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A Brief History of the Jewish People
From Abraham and Sarah, to Israel and the Diaspora.
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“In Jewish history, there are no coincidences.” — Elie Wiesel
Jewish Peoplehood began with Abraham who, according to the Bible, was the first Jew. He married Sarah and they had a son, Isaac, who married Rebecca — and they had two sons, Jacob and Esau.
Jacob married both Leah and Rachel, who gave birth to twelve sons. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are known as the “patriarchs” of Judaism, while the “matriarchs” are Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. Jacob became known as “Israel,” which ironically means “to wrestle with God.” And hence, the Jewish People are also known as the Children of Israel.
Jacob’s twelve sons became the twelve tribes of Israel, and his favorite son, Joseph, wound up in Egypt as an advisor to the Pharaoh. Eventually, all of the Israelites went down to Egypt because of a famine in the land of Israel. While in Egypt, the Jews multiplied and grew wealthy, until a new Pharaoh came to power and, because he didn’t know Joseph, enslaved the Israelites.
Then, Moses freed the Israelites from slavery and brought them to Mount Sinai, where they received the Ten Commandments from God, which is when Judaism began to have laws, regulations, decision-making structures, and so forth. Moses led the Jews through 40 years of wandering in the desert, along with a portable Holy Ark housed in a tent called Mishkan, which was the Holy Ark in the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
During this period, Judaism was defined by all of Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan’s three B’s:
Believing – believing in the things that Jews are supposed to believe in (as opposed to other faith systems)
Behaving – doing the things that Jews are supposed to do, like keep the Sabbath, pray a certain way, or eat only kosher food
Belonging – being an automatic part of this group called the Jewish People, with a shared history and a shared destiny, by having been born to Jewish ancestors
In this time of Moses, Jews were expected to believe in the one true God, as instructed in the first two of the Ten Commandments. They were also expected to behave a certain way, as instructed by the rest of the commandments, along with other rules and regulations provided by God in the written Torah. And they belong to the Jewish People simply by virtue of saying they belonged. Eventually, Moses led the Jewish People back to the Promised Land, to the Land of Israel, though he himself was unable to lead them into Israel; his successor, Joshua, did so.
Around the year 1270 BCE, the Jewish People — under the leadership of Joshua — had a home, but they had not yet built the Holy Temple. After 300 years in the Holy Land, the Holy Temple was built in the tenth century BCE. “Our holiness went from being portable to being stationary,” Zach Bodner wrote in his book, Why Do Jewish? “The Jews had our own land, with a thriving, singular community. The Temple became the center of our Jewish life.”
During this period, Jews were not mandated to live in Israel exclusively, but they were expected to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times each year, specifically to the Holy Temple, where they would bring sacrifices and honor God. Jewish life was about how to live morally; how to mark time with rituals; how to celebrate holidays; how to live a structured day, week, month, and year; and how to honor God. And the Temple was at the center of it.
But in 586 BCE, the Temple was destroyed, only to be rebuilt some 70 years later. Then, the Second Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE, Jews were exiled from Jerusalem by the Romans, and most of this form of Judaism was completely crushed. Some elements have continued, such as marking time with those central holidays and rituals like Shabbat, but even many of the holidays evolved in their symbolism and how they were celebrated.
Next came what Bodner calls “the Judaism of the Diaspora.” New leaders and scholars emerged. They captured stories, wrote down the Oral Law (the Mishnah) so it could go hand-in-hand with the Written Law (the Torah) and not be lost to future generations. These leaders, called rabbis, confided a system of law — halacha — which became the defining feature of Judaism.
We created synagogues where we could pray instead of offering animal sacrifices, and we built schools where scholars of the law could lead the community in learning. “Believe it or not,” Bodner wrote, “this is pretty much still the Judaism we see today.”
In the third century CE, the Mishnah was compiled by Yehuda Hanassi. Then the study of the Talmud, which is the Mishnah along with the Gemara — commentary from the greatest scholars over generations — became the center of Jewish culture for more than a thousand years. Of course, rabbis differed on how to interpret the laws and stories, and different schools of thought developed around the greatest of rabbis. Despite these differences, being Jewish was still defined by Kaplan’s three B’s.
Some interesting events occurred during this period, such as secularization of European society during the Enlightenment, when Jews began to “do Jewish differently,” according to Bodner. “We became integrated into the societies where we lived … Jews started becoming involved in the scientific, philosophical, and artistic thinking of the greater society around them. Slowly but surely, Jewish identity was starting to shift.”
The eighteenth-century Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, himself observant, challenged the norms that defined religious belief and practice, especially in Judaism. His work was revolutionary and drew praise of the time’s transformational philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant. Jews were no longer forced to live in ghettos and wear clothing that marked them as different. This acceptance led to the birth of Reform Judaism in the early 1800s. “The idea was to make Judaism into a system of belief that reflected modern times,” Bodner wrote, “while holding on to some eternal truths so the practitioner could choose which elements to incorporate into his or her life.”
Reform synagogues in Germany, for example, changed their practices to emulate Christian society, like introducing choirs and organs for music, and allowing mixed seating of men and women. This Jewish Reformation was exported to the United States, where the first Reform synagogue, Kahal Kodesh Beth Elohim, was founded in South Carolina in the mid-1800s. By 1880, 90-percent of U.S. synagogues were Reform.
And in 1886, one year after the Reform movement adopted the Pittsburgh Platform, the Conservative movement was born as an attempt to bridge Reform Judaism with tradition. The early 1900s saw an explosion of Jewish immigrants fleeing antisemitism in the Old World. These new Jewish Americans lived together in cities and towns, building their own synagogues, social welfare organizations, Jewish community centers, and schools.
“The immigrant generation generally spoke the Old World languages among themselves but taught their children English, as they strove to make the first generation American Jewish kids into ‘real Americans,’” Bodner wrote, “including giving their children Americanized names.”
According to Bodner, the Jewish Community Center movement, which began in 1917, was created “to teach Jews how to be Americans, whereas today, over 100 years later, JCCs exist to teach Americans how to be Jewish.” Mark Sokoll, CEO of the JCCs of Greater Boston, said: “Our grandparents came to the JCC because they were Jewish. But our grandchildren will be Jewish because they came to the JCC.”
