By the time this letter falls under your eyes, you will all have heard that Pinsker is no more. You will have heard the long drawn sighs that broke from the hearts and lips of the "Lovers of Zion" far and near at the news of their misfortune, and is their grief to be wondered at? Even in days of power and victory an army mourns for the beloved general whom death has snatched away, how much greater the cause for sorrow in a time of distress and confusion such (as the "Lovers of Zion" are now enduring-a time when from without they are pursued by evil happenings, by enemies in league with one another, disciples of Shimei ben Cera, whose way it has ever been to pursue the persecuted and grovel in the dust before the favored of fortune; a time when from within. But what can I tell about "within" that you do not know as well? You yourselves are "within," and your eyes are open to see.
Though it is true that all "Lovers of Zion" feel deeply the loss they have suffered in the death of Pinsker, there are but few who are conscious of the nature of their loss, of the nature of the connection between the leader who is gone and the movement known under the name "Love of Zion." To many of the "Lovers of Zion" he was nothing more than the man of affairs who stood at the head of their organization, controlled the activities of the federated societies, and watched over collections and disbursements. Only a small minority arc acquainted with his very self as it revealed itself in his remarkable book " Auto-Emancipation" This minority alone knew that first and foremost Pinsker was a "nationalist," a lover of his people. It was only of the depth of his love that the idea of self-emancipation sprang, at first without any relation whatsoever to the land of Israel. Only later he entered the ranks of the "Lovers of Zion," when he thought he discerned in their societies the first step toward the realization of his idea.
Nurtured from his early youth in European culture, he was far removed from that ardent, instinctive love for the land of our forefathers which first, last, and always burns in the hearts of those of who were brought up in the Bible and the Talmud. He knew only the "Holy Land," whose holiness is religious, not national; whose holiness, hence is of the past, not for the future. "At the present moment," he says in his brochure, "The goal of our efforts should not be the 'holy' land, but a land of our own. What we need is a large tract of land for our poor bretheren, our own possession, whence no strange master shall have the power to drive us forth. Thither we should carry with us the holy treasures we rescued from the overthrow of our native land- the God-idea and the Sacred Scriptures. They and they alone- not Jerusalem and not the Jordan- are what sanctified our olden home. If by lucky chance the Holy Land itself happens to become our land, so much the better. But above all- this is the one thing needful- it must be determined what land is available land, at the same time, fit to offer to the outcast Jews of all countries a safe, undisputed, productive retreat."
Accordingly, Pinsker differs from other leaders of his class only in that he did not discriminate against Palestine. If his proposals had met with a favorable hearing among Occidental Jews, for whose sake and in whose language he wrote his book, and a commission had been fitted out to seek the "safe retreat": he spoke of, he would have deemed it proper to investigate the claims of Palestine along with the claims of other countries; and had the choice fallen upon Palestine, he would have rejoice in the lucky chance. But a commission of the kind, there can be no doubt, would have sought the retreat in one of the countries of America or Australia, perhaps even in Africa, anywhere rather than in Palestine, and Pinsker would have consecrated his life, not to colonization in Palestine, but to colonization in the land designated by the commission. In that case, he would have been classed, as he is now among the faithful of his people who seek its welfare, but he would not have become one of the leaders of the "Lovers of Zion."
However, his words fell upon deaf ears in the West, which is not remarkable. On the contrary, it is Pinsker who arouses our wonder. How was it possible for him to entertain the hope that his book would accomplish its aim, seeing that he himself point out the great obstacles in the way, without at the same time showing how they might be removed?
The leading idea of his book is to undeceive our Western bretheren as to the efficacy of the civil emancipation of the Jew, and show the falsity of their hope that it will ultimately spread in the wake of humane ideas to all countries of the world. He demonstrates that hatred of the Jew has its source in a deep rooted natural feeling- it is a "hereditary psychic disorder" transmitted from father to sons- while emancipation is a "postulate of reason and logic," by no means an "immediate, spontaneous issue from the feeling- for justice animating- the nations in the midst of which Israel dwells." Our salvation is to be sought, therefore, not in emancipation through others, but solely and alone' in self-emancipation. To the cause of self-emancipation we must devote all our powers, unaffrighted by the' length of the road stretching before us and by its besetting perils-for other road there is none. The first, most difficult step is for all the "prominent men of our nation" to resolve unanimously to follow the road and not depart from it until the desired goal is reached. To use Pinsker's language, the desideratum is a "national resolution" and the aim of his book is to establish this resolution among us by creating the consciousness of its absolute necessity.
