The Origins of Zionism: Haskalah, Chovavei Tzion, Dreyfuss and Basel.

February 11, 2005

Welcome to the first in a series of 10 short articles which I hope will describe the history of Zionism, it’s different forms and what that means in today’s context.

For hundreds of years, Jews all over the world were oppressed by different countries and peoples. In Europe, Christians were forbidden from usury (lending money at interest), so the job fell to Jews to provide the start-up capital to businessmen, shopkeepers and societal leaders all over the continent. Over time, this engendered much hatred against Jews from the populations, leading to such events as all Jews being banned from Phillip II’s France from 1181 – 1198, and from Edward I’s England from 1290 until Oliver Cromwell allowed them back in 1659.

Then came the French revolution and the englightenment. For the first time, Jews in many parts of Europe were, at least officially, treated as equal to the rest of the population. At this stage, however, Jews all lived in very introverted, tightknit communities (called shtetels), making for little room for interaction between Jews and non-Jews.

This all changed with something called the Haskalah (the Jewish enlightenment). Spearheaded by people such as Moses Mendelssohn in Prussia, progressively more and more Jews began to become more educated in so-called “secular studies”. Mendelssohn became a well-known philosopher in German circles and a prolific author. Along with his fellow Maskilim (proponents of the Haskalah), he promoted use of the German language among Jews and better integration with the wider society. He also produced the first ever German translation of the Torah (the Hebrew Bible), and German language commentary on it, which often was contrary to the official rabbinical commentary on the original Hebrew version.

The Haskalah led to somewhat of a split amongst Judaism, with the Reform movement coming from it’s members in 1819. On the opposite side was Rabbi Moses Sofer. He fiercely opposed Reform Judaism and the concept that Judaism could be changed or adapted to fit modern circumstances. He introduced the concept of “Hadash asur min ha-Torah” (Anything new is forbidden by the Torah) and proclaimed, along with his supporters, that the only legitimate form of Judaism was that which had been practiced up until that point. As such, he gave birth to what we now know as Charedi Judaism (Ultra-Orthodox Judaism).

Jews continued as such for the next century, with a split between Reform and Orthodox, in addition to many other new forms of Judaism forming (such as Cultural, and Conservative/Masorti).

In 1862, Moses Hess wrote Rome & Jerusalem, considered to be one of the most important books in early Zionist history. In it, Hess (a colleague of Karl Marx and a Socialist) outlined his thoughts on a future Jewish state. Around this time, the religious Chovavei Tzion (Lovers of Zion) movement also sprouted up throughout Europe, with an especially strong base in Russia. This movement aimed to increase numbers of religious Jews living in Israel, and to increase support (especially financial support) from Jews living in the diaspora to Jews in the land of Israel (Then Palestine, under Ottoman Empire rule). They were supported in their aims by Jewish philanthropists, most notably Baron Edmond James de Rothschild.

In 1882, Chovavei Tzion supporters immigrated to Israel in what is now known as the 1st Aliyah (literally “ascent”, in this context means Jews moving to the land of Israel). They attempted to form agricultural communities and towns across the country, one of which still existing today is Rishon LeTzion (First to Zion), now a small city just outside of Tel Aviv.

In 1894, a Jewish French army officer named Alfred Dreyfus was accused of treason. Dreyfus was innocent, and his conviction was caused by false documents and cover-ups by high-ranking officers. Writer Emile Zola revealed this to the public with his famous article J’accuse! (I Accuse!). Watching this affair was a young Jewish Austrian journalist named Theodore Herzl. Herzl saw the anti-Semitism that was rife in the aftermath of this affair, with Paris crowds chanting “Death to the Jews!” at mass rallies. Up until the Dreyfus controversy, Herzl was mostly uninterested in Jewish issues, believing that assimilation and integration was the key to ending discrimination against Jews, but the Dreyfus affair switched his opinion right round.

In 1896, Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) in German, and it was published and read widely amongst Jewish circles. The book was a call for a Jewish state, and laid out in some detail the inner workings of this future state. The following year, in 1897, the First Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland. Herzl was elected head of the Zionist Organisation, and proclaimed after the congress “In Basel I have founded the Jewish State”.