Ironically, in 1897, the legendary Hebrew essayist Ahad Ha’am wrote: “It is not only Jews who have come out of the Ghetto: Judaism has come out, too. For Jews the exodus is confined to certain countries, and is due to toleration; but Judaism has come out (or is coming out) of its own accord wherever it has come into contact with modern culture. This contact with modern culture overturns the defenses of Judaism from within, so that Judaism can no longer remain isolated and live a life apart. The spirit of our people strives for development: it wants to absorb those elements of general culture which reach it from outside, to digest them and to make them a part of itself, as it has done before at different periods of its history.”
“But the conditions of its life in exile are not suitable. In our time culture wears in each country the garb of the national spirit, and the stranger who would woo her must sink his individuality and become absorbed in the dominant spirit. For this reason Judaism in exile cannot develop its individuality in its own way. When it leaves the Ghetto walls it is in danger of losing its essential being or — at best — its national unity: it is in danger of being split up into as many kinds of Judaism, each with a different character and life, as there are countries of the Jewish dispersion.”
“The secret of our people’s persistence is that at a very early period the Prophets taught it to respect only spiritual power, and not to worship material power. For this reason the clash with enemies stronger than itself never brought the Jewish nation, as it did the other nations of antiquity, to the point of self-effacement. So long as we are faithful to this principle, our existence has a secure basis: for in spiritual power we are not inferior to other nations, and we have no reason to efface ourselves.”
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Of course, Jews in the United States spent the first half of the twentieth century trying to be accepted by the larger society, but it was not easy. In many ways they were still seen as second-class citizens as depicted, for example, in the quotas that universities had with regard to the number of Jews they would accept. Many country clubs would not allow Jews to join, and some U.S. cities would not even allow Jews to own land.
In parts of the Arab world and in Europe, it was even worse. Pogroms and state-sponsored antisemitism were regular occurrences. In fact, the Dreyfus affair in France, during which a Jewish military officer was falsely accused of treason in 1894, was one noteworthy example of state-sponsored antisemitism because it led to the formation of the modern political Zionist movement by Theodor Herzl. This movement highlighted the need for Jews to have their own independent state in the land of Israel, where pioneering Jews had already been laboring to settle the land for nearly 100 years.
Nazism, which defined Jews as a race, was on the rise too. The Nuremberg Laws dictated that only one Jewish grandparent made a person a Jew. One’s beliefs, practices, and even conversion to Christianity did not matter. As long as a person had “Jewish blood,” they were still a Jew.
Some scholars hold that Arab antisemitism in the modern world arose in the nineteenth century, against the backdrop of conflicting Jewish and Arab nationalism, and was imported into the Arab world primarily by nationalistically minded Christian Arabs.
In the nineteenth century, the Damascus affair was an accusation of ritual murder and a blood libel against Jews in Damascus, Syria in 1840. On February 5, 1840, Franciscan Capuchin friar Father Thomas and his Greek servant were reported missing, never to be seen again. The Turkish governor and the French consul Ratti-Menton believed accusations of ritual murder and blood libel, as the alleged murder occurred before the Jewish holiday, Passover.
An investigation was staged, and Solomon Negrin, a Jewish barber, confessed under torture and accused other Jews. Two other Jews died under torture, and one (Moses Abulafia) converted to Islam to escape torture. More arrests and atrocities followed, culminating in 63 Jewish children being held hostage and mob attacks on Jewish communities throughout the Middle East. International outrage led to Ibrahim Pasha in Egypt ordering an investigation. Negotiations in Alexandria eventually secured the unconditional release and recognition of innocence of the nine prisoners still remaining alive.
Later in Constantinople, Moses Montefiore (leader of the British Jewish community) persuaded Sultan Abdülmecid I to issue an edict intended to halt the spread of blood libel accusations in the Ottoman Empire, but the blood libel spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
This brings us to the unfathomable tragedy of the Holocaust, during which two-thirds of European Jewry were murdered. Six million Jews died in the Holocaust, and Jewish communities across Europe were shattered. Many of those who survived were determined to leave Europe and start new lives in Israel or the United States.
The population shifts brought on by the Holocaust and by Jewish emigration were astounding. According to the American Jewish Yearbook, the Jewish population of Europe was about 9.5 million in 1933. In 1950, the Jewish population of Europe was about 3.5 million. In 1933, 60-percent of all Jews lived in Europe. In 1950, 51-percent of Jews lived in North and South America combined, while only a third of the world’s Jewish population lived in Europe.
In 1933, Poland possessed the largest Jewish population in Europe, numbering more than three million. By 1950, the Jewish population of Poland was reduced to about 45,000. The Soviet Union had the largest remaining Jewish population, with some two million Jews. Romania’s Jewish population was nearly 800,000 in 1930 and fell to approximately 300,000 by 1950.
The Jewish population of central Europe was also devastated. Germany had a Jewish population of more than 500,000 in 1933 — and just 37,000 in 1950. Hungary had a little less than 500,000 in 1933 and 190,000 in 1950. Czechoslovakia’s Jewish population was reduced from about 350,000 in 1933 to 17,000 in 1950, and Austria’s from about 200,000 to just 18,000.
In southern Europe, the Jewish population fell dramatically — in Greece from about 70,000 in 1933 to just 7,000 in 1950; in Yugoslavia from about 70,000 to 4,000; in Italy from about 50,000 to 30,000; and in Bulgaria from 50,000 in 1933 to just 7,000 in 1950 (the latter resulting from post-Second World War emigration).
The demographic focus of European Jewry thus shifted from eastern to western Europe. Most of the surviving remnants of European Jewry decided to leave the continent. Hundreds of thousands established new lives in the State of Israel, which was created in 1948, as well as the United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, France, South America, and South Africa.
The Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries was the departure, flight, expulsion, evacuation, and migration of some nine hundred thousand Jews, primarily of Sephardic and Mizrachi backgrounds, from Arab countries and the Muslim world, mainly from 1948 to the early 1970s. The last major migration wave took place from Iran in 1979 to 1980, as a consequence of the Iranian Revolution. A number of small-scale Jewish exoduses began in many Middle Eastern countries early in the twentieth century, with the only substantial aliyah (immigration to Israel) coming from Yemen and Syria. Few Jews from Muslim countries immigrated during the period of Mandatory Palestine.
Prior to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, approximately 800,000 Jews were living in lands that now make up the Arab world. Of these, just under two-thirds lived in the French and Italian-controlled North Africa, 15-to-20-percent in the Kingdom of Iraq, approximately 10-percent in the Kingdom of Egypt, and some seven-percent in the Kingdom of Yemen. A further 200,000 lived in Pahlavi Iran and the Republic of Turkey. The first large-scale exoduses took place in the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from Iraq, Yemen, and Libya. In these cases, more than 90-percent of the Jewish population left, despite the necessity of leaving their property behind. 260,000 Jews from Arab countries immigrated to Israel between 1948 and 1951, accounting for 56-percent of the total immigration to the newly founded Jewish State.
In fact, Israel’s first law, the Basic Law, granted any Jew anywhere in the world the right to move to Israel to claim Israeli citizenship — a concept of providing Jews with a safe haven, so that what happened in Europe would not happen again. Of course, the rebirth of Israel has led to the reintroduction of Judaism as a nationality.
“And to make it more complicated,” Bodner wrote, “Israeli Jews seem to have a culture uniquely different from that of Diaspora Jews too, with their own food, their own sense of humor, a language not known by most Diaspora Jews (Hebrew), and even their own notion of religiosity. Oh, and Israeli culture is not monolithic either, as Mizrachi Jews (Jews from the Middle East and North Africa) have quite different customs, for example, from Ashkenazi Israelis.”
The relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry was initially based upon “an unwritten covenant grounded in classical Zionism,” according to a research paper published by The Reut Institute. At the outset, classical Zionism was led by Theodor Herzl and Max Nordau dating back to the late-1800s. The First Zionist Congress — held in Basel, Switzerland in 1897 — was convened and chaired by Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionism movement.
The Congress formulated a Zionist platform, known as the Basel program. It also adopted Hatikvah (Hebrew for “The Hope”) as its anthem, and aimed at establishing a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine for the Jewish People which, among other items, included initial steps to obtain government grants from the established powers that controlled the area.
“Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word — which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly — it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State,” Herzl wrote shortly thereafter. “If I said this out loud today l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”
Herzl considered antisemitism to be an eternal feature of all societies in which Jews lived as minorities, and that only a separation could allow Jews to escape eternal persecution. “Let them give us sovereignty over a piece of the Earth’s surface,” he wrote, “just sufficient for the needs of our people, then we will do the rest!”
Herzl contemplated two possible destinations for a Jewish state, Argentina and Palestine, preferring Argentina for its vast and sparsely populated territory and temperate climate, but conceded that Palestine would have greater attraction due to the Jews’ historic ties with this area.
Since the first centuries of the Common Era, most Jews lived outside the area commonly known as Palestine, following the destruction of the Second Temple and the massacre of the Jews in Jerusalem. Of the 600,000 (Tacitus) or one million (Josephus) Jews of Jerusalem, all of them either died of starvation, were killed, or were sold into slavery. A minority presence of Jews has been attested for almost all of the period.
For example, according to tradition, the Jewish community of Peki’in has maintained a Jewish presence since the Second Temple period. According to the Tanach, God had assigned Canaan to the Jews as a Promised Land, a belief conserved also in the Septuagint, and in both Christian and Islamic traditions.
The Diaspora began in 586 BCE during the Babylonian occupation of Israel, when the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple, which was central to Jewish culture at the time. After the first-century Great Revolt and the second-century Bar Kokhba revolt, the Roman Empire banned Jews from Jerusalem and called the territory Syria Palaestina.
In the middle of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese Sephardic Jew Joseph Nasi, with the support of the Ottoman Empire, tried to gather the Portuguese Jews, first to migrate to Cyprus, then owned by the Republic of Venice, and later to resettle in Tiberias (a city in modern-day Israel). Nasi, who never converted to Islam, eventually obtained the highest medical position in the empire, and actively participated in court life. He convinced Suleiman I to intervene with the Pope on behalf of Ottoman-subject Portuguese Jews imprisoned in Ancona.
Between the fourth and nineteenth centuries, Nasi’s was the only practical attempt to establish some sort of Jewish political center in Palestine. Then, in the seventeenth century, Sabbatai Zevi announced himself as the Messiah and gained many Jews to his side, forming a base in Salonika. He first tried to establish a settlement in Gaza, but moved later to Smyrna (a Greek city located at a strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia).
After deposing the old rabbi Aaron Lapapa in the spring of 1666, the Jewish community of Avignon, France prepared to emigrate to the new kingdom. The readiness of the Jews of the time to believe the messianic claims of Zevi may be largely explained by the desperate state of Central European Jewry in the mid-seventeenth century, characterized by bloody pogroms by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth’s Bohdan Khmelnytsky, which wiped out one-third of the Jewish population and destroyed many centers of Jewish learning and communal life.
In the nineteenth century, a current in Judaism supporting a return to Zion — a hill near Jerusalem (now in the city) widely symbolizing the Land of Israel — grew in popularity, particularly in Europe, where antisemitism and hostility toward Jews were growing. The idea of returning to Palestine was rejected by the conferences of rabbis held in that epoch. Individual efforts supported the emigration of groups of Jews to Palestine, pre-Zionist aliyah, even before 1897, the year considered as the start of practical Zionism.
However, many Reform Jews rejected this idea of a return to Zion. The conference of rabbis, in Frankfurt in 1845, deleted from the ritual all prayers for a return to Zion and a restoration of a Jewish state. The Philadelphia Conference in 1869 followed the lead of the German rabbis and decreed that the Messianic hope of Israel is “the union of all the children of God in the confession of the unity of God.” The Pittsburgh Conference in 1885 reiterated this Messianic idea of Reform Judaism, expressing in a resolution that “we consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community; and we therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning a Jewish state.”
