual Zionism, under the leadership of the author and editor Ahad HaAm, continued to raise the banner of culture and spiritualism, which they considered the main object of Zionist policy. The establishment of schools in Eretz Israel and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem seemed to them preferable to political or practical objectives.
In Eretz Israel, these ten years were of vital importance, coinciding with what has come to be known as the Second Aliyah - which began in 1903 and ended in the summer of 1914, with the outbreak of World War I. During this period 35,000 Jews made aliyah, most of whom settled in the holy cities and in the Old Yishuv. The rest joined the small New Yishuv, the moshavot and urban concentrations - the fruits of the First Aliyah - altering the social landscape of Jewish Eretz Israel. Those that came in the Second Aliyah, who settled in the country and the town, helped shape the Yishuv for decades to come, and left their mark on the State of Israel.
Most of the institutions, organizations and social and political hierarchies were founded by members of the Second Aliyah. Suffice to say that during this period both the kibbutz (Degania) and the city (Tel Aviv) were created. The Jewish defense force (Hagana) mostly concentrated its efforts on the "nascent state," which grew out of HaShomer - an additional "creation" of the Second Aliyah. The latter's members (both those in the town and those in the country) also established labor organizations and the first political parties, published newspapers and set up institutions that handled matters of health and culture and which provided aid to workers.
These were the years when the small and far-flung Eretz Israel turned into the center of Hebrew creativity; a place where writers such as Yosef Haim Brenner and the young Shmuel Yosef Agnon wrote and created. Daily and weekly newspapers appeared in Hebrew in Jerusalem and Jaffa and the number of books, original works and translations that were published, grew significantly. Even though only 15-20,000 people read and wrote in Hebrew in Palestine at that time, Eretz Israel was the source of the Hebrew revival for Jews throughout the world.
Jewish education in Israel also took a number of important steps during this period. While the First Aliyah resulted in the first Hebrew (elementary) school and the taking root of the Hebrew language, the Second Aliyah raised the subject to a higher level: in Palestine the first high schools opened and the basis for higher education was established - at first in Haifa, with the establishment of the Technion, and a short time later at the Eleventh Zionist Congress, in 1913, which raised the plan to establish a Hebrew university in Jerusalem. Even before this, in 1906, the first school of the arts, Bezalel, opened in Jerusalem with the support and assistance of the World Zionist Organization.
The Second Aliyah contributed many great leaders to the Yishuv and to the State of Israel. The first prime ministers of Israel - David Ben-Gurion, Moshe (Shertok) Sharett and Levi (Shkolnik) Eshkol - were from the Second Aliyah, as were the second and third presidents of the State of Israel.
Progress was encouraging and at the end of the period, Yishuv members, as well as leaders of the Yishuv and of the World Zionist Organization could pat themselves on the back and conclude that the Jewish settlement was worthy of note: from 50,000 Jews at the beginning of the century, the number rose to 85-90,000 by the summer of 1914 (some 15% of the residents of Palestine). The number of Jewish settlements more than doubled at that time - from 23 to 48 - and the future looked promising. Those who recalled the modest beginnings 40 years before when there were no Jewish agricultural settlements, except for Mikve Israel, and almost the entire Yishuv was located in the four holy cities, could not fail to express optimism. Even Baron Rothschild, who since 1900 had accompanied the Yishuv's development from afar, visited Palestine in 1914 and was so impressed with what he saw that he was unable to conceal his amazement. For the first time, he was willing to work shoulder to shoulder with the Zionists.
The World Zionist Organization continued unremittingly to find ways to make contact with the Turkish regime. Hope came in 1908, following the revolution of the Young Turks: Turkey was becoming a multi-national country and it was believed that Jews would also be given autonomy. But these hopes were dashed; Turkey never became more open and Arab nationalism grew, with friction increasing noticeably between it and Jewish national Zionism.
In July 1914, the First World War broke out, shocking countries and nations, destroying and changing; but at the end of it, Zionism found itself with new, more promising horizons.
July 27 - August 2
David Wolffsohn, a Zionist leader from Germany, is chosen as chairman of the World Zionist Organization. After the Congress, the Territorialists hold the first meeting of the Jewish Territorial Organization (lTO), headed by the English Jew Israel Zangwill. From then on they operate separately and make repeated attempts to find territory for those Jews wishing to leave their homes in Europe but who are not ready to make aliyah to Eretz Israel. The organization operates unsuccessfully until 1925.
The main office of the World Zionist Organization moves from Vienna, where Herzl resided, to Cologne in Germany.
The Jewish National Fund increases its involvement in Eretz Israel: throughout the year it acquires land in order to establish agricultural training farms and a school for Kishinev orphans. JNF also participates in the acquisition of land for establishing experimental agricultural stations in Atlit, founds the Lands Office and funds its activity in cooperation with the Anglo-Palestine Bank; acquires the lands of Kfar Hittim and aids cultural and educational institutions in Jaffa and Jerusalem.
In Russia the Jewish socialist labor confederation is established, that goes by its popular name, Po'ale Zion (Workers of Zion). In the years to come it acts as the workers section of the Zionist movement. A branch is established in Eretz Israel too and some of the workers, who disagree with its socialist line, establish their own party, HaPoel HaTzair (The Young Worker).
The World Zionist Organization opens an information and immigration office in Jaffa, headed by a new Russian immigrant by the name of Menahem Sheinkin. The office provides financial information for those interested in making aliyah. Aliyah to Palestine increases and among the thousands of new arrivals are members of the First Aliyah who left the country and returned with the Second Aliyah. Some 150,000 Jewish emigrants from Eastern Europe arrive in the United States in 1906.
Concurrently with the Congress, the founding convention of the World Union of Po'ale Zion (the roof organization of the Po'ale Zion parties in different countries), is held in The Hague.
Yehoshua Hankin acquires 10,000 dunams in the center of the Jezreel Valley - the first large acquisition in this desolate region - from the Lebanese landowner Sursuk. The Jewish Colonization Association (lCA), where he works, refuses to approve the acquisition, so Hankin offers the land to Dr. Ruppin. Ruppin accepts, and on May 20 Hankin begins to work at the Palestine Land Development Company, becoming its mainstay and acquiring hundreds of thousands of dunams of land for the company in the years to come. In the following year, the first Jewish settlement, Merhavya, is established on this land in the Jezreel Valley.
Throughout the year, the first labor federations are founded: in the Galilee and northern Palestine in April, and in Judah (as the area south-east of Jaffa was called at that time) in June. Later a third federation is founded in Samaria (the area of Hadera-Zichron Ya'akov).
In the first half of 1912, more than 1,000 immigrants from Yemen make aliyah. Jewish aliyah to Palestine increases. Among the newcomers is Joseph Trumpeldor, who later works in Migdal and Degania.
A Zionist youth movement by the name of Blau-Weiss (Blue and White) is founded in Germany (and later in Czechoslovakia).
In Galicia the Zionist youth movement HaShomer haTza'ir (The Young Guard) is established. It is named after the HaShomer (The Guard) organization in Eretz Israel.
Throughout the year, new facts are created on the ground with regard to agricultural settlement: in the Jezreel Valley a second moshav is established, Tel Adashim, whose members are from HaShomer, and in the Jordan Valley a second cooperative group is established following Degania's founding - Kinneret.
The Second Aliyah ends. Some 35,000 Jews made aliyah during the previous decade, among them a few thousand pioneers. The Second Aliyah is considered one of the most important periods in shaping the Yishuv on its way to statehood.
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