Homeland for Heroes
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Palestines Saga of Toil, Hope and Promise
Whoever, in our days, has stepped on the soil of Palestine,
knows that in that country there lives a generation of Biblical
stature. In the 1800 years and more since the destruction of the
Jewish state by the Romans, the Jewish people, dispersed and persecuted,
have not given up their determination to return to the Promised
Three times a day the Jew turned his face toward Zion
and prayed that it might be Gods will that in his day the
Jewish people should, with Divine Grace, return to the land of their
In each of the eighty generations of the dispersion,
in times when there were no steamships and no trains, aged Jews
went to Palestine in order to die there; around Jerusalem there
are an estimated six million graves of these Jewish pilgrims whose
greatest wish was to lie in the Holy Land with their faces toward
And every religious Jew who died or dies in the
dispersion and is buried by his fellow Jews—in Europe, in America,
in Australia, in South-Africa is given a little pillow with sand
from Palestine under his head, that he may lie on it in the place
of his eternal rest, wherever that may be.
* * *
The forefathers of the Jews did not leave Palestine
of their own will. The Roman Empire subjugated all countries and
all peoples in their reach—Saxons and Germans and Gauls—and none
offered the resistance put up by the Jewin their little Palestine.
The Roman Empire conquered all, and in the whole world there was
none who would dare to fight for his freedom, none but the Jews,
who rose to defend their land and their liberty. Wrote the Roman
historian Tacitus, an enemy of the Jews, who lived in the time when
the Jewish state was destroyed:
The entire community of the besieged, of
all ages, both men and women, numbered, as we learned, 600,000
souls. All were armed who could carry some weapon, and more
people than one might have calculated from the total number
rushed with their weapons into battle. Both men and women proved
to be, equally tenacious; they dreaded remaining alive, in case
they would be subjected to exile, more than death. That was
the city and that was the people whom Titus Caesar decided to
fight with towers and walls.
And Dio Cassius, another Roman historian, narrates:
Even when a breach in the second wall was
made, the Jews were hardly subdued, but they crushed a mass of their
advancing enemies . . . The Jews considered it a great good fortune
to sacrifice their lives fighting for their Temple.
. . . And as small as their number was compared with their enemies;
they were not, nevertheless, overcome, until a part of the Temple
went up in flames. Then they hurled their bodies against the enemies,
swords, or killed one another, or jumped into the flames. Everyone
felt that to be buried under the debris of their Temple was not
death, but victory and immortality.
Those few who survived did not leave their homeland
of their own will, nor did they sell the soil of their land, that
they became homeless.
In the dispersion they remained true to their race
and to their spiritual heritage. They endured inquisitions and pogroms.
In the face of abuse and injury and death, they remained steadfast.
And in our days, in this, the 20th Century of the Christian
era in the center of the civilized world, the Jews were rounded
up and tortured, starved, gassed, burned, and mutilated, yet in
the ghettoes they defended themselves without adequate weapons,
one against thousands, and died gloriously.
* * *
And in these times, when the Jewish people have been
decimated, we see also its rise to statehood on the soil of the
Three generations ago there rose in the Jewish people
the belief—which grew to conviction that Gods will is in the
hands of the people, that the hour for their return to their homeland
had struck, and they started on their final way home. They found
as desolate country, where there was not one tree to cast a shadow,
a country of ruins and malarial marshes. They drained the marshes,
and the first generation of pioneers succumbed to malaria.
They planted among the rocks and on the dunes, and
a nation that had been condemned to ghettoes for centuries in a
few decades became a rural population performing miracles in agriculture
unattained anywhere else.
They also wrought the miracle, of reviving the language
of the Prophets, and made the Hebrew of the Bible the tongue of
their daily lives.
They did not go to Palestine seeking their fortune,
as the pioneers of other countries and the pioneers who opened the
American West. Boys and girls left universities and the capitals
of Europe to become farmers in the marshes of Galilee, in the pit
that is the valley of the Dead Sea, the hottest spot on earth, and
in the desert of the Negev, where nothing but dusty cactus grows.
* * *
Whoever steps on the soil of Palestine is aware that
in that country there lives a generation of Biblical stature. They
have created new forms of life based on the idea of co-operation
and individual freedom. They have revived the land. They have created
a rich literature in Hebrew. And if mankind is looking for new relations
in a society of man helping man in individual freedom, then it must
turn again to Palestine of the Jews, as it has done more than once
in the course of history: this much said General Sir Arthur G. Wauchope
when he returned to England after serving from 1931 to 1938 as High
Commissioner of Palestine. The old Hebrew Bible, which is the story
of the Jewish people and the peoples among whom they lived, ought
to be reopened and new chapters written there.
This generation of Jews in Palestine and of six million
martyrs who were killed for being Jew deserve a narrative in the
Bible no less than the generations o Judges, Kings and Prophets,
an certainly as much as the deeds of Queen Esther of Persia or of
the early Zionists of the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.
* * *
Not one colony has been abandoned in spite of todays
events, not a single post in the waterless desert, not a little
farm near the Dead Sea, not a children’s home in the hills of the
Jezreel Valley, not the quarter of the old and poor Jews inside
the old Jerusalem walls, although most of these places are strategically
Arms are sold and given away by the British to the
Arabs of all the countries around Palestine. They would like to
come from the hills and deserts to take gratis what the Jews, by
supreme effort have built there in three generations.
In Palestine the Arabs have created neither spiritual
nor material values. The Jews found there almost nothing that had
been added since the destruction of Jerusalem.
* * *
The country is called by all humanity the Holy Land
because of the Jewish past, and not because of the Arab past. Long
before the Balfour Declaration and the vote of the United Nations
for partition, it was called by all humanity the Promised Land,
and long ago all peoples agreed for which nation it was meant.