In 1819, Jewish settlements were proposed for establishment in the upper Mississippi, USA region by W.D. Robinson. Others were developed near Jerusalem in 1850, by the American Consul Warder Cresson, a convert to Judaism. Cresson was tried and condemned for lunacy in a suit filed by his wife and son, who asserted that only a lunatic would convert to Judaism from Christianity. After a second trial, based on the centrality of American “freedom of faith” issues and antisemitism, Cresson won the bitterly contested suit and emigrated to Ottoman Palestine, where he established an agricultural colony in the Valley of Rephaim in Jerusalem. Cresson hoped to “prevent any attempts being made to take advantage of the necessities of our poor brethren ... (that would) ... force them into a pretended conversion.”
Moral but not practical efforts were made in Prague to organize a Jewish emigration by Abraham Benisch and Moritz Steinschneider in 1835. In the United States, Mordecai Noah attempted to establish a Jewish refuge opposite Buffalo, New York on Grand Isle 10 years earlier.
Sir Moses Montefiore, famous for his intervention in favor of Jews around the world, established a colony for Jews in Palestine. In 1854, his friend Judah Touro bequeathed money to fund Jewish residential settlement in Palestine. Montefiore was appointed executor of his will, and used the funds for a variety of projects, including building the first Jewish residential settlement and almshouse outside of the old walled city of Jerusalem in 1860 — today known as Mishkenot Sha’ananim. Laurence Oliphant failed in an attempt to bring to Palestine the Jewish proletariat of Poland, Lithuania, Romania, and the Turkish Empire between 1879 and 1882.
The official beginning of the construction of the “New Yishuv” in Palestine is usually dated to the arrival of the Bilu group in 1882, which commenced the first aliyah. In the following years, Jewish immigration to Palestine started in earnest. Most immigrants came from the Russian Empire, escaping the frequent pogroms and state-led persecution in what are now Ukraine and Poland. They founded a number of agricultural settlements with financial support from Jewish philanthropists in Western Europe.
Additional aliyah followed the Russian Revolution and its eruption of violent pogroms. In 1885, the Great Synagogue of Rishon LeZion was founded, just a few kilometers south of present-day Tel Aviv. And by the end of the nineteenth century, Jews were a small minority in Palestine.
In the 1890s, Herzl infused Zionism with a new ideology and practical urgency, leading to the First Zionist Congress in Switzerland in 1897, which created the World Zionist Organization. From 1897 to 1901, the Zionist Congress met annually, and thereafter biennially. The basis was laid for the Zionist Central Bank at the Second Zionist Congress; Herzl viewed this as a powerful instrument for political, economic, and Zionist activity. The Fifth Congress saw the authorization of a fund for the redemption of lands in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel).
At the time of the First Zionist Congress, the Russian Zionist movement provided the mainstay of support for the entire movement, comprising over one-third of the delegates. By the Fourth and Fifth Congresses, they accounted for over half of its representatives. The identification of Jews in Russia with Zionism in this era was quite broad and could be found in all strata of the community. The movement’s very success in rooting itself in Russian Jewry afforded this group of Zionists a position of prime importance in all the Zionist organizations.
By the Sixth Congress, Herzl succeeded in arousing, establishing, and leading a dynamic and developing movement. This, despite the fact that his goal of creating a Jewish state remained a distant reality, because the situation of distress, together with the overwhelming Jewish support for the Zionist aspiration, provided a firm basis for its success. Herzl’s achievement in mobilizing Russian Jewry’s support was a critical and important stage in the movement’s development, because Russian Zionists were to emerge as the leading force of the entire movement. He had thus created a body which would eventually be instrumental in realizing the Zionist goal.
Alongside the dynamic development of the Zionist movement, which generated waves of enthusiasm throughout the Jewish public, sharp criticism began to appear about Zionism. Opposition to Herzl’s policies stemmed from several directions and streams within the Jewish People, and can be summarized as follows:
(1) Part of ultra-Orthodox Jewry, who viewed Zionism as heresy against the principles of the Jewish religion; (2) a section of the Jewish intelligentsia, who considered Herzl to be a false Messiah, and his movement — a danger to the Emancipation for which they were striving; (3) well-established, wealthy Jews, who feared for the fate of their businesses and capital should society’s attitude to the Jews in general deteriorate; and (4) the social-democratic movement in general, and the “Bund,” the Jewish Labor Movement, in particular.
Herzl began large-scale political campaign activity in Europe on behalf of the supreme Zionist goal — a Jewish state, prodded by the success of the First Zionist Congress to continue the upward diplomatic swing. He set his sights on the first stage of the fulfillment of Zionism, namely: securement of guarantees under common law — in other words, an international political commitment to the right to establish a Jewish state. The second stage he foresaw would be a charter for the Jews in Eretz Yisrael, which would incorporate the relevant public and legal guarantees.
Herzl raised the idea of a charter after it became clear to him that the conditions to establish a sovereign Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael had not yet been created. Germany was, at that time, the major European power, and Herzl correspondingly allotted her a central role in the scenario. Even in his early days, Herzl attempted to meet with Kaiser Wilhelm II, with the idea he could persuade him of the Zionist cause’s justness. From there, he hoped to gain access to the Court of the Turkish Sultan at Kushta, since Germany’s ties to Turkey were the closest of all the European powers.
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When Herzl met the Duke of Baden, the Kaiser’s uncle, he tried to persuade him of the importance of a meeting with Kaiser Wilhelm for the Zionist cause. After more than some 18 months of fruitless contacts with influential German figures, Herzl was called to the German consul during a stay in Amsterdam and informed that the German Kaiser was prepared to meet him on his journey to Jerusalem.
Kaiser Wilhelm II’s first stop on his journey to the Land of Israel was at Kushta. In October 1898, Herzl traveled to Kushta, where he met with the Kaiser for the first time and received a promise of a subsequent meeting in Jerusalem. Herzl and his companions went up to Jerusalem in an optimistic frame of mind to wait for the second meeting, which took place in November. His frosty reception by the Kaiser and the lack of protocol led Herzl to realize that the German monarch had withdrawn his initial offer of support for Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel.