At this point our author should have asked himself the question: If it is true that emancipation based on humanity holds out no hope to our people, because systems dictated by reason alone, without any foundation in feeling, are unavailing to conquer the "psychic disorder" that opposes them; then what result can be expected from his own plan, to impose upon the Jews a new system of living through the merely negative consciousness of its necessity? This consciousness is itself but a "postulate of reason and logic," and the "national resolution" which results from it, if it should result, "Till not be a "spontaneous issue from feeling," while national indifference, on the other hand, which has been devouring us greedily these many generations, is an "hereditary psychic disorder. Wherein, then, consists the superiority of the idea of self-emancipation over the hope of emancipation? Neither springs from the heart. The only difference between them is that emancipation lacks support in the heart of non-Jews, and self-emancipation lacks it in the heart of Jews. The one deficiency is as irremediable as the other.
These questions obtruded themselves upon Pinsker, but he did not give them definite shape. He evaded the details, because he could not find satisfactory solutions. Believing fully in the efficacy of his idea, he believed also in the power of his words to create the "national resolution." Can a logically evolved resolution take permanent hold of men, and in its turn produce great and efficacious deeds? He desired to believe that it call, and he did believe it.
"National feeling, whence shall we obtain it?" He cries out in the bitterness of his soul. "This truly is the great misfortune of our race, that we do not constitute a nation, that we are nothing but Jews. Then he proceeds to explain the causes which stifled national feeling will us, accompanying his explanation with thrilling words of rebuke and admonition. But the question remained unanswered: Whence shall we obtain the feeling we have lost no matter how, and without which his plan lacked foundation and support? He espied a crumb of comfort. The situation of the Jew, he believed, was changing somewhat for the better, The precipitate exodus to Palestine, disastrous though it was, may nevertheless be taken as a sign of the sound instinct in the heart of the people, which realize that it must have a fixed home. On the other hand, the great ideas of the eighteenth and the nineteenth century did not fail to leave their impress upon the Jewish people. We, too, feel our "manhood," and we no longer are Jews merely; we are also men, and we desire to live as men and form a nation like all other men.
But such consolation's are of little avail. Let us grant what is very doubtful, that the instinct of which he speaks exists among the masses, who are seeking the barest means of subsistence. It yet forms an extremely weak foundation for the vast structure he hopes to rear. For work of such magnitude the combined forces of all the "prominent men of the nation" are necessary. It is necessary, moreover, that a genuine desire to execute the work should fill the hearts of those able to execute it, of those who will not blindly follow whithersoever instinct leads them. But these "prominent men of the nation," "the sons of modern culture" who are animated by the ideas of the eighteenth and the nineteenth century, if they feel their manhood, have a long road to travel before they arrive at the point at which they feel also their Jewish nationality. "Sons of men," human beings, they are unmistakably, but not sons of their people. Even if they were to admit the justice of the author's logical plea, that being men it is incumbent upon us to desire to be a nation as others are, they might succeed in attaining to the point of realizing the necessity of the thing, but not in attaining to the point of feeling it, The result will be "merely a postulate of reason and logic," not "a spontaneous issue from feeling," We must desire-such is the bidding of logic. But what is to be done if in spite of logic no desire of the sort is generated ill us? Or, still worse, suppose other desires, actually living in our hearts oppose the desire we are endeavoring to create, and lead us to pervert the very laws of logic and prove that it is not at ail incumbent upon us to desire, that we are not even at liberty to desire?
This is what actually happened on the appearance of the book "The sons of modern culture" were not confounded by the force of Pinsker's language and of his logical deductions. On the contrary, since the publication of the brochure, they in turn have been busy adducing proofs, irrefutable in their opinion, to show the uselessness of such arguments, to demonstrate that the idea of self-emancipation is "a fleeting dream," a noxious poison deadly to modern culture.
