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From Political Zionism to Synthetic Zionism

The 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.


Aliyah to Eretz Israel increases and there is a notable influx of young people. The Anglo-Palestine Bank acquires the land of Ben Shemen during the last months of Herzl's life and with his knowledge. It opens a branch in Jerusalem - the second in Palestine.


Pogroms in Russia result in increased Jewish emigration. Most travel to America but a trickle make their way to Palestine.

In Eastern Europe a pamphlet is published entitled, "A call to young Jews whose hearts are with their people and with Zion." Written by Joseph Vitkin from Eretz Israel, this passionate appeal came to be regarded as one of the factors that inspired the Second Aliyah.

The exploratory delegation sent to Uganda by the Sixth Zionist Congress in order to examine its suitability for Jewish settlement, publishes a negative report in London.

July 27 - August 2
The Seventh Zionist Congress convenes in Basle, the first Congress since Herzl's death, and the Basle Program is reaffirmed. The idea of settling in Uganda is rejected and the Territorialists (who are in favor of settlement outside of Eretz Israel) leave the World Zionist Organization. The Congress applauds the proposal of Otto Warburg, who calls for the planting of Jewish National Fund olive trees in Herzl's name - the beginning of the Herzl Forest.

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.

October 22
The world's first Hebrew high school opens in Jaffa. Later it is called the Herzliya Gymnasium, in honor of Herzl.

October 31
Pogroms break out against Jews in hundreds of population centers all over Russia, leaving 2,000 Jews dead in their wake. In many places, Jewish "self defense forces" emerge. The pogroms give renewed impetus to aliyah to Eretz Israel.

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).


In a Zionist initiative, an international committee meets in Brussels to discuss the plight of Russian Jewry, which is suffering from persecution and pogroms.

March 1
The Bezalel art school is opened In Jerusalem.

Menahem Mendel Ussishkin, the renowned Russian-Zionist leader, takes up his post as chairman of the Hovevei Zion's Odessa Committee.

July 5
The Ahuzat Bayit company is established in Jaffa with the aim of building garden suburbs outside Jaffa. This signals the beginnings of the city of Tel Aviv.

September 7
A new immigrant arrives in Jaffa. His name is David Green, later David Ben-Gurion.

October 4-10
The Helsingfors conference of Russian Zionists is held in Helsinki (then within the boundaries of Tsarist Russia). It necessitates, from the point of view of Zionistic aspirations, "present-day work," that is, ongoing Zionistic activity in the communities of the Jewish Diaspora. This is an important milestone in Zionist history and a bone of contention for years to come.

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.


January 1
The first edition of the Hebrew weekly "HaOlam" (The World - the official organ of the World Zionist Organization - appears in Cologne, Germany. its first editor is Nahum Sokolow. In the years to come, the paper also appears in Russia and England, and from 1935 until its closing in 1950, in Jerusalem.

January 10
David Wolffsohn, chairman of the World Zionist Organization, arrives in Palestine for a visit. He tours the agricultural settlements and towns and is welcomed enthusiastically.

Wolffsohn visits Istanbul, where he meets with the Grand Vizier (prime minister) Farid Pasha, and with Izzet Bey, one of the Sultan's secretaries. He fails to advance the Zionist idea in the Turkish capital.

April 8
The Jewish National Fund's regulations are approved by the British government, and Max Isidor Bodenheimer, a lawyer, is chosen as JNF's first chairman.

May 7
The JNF board of directors holds its first meeting in Cologne, where it decides to hasten the planting of the Herzl Forest in Hulda.

May 30
Dr. Arthur Ruppin, a young German-Jewish sociologist, arrives in Jaffa. He has come on behalf of the Zionist Executive and the JNF in order to observe the situation in the Yishuv.

June 23
The Ahuzat Bayit committee turns to the JNF, through Dr. Ruppin, and asks for a large loan in order to fund the building of the first 60 houses in a new neighborhood outside of Jaffa.

July 16
After much indecision (due to a preference for agricultural settlement) the JNF board of directors approves a loan of 250,000 francs, for 18 years, to aid the establishment of Ahuzat Bayit.

August 14-21
The Eighth Zionist Congress is held in The Hague, Holland. Among its resolutions: the opening of a permanent office of the World Zionist Organization in Jaffa - the Palestine Office, headed by Dr. Ruppin. The Anglo-Jewish philanthropist Jacob Moser informs the Congress that he is making a large donation to establish the Hebrew Gymnasium in Jaffa (on condition that it is named after Herzl - Herzliya), as well as a donation to Bezalel, the Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. David Wolffsohn is elected president of the World Zionist Organization.

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.

Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the young scientist and Zionist leader, pays his first visit to Palestine.

September 29
A secret organization by the name of Bar-Giora is founded in Jaffa (at the home of Yikhak Ben-Zvi, who came to Palestine with the Second Aliyah) whose objective is to transfer the protection of the moshavot to Jewish hands. Its slogan: "ln blood and fire Judea fell and in blood and fire Judea will rise." The organization is the precursor of the HaShomer ("The Guard") self-defense organization 18 months later.

Wolffsohn pays an additional visit to Istanbul. He discusses with the Turkish government the possibility of receiving a charter on Palestine.


April 1
Dr. Arthur Ruppin opens the Palestine Office in Jaffa. For ten years this is the principle Zionist address in Eretz Israel. The office fulfils a very important role in land acquisition and in the expansion of agricultural and urban settlement. Within its framework, the Palestine Land Development Company is established.

The planting of Herzl Forest in Ben Shemen begins. lt is undertaken by the Jewish National Fund.

June 7
The Palestine Office establishes its first national farm at Kinneret, intended to train pioneers for agricultural labor. This is followed by the founding of additional farms in Hulda and Ben Shemen.