After diplomatic moves towards Germany had failed, Herzl decided to approach the leaders of the Ottoman Empire for a charter, without mediators. Turkey’s heavy debts to the European powers formed the crux of Herzl’s negotiations in Kushta. He put forward the idea that the Zionist movement could assist Turkey defray its debts, in return for which the Zionists would be granted a charter for Jewish settlement under the Turkish aegis. Herzl made five journeys to Kushta for his political ends. The Sultan offered, for a considerable sum, to settle Jews in Syria, Aram Naharayim, the Anatolian plateau, or anywhere else in the Ottoman Empire — except the Land of Israel.
Herzl rejected all these offers and continued his funding campaign, in the hope that this would change the nature of proceedings at Kushta. In July 1902, he was urgently recalled to Kushta. It emerged that the drawn-out negotiations with the Turks had been a deliberate attempt to filibuster to prevent the Zionists negotiating simultaneously with the French and to ensure the most favorable terms for the Turks.
There are three major reasons which contributed to Herzl’s failure in his negotiations with the Turks: (1) To some degree, Jewish bankers and businessmen in Western Europe carry responsibility for failing to invest in the Zionist effort, and thus weakening Herzl's bargaining position; (2) from the outset, the Turkish Sultan did not view Herzl as a serious partner to a deal, as evidenced by Turkish opposition on principle to Zionist settlement of a sovereign character in Eretz Yisrael, and (3) Herzl’s own tactics were partly responsible for his failure, as the central figure in the Zionist movement did not prepare the ground properly for his work, and his negotiations with the Turks lacked any realistic basis in terms of the movement’s capacity to conduct a large-scale and complicated financial operation of this nature.
Herzl’s lack of success in obtaining a charter from the Ottoman Empire did not discourage his efforts, and he turned instead to Britain. The large wave of Jewish immigration to Britain at the end of the nineteenth century was a cause of concern to its heads of government, in view of the opposition it had generated within public opinion to its continuation. After it was debated in Parliament and the press, a Royal Commission was appointed to examine the immigration issue. The Commission called upon Herzl, as leader of the Zionist movement, to appear before it as an expert on the issue of Jewish migration.
Herzl believed that the circumstances surrounding the issue provided an excellent opportunity to convince important British governmental figures to support the idea of a state for the Jews. It was the first time he had made public an idea he had already mooted in his own circle: Jewish settlement in British-controlled territory adjacent to the Land of Israel — such as Cyprus, or El Arish in the Sinai peninsula — as a temporary shelter for the masses of persecuted Jews. The proposal for the settlement of Eastern European Jews in the Sinai peninsula fell through, but Herzl continued relentlessly to look for a temporary solution to the problem of refuge. The British Colonial Secretary offered Herzl the possibility of Uganda, which the latter rejected.
In April 1903, an anti-Jewish riot that took place in Kishinev (modern-day Moldova), then the capital of the Bessarabia Governorate in the Russian Empire. It deeply shocked the Russian intelligentsia, including Maxim Gorky and Leo Tolstoy, as well as European public opinion. The Russian government sought to soften the effects of the pogrom and invited Herzl to Russia for “discussions” with its heads of government. Herzl responded favorably, because he wished to obtain permission for the Zionist movement to operate legally in Russia. He also felt this would be an opportunity to show support for Russian Jewry and moderate the authorities’ attitude towards its Jews.
In Russia, Herzl met with a minister; although there were no direct outcomes from this encounter, his visit provided the opportunity to meet with the Jewish masses who came to see their “king,” an overwhelming and emotional experience in itself. He returned home under the impressions of this encounter and their hardship, determined to reconsider the Uganda Proposal as a temporary option. Almost immediately followed the sixth Congress in Switzerland, where Herzl reported to the 600 delegates at the Zionist Congress on his journey to Russia, as well as the failure of negotiations with both Turkey and Germany.
Then he dropped his Uganda “bombshell.” A furious argument erupted between supporters of this proposal and its opponents. A proposal was brought to send out a committee of inquiry to Uganda. 295 delegates voted in favor, 175 against, and 132 abstained. The rift was unavoidable. Most of its supporters were from Western Europe, while its opponents were the Russian Zionists, whose leaders accused their Western European colleagues, and particularly Herzl, of not understanding the terrible tragedy taking place in Eastern Europe.
Chaim Weizmann, who later became the first President of the State of Israel, said they had not understood that “Russian Jewry, with all its suffering, is not prepared to translate its dreams and longings for the land of their fathers to any other location.”
The leader of the “nays” was Dr. Yehiel Chlenov, who maintained that Herzl’s victory would herald the downfall of the Zionist movement. At the height of the furious debate, many of the dissenters to the proposal left their seats, wept openly, fainted, or sat on the floor as a sign of mourning. There was serious concern that the Zionist movement had come to an end. Herzl now appreciated the force of the opposition and the only way open to him was that of reconciliation. In his last address to the Congress, he reiterated that Uganda was only a temporary solution, raised his right hand and vowed:
“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning.”
The Uganda Proposal demonstrated that Herzl failed to understand the depths of belief in Zionism, in particular among the Russian Zionists, and despite the fact that it was intended to resolve the situation of Russian Jewry. Herzl, after the failure of the Uganda Proposal, was a broken man. Over the six years he had led the Zionist movement, his health had deteriorated, and after “Uganda,” there was further deterioration. Nevertheless, he continued his efforts towards the ultimate goal and traveled to meet the Pope and the King of Italy. In July 1904, he died of heart disease.
“Only once in several millennia is such a wonderful person born,” wrote 17-year-old David Gryn — who later changed his name to David Ben-Gurion and became the first Prime Minister of Israel — of Herzl at this time. In August 1949, Herzl was reinterred in Jerusalem, under the terms of his will, on the site of Mount Herzl, named in his honor.
After Herzl’s death, the Congress decided on the fourth day of its seventh session in July 1905 to decline the British offer and “direct all future settlement efforts solely to Palestine.” Israel Zangwill’s Jewish Territorialist Organization aimed for a Jewish state anywhere, having been established in 1903 in response to “Uganda,” was supported by a number of the Congress’s delegates. Following the vote, which had been proposed by Max Nordau, Zangwill charged Nordau that he “will be charged before the bar of history,” and his supporters blamed the Russian voting bloc of Menachem Ussishkin for the outcome of the vote.