Gradually, however, a class of Jews came to the fore who did not rest satisfied with thinking and investigating, They were of our own Jews, those on whom the sad logic of circumstances bad forced the realization and even the feeling, however temporary, of the necessity of a "safe retreat." Many of them owed to the Heder the "sound instinct" that made them insist there was but one land in the world, "the land of Israel!' These Jews began to occupy themselves with the colonization of Palestine, though after a fashion of their own-without previous investigation, without a well-defined policy, without order, without unity. Such work could not find favor with a man like Pinsker. Yet anything was better than to sit with hands folded like the occidental Jews. It is true, no heed was taken of his advice to send out an expedition composed of experts, who were to examine the land and determine whether it was the best possible spot for the realization of our aim. It is true, instead of a national board of directors, which was to control all affairs with insight and ability, a number of societies were formed, almost everyone with a program of its own all pursuing aims of its own. It is true, instead of a "national resolution," the movement could boast only of the enthusiasm of comparatively few, and those for the larger part the very poorest of the people, Nevertheless, in spite of all these shortcomings, Pinsker thought he discerned in the "'Hovevei Zion" faint signs at least of an inner desire for national life and national activity, That sufficed to attract a man like Pinsker to the "workers." With him to think was to act, and once having recognized that it is shamefu1 for our nation to depend idly upon others, he preferred to shake off disgrace through the help of small societies which were willing though not able, rather than continue to bear disgrace in the company of the "prominent," who are able though not willing.
Thus Pinsker became a "Lover of Zion," or rather, if the expression is permissible, a lover of the "Lovers of Zion," The author of "Auto-emancipation" saw dearly that words and logic were impotent to create a something out of nothing, and the movement for the colonization of Palestine appeared to him to be at least an embryonic something. To this he devoted himself with all his heart and energy, acting on the conviction that it would not be beyond the power of man to impose form and shape upon the longstanding chaos.
For about eight years Pinsker labored in the cause of the colonization of Palestine. As the years passed he gathered a rich harvest of experiences-bitter and depressing experiences. At every step insuperable obstacles presented themselves. Sparse in numbers and crippled in means, the colonies, established in hot haste, were not able to maintain themselves. They had constantly to be begging for support, and the "Lovers of Zion" in the Diaspora, who were never weary of prating about their ardent love for Zion, manifested it in vehement words against their adversaries instead of in clinking coin for the colonists. Far from generous in supplying the needs of the colonies, they were all the more lavish of advice and opinions. .In all that time, so far from changing their factional into a national movement, the "Lovers of Zion" did not even succeed in consolidating themselves into a single united party. All the days of Pinsker were excitement and grief. There was constant discord and nagging, constant strife among- the petty interests of individuals and societies. "Rotten!" Pinsker was in the habit of exclaiming. And he was right. On a small scale Palestine colonization revealed the same "rottenness" that corrupted the life of the nation as a whole. The weakness of a patient becomes apparent only when he arises from his couch and essays to stand on his feet.
In the last two years, after the "Hovevei Zion," with Pinsker as its official head, had become the "relief society," the state of affairs changed greatly. The so-called leaders in each community no longer could force themselves into authoritative positions, and do, or order others to do, their capricious pleasure. The chief was better equipped than before to safeguard the peace and order of the organization. Through this and other weightier reasons, the cause gained an accession of strength, carrying it forward with a sudden impetus. At first sight it might have seemed that, as almost all interested in it believed, the movement had taken possession of the people, and would continue to spread unhindered, soon to expand into a true "national resolution."
It was a dream of short duration. You all know what happened as well as I do. It has been made too clear for even the most fervid imagination to deny it, that success was precluded, on the one hand, by the outward obstacles in the land of Israel, and, on the other hand, by the spiritual decay in the people of Israel. What effect was all this bound to have on the author of "Auto-emancipation?" From the first the "land of Israel" had not been in Pinsker's view a condition indispensable to the execution of his idea, and as for the "Lovers of Zion," he had associated himself with them only because he believed them to be impelled by some sort of "national feeling." What could he do now since experience had demonstrated, that to put his plan into execution in Palestine would be a course hedged about with extreme difficulties, and, again, that the "Lovers of Zion," like the rest of the Jews, were "nothing but Jews ?" Could we have found it in our hearts to blame him, if at this juncture he had turned his back alike upon Zion and her "lovers," and had sought some other way of realizing his aim?