Next part to come next Thursday. Hope you learnt something.


A Brief, Easy to Understand History of Zionism

February 4, 2005

After the lukewarm reception to my posting entitled What Is Cultural Zionism?, I thought I might expand a little on Zionism as a whole. Not neccessarily because I think any of you will be interested, but more for my own purposes – I plan to run discussion forums/education sessions on a related range of topics at a later point in the year.

Zionism is a rather large enveloping concept/ideology, containing within it many component types – rather than being the oppressive monolith it is viewed as by many (especially on the left and the radical right), it is splintered and divided, and relationships between different streams are often acrimonious.

Zionist history can be broken up into sections, which is what I will do for the purpose of this series:
Part 1 – The Origins of Zionism: Haskalah, Chovevei Tzion, Dreyfuss and Basel.
Part 2 – 2nd Aliyah: Socialism, Kibbutz and Culture
Part 3 – The Mandate Years: Riots, Papers, Politics and Power
Part 4 – The Formation Years: Independance, War, Transfer and Statehood
Part 5 – 1955 – 1978: Building & Fighting
Part 6 – 1979 – 1995: Hope, Peace, Intifada, Assasination
Part 7 – 1996 – Present: Intifada, Failure, Death and Disappointment
Part 8 – Zionism in the Diaspora: Youth Movements, Aliya, Money and Support
Part 9 – Zionism in Today’s Israel: Expression, Hurt, Racism and Promise
Part 10 – Does Zionism have a future?

I have an aim of writing and putting online 1 part each Thursday – this will be in addition to regular posting, not instead of it. I will endeavour to use language that is easily understandable by your average non-Jew, unlike many of the websites out there which intersperse Hebrew or Arabic with English. I will try to keep it short enough that it is readable, but still have some depth and more than enough detail.

Hope you enjoy it.


An exclusive scientific poll on the 2005 elections!

February 1, 2005

After the shoddy job from the NZ Herald, who released provisional poll results which may now render the remainder of their poll entirely irrelevant, I felt it was time for a truly scientific poll to determine, once and for all, exactly what will happen in the 2005 general elections here in good ol’ New Zealand.

How will I do this? Obviously, by the only reliable method there is! I will search Google NZ (making sure to choose the “Pages from New Zealand” option, of course) for various combinations in pairs, and the winner decides the result.

Lets begin!

First, lets ask the big question – who will be our Prime Minister?

“Helen Clark” +Prime +Minister +2006 gives us 788 results
“Don Brash” +Prime +Minister +2006 only gives us 191
So, we will have a Labour led government, with Helen returned to power. No surprise there.

Now, lets see how National will react.
“National Party” +split gets 1880
“National Party” +rebuild gets just 652 results

Moving on to the minor parties

ACT +”Return to parliament” recieves a paltry 88 hits
ACT +”leave parliament” recieves 93
Bye bye ACT.

“Maori Party” +7 +seats brings back 273 options
“Maori Party” +5 +seats brings back a whopping 453
Oh, and a suggestion from Google: “Did you mean: “Mario Party””
Hell, if that was their name, I’d vote for them!

Greens +coalition +government gives us 8940
Greens +opposition gives 11,200
Greens out of power once more

“United Future” +coalition +government takes 7750
“United Future” +opposition takes 7860
Peter has no power either?

“NZ First” +opposition recieves 6460
“NZ First” +coalition +government recieves 5600

Labour +minority +government brings home 17,300
Labour +majority +government brings home a whopping 46,500 results!

Alright, there we go. Labour is destined for another term, but this time as a majority government, WITHOUT a coalition partner (except possibly Jim, who I don’t care enough about to ask about). National will split into (probably 2) smaller parties, perhaps one of whom may merge with the remnants of ACT; while the minor parties all have a decent showing, with the notable exception of ACT, who are set to leave Parliament. The Maori Party will fail in it’s bid to win all 7 Maori seats, but nonetheless should be fairly happy with 5 in it’s first election.

So, that’s the results decided…no point bothering to read the paper or watch the news, I’ve told you everything right here, with the help of my trusty researcher, Google. And remember, when it all comes to pass, you heard it right here on Left & Lefter.


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