The Zionist Socialist Workers Party was also an organization that favored the idea of a Jewish territorial autonomy outside of Palestine. And, as an alternative to Zionism, Soviet authorities established a Jewish Autonomous Oblast in 1934, which remains extant as the only autonomous oblast of Russia.
Lobbying by Chaim Weizmann, together with fear that U.S. Jews would encourage the United States to support Germany in the war against Russia, culminated in the British government’s Balfour Declaration of 1917. It endorsed the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, as follows:
“His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
During the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, an Inter-Allied Commission was sent to Palestine to assess the views of the local population; the report summarized the arguments received from petitioners for and against Zionism. In 1922, the League of Nations adopted the declaration, and granted to Britain the Palestine Mandate: “The Mandate will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home ... and the development of self-governing institutions, and also safeguard the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.”
Jewish migration to Palestine and widespread Jewish land purchases from feudal landlords contributed to landlessness among Palestinian Arabs, fueling unrest. Riots erupted in Palestine in 1920, 1921, and 1929, during which both Jews and Arabs were killed. Britain was responsible for the Palestinian mandate and, after the Balfour Declaration, it supported Jewish immigration in principle. But, in response to the violent events noted above, the Peel Commission published a report proposing new provisions and restrictions in Palestine.
In 1927, Ukrainian Jew Yitzhak Lamdan wrote an epic poem titled Masada to reflect the plight of the Jews, calling for a “last stand.” In 1941, Theodore Newman Kaufman published Germany Must Perish! which argued that only the dismemberment of Germany would lead to world peace. Anti-German articles, such as the Daily Express calling for an “Anti-Nazi boycott,” in response to German antisemitism, were published during Adolf Hitler’s rise as well.
In 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany, and in 1935 the Nuremberg Laws made German Jews (and later Austrian and Czech Jews) stateless refugees. Similar rules were applied by the many Nazi allies in Europe. The subsequent growth in Jewish migration and the impact of Nazi propaganda aimed at the Arab world led to the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.
Again, Britain established the Peel Commission to investigate the situation. The commission did not consider the situation of Jews in Europe, but called for a two-state solution and compulsory transfer of populations. Britain rejected this solution and instead implemented the White Paper of 1939, which planned to end Jewish immigration by 1944 and to allow no more than 75,000 additional Jewish migrants. At the end of the five-year period in 1944, only 68-percent of the 75,000 immigration certificates provided for had been utilized, and the British offered to allow immigration to continue beyond the cutoff date of 1944, at a rate of 1,500 per month, until the remaining quota was filled.
The growth of the Jewish community in Palestine and the devastation of European Jewish life sidelined the World Zionist Organization. The Jewish Agency for Palestine under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion increasingly dictated policy with support from U.S. Zionists who provided funding and influence in Washington, D.C., including via the highly effective American Palestine Committee. During World War II, as the horrors of the Holocaust became known, the Zionist leadership formulated the One Million Plan, a reduction from Ben-Gurion’s previous target of two million immigrants.
Following the war’s end, a massive wave of stateless Jews, mainly Holocaust survivors, began migrating to Palestine in small boats in defiance of British rules. The Holocaust united much of the rest of world Jewry behind the Zionist project, but the British either imprisoned these Jews in Cyprus or sent them to the British-controlled Allied Occupation Zones in Germany. The British, having faced the 1936-1939 Arab revolt against mass Jewish immigration into Palestine, were now facing opposition by Zionist groups in Palestine for subsequent restrictions.
In January 1946, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry was a joint British and U.S. committee set up to examine the political, economic, and social conditions in Palestine as they bore upon the problem of Jewish immigration and settlement, and the well-being of the peoples living there; to consult representatives of Arabs and Jews; and to make other recommendations “as necessary” for an interim handling of these problems, as well as for their eventual solution. Following the failure of the 1946-1947 London Conference on Palestine, at which the United States refused to support the British, the British decided to refer the question to the United Nations on February 14, 1947.
In May 1947, Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko told the United Nations that the Soviet Union supported the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state, and the Soviets formally voted this way in the United Nations in November 1947. That year, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine recommended that western Palestine should be partitioned into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and a UN-controlled territory: Corpus separatum, around Jerusalem.
This partition plan was adopted on November 29, 1947, with United Nations GA Resolution 181, 33 votes in favor, 13 against, and 10 abstentions. The vote led to celebrations in Jewish communities and protests in Arab communities throughout Palestine. Violence throughout the country, previously a Jewish insurgency against the British, with some sporadic Jewish-Arab fighting, spiraled into a war from 1947 to 1949 known in Israel as the War of Independence and in Arabic as al-Nakba (“the disaster”).
The conflict led to an exodus of more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs. More than a quarter had already fled prior to the declaration of the State of Israel and the start of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Later, a series of laws passed by the first Israeli government prevented Palestinians from returning to their homes, or claiming their property. They and many of their descendants remain refugees.
After World War II and the destruction of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe, Zionism became dominant in the thinking about a Jewish national state. The movement was eventually successful in establishing Israel on May 14, 1948, as the homeland for the Jewish People. The proportion of the world’s Jews living in Israel has steadily grown since the movement emerged. By the early twenty-first century, more than 40-percent of the world’s Jews lived in Israel, more than in any other country.
These two outcomes represent the historical success of Zionism and are unmatched by any other Jewish political movement in the past 2,000 years. Classical Zionism persisted following the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, fertilizing the ground for a variety of Israel’s advancements. This included the United States becoming Israel’s go-to ally (in part because it became home to the world’s second-largest population of Jews), the French providing the Israeli government with the technological capabilities to develop nuclear weapons, and the State of Israel effectively tripling its territorial size in 1967 after the Six Day War between Israel and an Arab coalition primarily comprising Jordan, Syria, and UAR Egypt — the result of which led to Israel seizing the Sinai peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and most of the Syrian Golan Heights.