June 21
The first moshav po'alim (workers' settlement) in Palestine is established in Ein Ganim, near Petah Tikva.

July 24
The Young Turks uprising takes place in Turkey. There is renewed hope in the Yishuv and the Zionist movement that this will result in a reprieve with regard to building the Zionist enterprise.


The World Zionist Organization recognizes the first political party - the Po'ale Zion Federation.

April 11
The 60 families that organized in order to establish the Ahuzat Bayit neighborhood in north Jaffa, hold a draw for the plots of land. This day is considered the day on which the neighborhood was founded, and which burgeoned, in the years to come, into the city of Tel Aviv.

April 12
HaShomer ("The Guard") is founded in Kfar Tabor (Mescha).

July 28
A cornerstone-laying ceremony is held in the neighborhood of Ahuzat Bayit for the Herzliya Gymnasium.

Wolffsohn pays his third visit to Istanbul. The World Zionist Organization decides to publish newspapers in the Turkish capital that will support its position and influence the government, in the spirit of the aims of Zionism. Ze'ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky is appointed to head these newspapers. The French-language paper "La Jeune Turke" (The Young Turk) is the most well known.

The World Zionist Organization recognizes a second federation - HaMizrachi.

The first families move from Jaffa to their new homes in the Ahuzat Bayit neighborhood.

December 26-30
The Ninth Zionist Congress is held In Hamburg, Germany. It supports continued Jewish settlement in Palestine and adopts the Oppenheimer method for the establishment of cooperative settlements. Following this decision, a "cooperative" is established at Merhavya.


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.

May 21
In a general assembly of the residents of Ahuzat Bayit, a decision is made to change the name of the neighborhood to Tel Aviv, in light of Herzl's book, "Old-New Land", whose Hebrew name was given by the translator Nahum Sokolow.

October 28
The founding nucleus of Umm Juni is established, that less than a year later takes the name Degania -"the mother of the kibbutzim."


January 24
Merhavya is established in the heart of the desolate Jezreel Valley. The first members of the cooperative settlement arrive in April. Members of HaShomer protect the settlers and the settlement during clashes with the Bedouin and the neighboring Arabs.

August 6
In a letter from Umm Juni to Dr. Arthur Ruppin, head of the Palestine Office, Joseph Bussel informs Ruppin that "we have named our new settlement Degania, in honor of the five species of grain that we grow."

August 9-15
The Tenth Zionist Congress is held in Basle, Switzerland. Discussions focus on the settlement enterprise in Palestine and Jewish-Arab relations. David Wolffsohn, president of the World Zionist Organization, expresses his wish to retire. In his opening speech he proudly declares: "Fourteen years ago, Zionism was a sensation. Today it is a reality. "The Mizrachi delegates object to incorporating "cultural work" into the Zionist movement's areas of activity. A new leadership is elected with Prof. Otto Warburg appointed as chairman. Immediately after the Congress the seat of the Zionist Executive is moved from Cologne to Berlin.

Samuel Varshavsky (Yavnieli), a young activist in the Labor movement, is sent to Yemen as an emissary of the Palestine Office and of Rabbi Kook, in order to spur the Jews to make aliyah. In the coming years, more than 2,000 Jews from Yemen settle in Eretz Israel.

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).

December 13
The federation operating in Judah decides to establish an institute that will care for the sick and the wounded. Its name: Kupat Holim (Sick Fund). This constitutes the basis for Kupat Holim Clalit (The General Sick Fund).


March 3
Hadassah is founded in New York, an organization of Zionist women. The name Hadassah (Queen Esther's original name) is chosen to mark the festival of Purim.

April 11
In a desolate region on a slope of the Carmel Mountain, a cornerstone-laying ceremony takes place for Technicum, the first academic-technological institute in Palestine. It is later renamed the Technion.

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).


August 13
The first class of the Herzl Gymnasium graduates. Among the graduates are some of the key personalities of the Yishuv and the country in the decades to come: Moshe Shertok (Sharett), Eliyahu Golomb and Dov Ross.

September 2-9
The Eleventh Zionist Congress is held in Vienna, Austria. On the agenda: achievements in settlement activity in Palestine and the idea of establishing a Hebrew university in Jerusalem. The lecturer on this subject: Dr. Chaim Weizmann. Prof. Warburg is elected once again as chairman of the movement, and Yehiel Chlenov is elected as his deputy.

The Gideon organization is established in Zichron Ya'akov, which unifies young moshavot members. Its members constitute the basis for NILI, a secret pro-British spy organization that operates under Turkish rule in Palestine during World War I.

The "language war" breaks out in Palestine, when it becomes apparent that the German Hilfsverein (Ezra) group, which initiated the establishment of the first academic institute in Palestine, the Technion in Haifa, is about to make German the language of instruction in most subjects. A rebellion breaks out among students and teachers in Ezra institutes, and the World Zionist Organization heads the opposition to the use of foreign languages in Jewish schools in Eretz Israel; taking upon itself the establishment of a chain of Hebrew educational institutes.

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.


Baron Rothschild pays his fourth visit to Palestine, after a 15-year break. This time it is a peace-making mission with the Yishuv and the Zionist movement. Rothschild is impressed with what he sees, praises the work of the World Zionist Organization and expresses his willingness to help.

Following increased tension between Jews and Arabs in Palestine, a Jewish-Arab conference is planned for the beginning of July in a small town near Beirut to resolve differences. Nahum Sokolow is to head the Jewish delegation. For different reasons, among which is international tension following the Austrian duke Ferdinand's assassination in Sarajevo on June 28 (that leads to World War l), the conference does not take place.

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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