New York Post

SUNDAY, MARCH 21, 1948

Homeland for Heroes

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow–
Palestine’s 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 Land.

Three times a day the Jew turned his face toward Zion and prayed that it might be God’s will that in his day the Jewish people should, with Divine Grace, return to the land of their forefathers.

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 Jerusalem.

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 homeland.

Three generations ago there rose in the Jewish people the belief—which grew to conviction that God’s 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 today’s 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 indefensible.

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.