Classical Zionism also paved the way for unprecedented accomplishments across technology, medicine, science, humanitarianism, military and defense, and academia. I say unprecedented because all of the new countries created in the last hundred years or so, as well as the population size of each one, and Israel with no more than nine million people today.
However, during the last quarter of the twentieth century, classical Zionism both in Israel and among world Jewry declined, leading to the rise of post-Zionism, which asserts that Israel should abandon the concept of a “state of the Jewish people” and strive to be a state of all its citizens, or a binational state where Arabs (approximately two million Arab Israelis and another two million Palestinians at the time of writing) and Jewish Israelis (approximately six million at the time of writing) live together, while enjoying some type of autonomy.
In 2020, Palestinian-Israeli Pulse: A Joint Poll was conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Management at Tel Aviv University. They found that only 43-percent of Palestinians and 42-percent of Israeli Jews support the concept of the two-state solution; 56-percent of Palestinians and 46-percent of Israeli Jews are opposed. Two years prior, 43-percent on each side supported this solution. In all cases, only the general principle was provided.
Among Israeli Arabs, support dropped considerably from 82-percent two years ago to 59-percent, bringing the total Israeli average to 44-percent. Among Israeli Jews, support for the two-state principle has seen an incremental but steady decline since 2016, when it stood at 53-percent. Among Palestinians, support has varied: It fell from June to December 2016, when 44-percent supported the basic two-state solution in principle, rose to 52-percent in 2017, declined once again to 46-percent, and continued to decline in 2018 and in the 2020 poll.
Similar to previous surveys, support for the two-state solution among Palestinians is higher in the West Bank than in the Gaza Strip, 45-percent and 38-percent respectively, among Fatah voters, and those who define themselves as “not religious” or “somewhat religious.” Israeli Jews are highly polarized along ideological lines: 91-percent of those who consider themselves left-wing support the two-state solution in a general question, while just under one-quarter of Jewish right-wingers support it (23-percent).
The strong consensus on the Jewish left reflects a rebound following a decline in earlier surveys; in 2018 support among the Jewish left dipped to 78-percent, still a strong majority. Jewish Israelis who define themselves as centrist show a clear majority of almost two-thirds (62-percent) who support the two-state solution.
The joint poll also sought to ascertain the breakdown of Palestinians and Israelis regarding various alternatives to the two-state solution. Two alternative options were offered: (1) a one-state solution with equal rights for Jews and Palestinians was offered to all those who rejected the two-state solution (one democratic state); and (2) one-state solution in which one side or the other is denied equal rights was offered to those who rejected the two-state solution and the one democratic state (apartheid). The findings among the Palestinians are almost identical to those of 2018, with the exception of the significant rise in the support for “other” from 22-percent to 39-percent: 43-percent for a two-state solution, 10-percent for an apartheid state, and nine-percent for one democratic state.
Israeli Jews also showed a marked rise in the percentage of those who selected “other” from 16-percent to 27-percent. But support for the option of a single democratic state dropped among Israeli Jews from 19-percent to 10-percent, while support for apartheid increased from 15-percent to 22-percent. The previous study in 2018 included a third alternative for those who did not support the two-state solution: expulsion or transfer. This was not included in the 2020 study and in all likelihood explains the rise of respondents who fall into the “other” group on both sides.
If you think these growing ridges create problems within Israeli society — which they do — consider what they are doing to divide Israeli Jews and world Jewry. A survey of U.S. Jewish voters taken after the 2021 Israel-Gaza conflict found that a quarter of U.S. Jews think Israel is an “apartheid state” and 22-percent believe “Israel is committing genocide.”
According to the Pew survey of Jewish Americans in 2020, among Jews ages fifty and older, only half say that caring about Israel is essential to what being Jewish means to them, and an additional 37-percent say it is important but not essential. By contrast, among Jewish adults under thirty, one-third say that caring about Israel is essential and 27-percent say Israel is not important to what being Jewish means to them. Natan Sharansky, the former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, once declared that the organization’s traditional Zionist mission had outlived its usefulness. In his role, which spanned from 2009 to 2018, Sharansky made Israel education and promoting Jewish Peoplehood a priority, particularly among the younger generations.
The predicament here is twofold: The first side of the coin is that the majority of people, including many Jews, are unaware that, despite widespread opinion, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict does not shape the rest of the Middle East; the reality is that the Conflict is shaped by the Middle East. Despite living in Israel since 2013, reading plenty of books and commentary about Israeli history, and having endless conversations with intellectuals about the Conflict, I only learned about this latent reality in 2020 from Avi Melamed, a former Israeli senior intelligence official who specialized in Arab affairs.
Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Muslim and Arab society and their effect on the Middle East and Israel. He also serves as the Fellow of Intelligence and Middle East Affairs for the Eisenhower Institute, and founded Feenjan, an online medium for Arabs and Israelis to engage in various issues and discussions.
Melamed is one of the few people who continues to correctly point out an inconvenient truth: Many Arab states, most recently Iran, have used the Palestinians as nothing but a pawn in efforts to accomplish their own geopolitical agendas, expressing “care” and “compassion” and “concern” for the Palestinians as a guise for their self-serving interests, at the expense of finding a formidable, lasting solution for the Palestinians. This reality within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict either tends to be forgotten and overlooked. Even worse, knowledge and awareness of it simply does not exist in conversations, publications, reports, and commentaries about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
In a world where we are asked to take the side of a single “truth” — good or bad, left or right, Democrat or Republican, religious or secular, Israeli or Palestinian — two things can be true. And in the case of the Conflict, they are two factual truths: (1) The State of Israel is occupying the West Bank, largely made up of Palestinians, and still plays a significant role in Gaza (i.e. electricity, currency) even though Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, which saw 21 Israeli settlements removed and the evacuation of Israeli settlers and military from inside the Gaza Strip.
And (2) many Arab states, most recently Iran, have leveraged the Conflict as nothing but a pawn in efforts to accomplish their own geopolitical agendas, expressing “care” and “compassion” and “concern” for the Palestinians as a guise for their self-serving interests, at the expense of finding a formidable, lasting solution for the Palestinians. Ignoring one of these two truths, or giving one more power or attention over the other, is inappropriately divisive, ignorant, and even discriminative.
While the State of Israel is not the only center of the Jewish universe, it is no longer the glue that keeps the Jewish People together, the Jewish People’s rallying cry regardless of which type of Jew you were, where you came from, or where you currently reside — like it was for much of the 1940s through the 1970s, and perhaps thereafter.
For example, the ubiquitous Jewish National Fund’s blue-and-white metallic box found in nearly every Diaspora home and synagogue for decades, dating back to pre-state Israel, served as both a mainstream symbol and piggy bank of sorts, motivating Jews around the world to donate money to Israel so they could feel an emotional stake in the success of the new Jewish State. One such marketing film from several decades ago features speeches by Jewish National Fund fundraisers who use the symbolism of using this money to plant new forests in Israel, urging donors to make a special effort in order to ensure the Jewish State’s success as a place refugees from the Holocaust would feel at home.
But today, Israel as a Jewish state has become a polarizing topic among Jews and Jewish communities, particularly in the United States, with some such communities dropping it entirely from their activities and dialogues. A Jewish nonprofit employee told me, as he was planning a recent initiative in New York and pursuing Jewish funders for financing, “The Israel part of my initiative became so toxic, unless you were willing to talk about the occupation.” Another former Jewish nonprofit executive told me that Jews in Sweden, for example, “are not very well-educated about what is an Israeli and what is a Jew.”
Unsurprisingly, antisemitism and anti-Zionism, which many people consider to be a hidden form of antisemitism, is steadily on the rise, both formally (i.e. the BDS movement) and informally. With increasingly more Jews publicly scolding Israel’s treatment of Palestinians — some of these Jews going as far as to spread fabrications and outright lies propagated by the BDS movement — or perhaps even worse, indifferent to Israel as their Jewish homeland and safe haven, regardless of if they decide to move and live in the country at any point in their lives, “Jewish Peoplehood is reaching its next inflection point,” Zack Bodner wrote. “Enough momentum has built up around the cognitive dissonance that Jews are experiencing what Rabbi Benay Lappe, the founder of Svara, calls ‘a sociological crash.’”
According to Rabbi Lappe, when someone’s worldview is challenged by new facts on the ground, they experience a “crash” — a major psychological event with significant consequences. When people experience this crash, she says, they can react in one of three ways:
They can double down by, for example, building walls around their rituals, practices, and old ways of thinking, to push out alternative views.
They can walk away from the old way altogether. They not only drop the old worldview, but they completely embrace the new one.
They can innovate, by combining the old worldview with the new one.
“Embracing this third way is what has allowed Jews to survive for over three thousand years,” Bodner wrote. “Our ability to adapt, acculturate, and assimilate has ensured that we can keep on keeping on. The key has not been losing ourselves completely to the nations and cultures that absorb us, holding on to certain central elements of our Judaism, and always holding on to our Jewish soul.”
Shabbat, for example, is one of Jewish Peoplehood’s central elements. Ahad Ha’am famously said:
“More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.”
But considering that Shabbat is not observed by the vast majority of Jews, and considering that Jewish communities and populations around the world are becoming increasingly siloed and fragmented, with exponentially less overlap, communication, and collaboration, Judaism as a society — as a people — is potentially on the verge of collapse.
“If the Jewish People is to survive … Judaism must reclaim its relevance to the individual by reestablishing its spiritual value,” Tal Keinan wrote in his book, God Is in the Crowd. “It must reclaim its relevance to the community by finding common cause among a critical mass of its individual adherents. This can happen only through the continued evolution of Jewish thought and practice. In an era of seemingly limitless personal options, our choice as a community is stark: Create meaning in Judaism or accept extinction.”
This is not the first time Jewish Peoplehood has experienced a sociological crash. In his book, Why Do Jewish?, Bodner told the story of a visionary named Yohanan Ben Zakkai. The year was 70 CE, seventy years after Jesus was born, and Rome attacked Jerusalem. “And by attacking, I mean leveling the place,” Bodner wrote. “The Jewish Zealots who were leading the defense against the Roman attack declared that no one was allowed to leave the city of Jerusalem — unless they were in a coffin.”
But Ben Zakkai realized that if Jerusalem fell, and the Holy Temple was destroyed, Judaism as they knew it could become extinct. No survivors would mean no passing on Jewish life to future generations. So Ben Zakkai came up with a plan to sneak out of Jerusalem. By faking his own death. He had his students build him a coffin and carry him out of the city as if he was actually dead.
The ruse worked: Ben Zakkai’s students snuck him out of Jerusalem and brought the coffin to the tent of the Roman general Vespasian. When they set down the coffin, Ben Zakkai popped out and hailed Vespasian as caesar. Vespasian, no doubt a bit surprised, challenged Ben Zakkai by saying, “I am not Caesar! Caesar is back in Rome!” But at that very moment, a messenger from Rome arrived to tell Vespasian that Caesar was killed, and now he was the new caesar.
Vespasian, moved by the Jewish man’s prophecy, turned to Ben Zakkai and asked how he could compensate him. Ben Zakkai did not ask for money or power. Instead, he asked to be put in charge of a school called Yavneh, where Jewish students learned, famously saying:
“Give me Yavneh and its sages.”
Vespasian obliged, “and it was at that school where Ben Zakkai and his students created the future of Jewish life,” Bodner wrote. “At that moment, Judaism began to evolve for its second time, so that it could be relevant and meaningful in a time when the Jews were dispersed from Jerusalem, when the Holy Temple was destroyed and Judaism could no longer be what it was.”
Yohanan Ben Zakkai began a religious revolution. The Holy Temple evolved into synagogues, the priests became rabbis, animal sacrifice transitioned to prayer, and the study of our sacred texts became central to the meaning of practicing Judaism in a post-Holy Temple period.
“This is the Judaism we’ve been practicing for the last 2,000 years,” Bodner wrote. “But what will be the Judaism we practice for the next 2,000 years? Are we on the eve of another religious revolution? And if we are, how can we make Jewish life meaningful, relevant, and joyous for the future?”