Nothing of the sort happened, however. In his latter days, it is true, he came to the conclusion, which he communicated to some of his friends, the present writer among them, that "the land of Israel was not fit to offer the Jews a safe retreat." Political conditions and the relation of the European peoples to Palestine would always put hindrances in our way. Nevertheless, it appeared that his eight years devoted to Palestine colonization had not been in vain. Though he felt that Palestine was unpromising as a "safe retreat," yet he did not, as he might have done earlier, advise its utter abandonment and betaking ourselves with our "holy treasures" to some other new country, to be chosen for the purpose. "Whatever betide, it is our duty," adds our late leader, "to aid and abet the cause of colonization in Palestine as much as lies in our power. In the land of Israel we can and we must establish a spiritual national center."
Colonization in the holy Land, not with the object of self-emancipation, but for the sake of establishing- a spiritual, national center! How had this idea entered his mind, an idea not hinted at in his brochure, one that has no connection with the plan unfolded there? So I seem to hear you ask wonderingly, and in all probability the consistent logicians among you will explain it as a mere "compromise" between complete despair on the one side and the labor of years on the other. As for myself, I find a much more recondite source for this new idea in his spiritual life.
This final proposition of his-that the plan of self-emancipation can relieve itself of the encumbrances connected with Palestine by seeking a "safe retreat" elsewhere-did not remove all obstacles. The inner "rottenness" remained in full force-a "psychic disorder" for which no remedy has yet turned up. What boots it to find us a: fit land, if we, the people, are not fit. "National feeling, whence shall we obtain it? "That words alone cannot create it out of nothing, had been made plain to him by the fate of his brochure; that even sacred associations fail to raise it to the requisite degree of warmth, he had learned from the results achieved by the "Lovers of Zion," Whence obtain the feeling, then? Where was there a visible, unfailing source of Jewish national feeling from which all sections of his scattered people might draw warmth and life, and whose waters would wash away the rottenness that was putrefying the whole body?
Such reflections lead up to the realization of our primary need, transcending in importance even the "national resolution," What we lack above all is a fixed spot to serve as a "national, spiritual center," a "safe retreat," not for the Jews, but for Judaism, for the spirit of our people. The establishing and development of such a center is to be the limited work of all the members of our nation wherever they may be scattered. Their common efforts are to effect the mutual approximation of those hitherto separated in space and spirit, and the visible center created by their limited striving is in turn to exert an influence upon every point at the periphery of the circle reviving the national spirit in all hearts, and strengthening the feeling of national kinship. Arrived at this stage, even if he has not, like Pinsker, been devoting days and years to the colonization of Palestine, the thinker cannot escape the next following thought, tile inevitable conclusion from his own mental processes-that only in the land of Israel we are able, and there we are compelled, to establish a national, spiritual center in this sense of the word.
This is my understanding of the "national will"-so Pinsker himself called it left by the author of "Auto-emancipation."
Here ends what I wanted to say about the views of our late leader, and I might fitly close my letter, were it that that the last question, of a spiritual center in Palestine, is in itself very precious to me, and appears to me worthy of more careful consideration. Do not be alarmed, gentle reader! From this point on I shall not afflict you with logical, or "philosophical," deductions, as our modern writers are in the habit of calling whatever is not actually perceptible to the senses. Experience long ago taught me that in our time these two distinct questions, the question of tile Jews and the question of Judaism, have been so entangled and confused with each other that mere arguments and logical proofs signally fail to convey to an ordinary mind the vast difference that exists between them, For instance, set yourself the task of proving that a certain solution is appropriate and valid for the one of the two questions but is totally inapplicable to the other. Your opponent will listen to you with attention, occasionally nodding his head by way of assent, as if he thoroughly understood the drift of your words. Presently he will interpose a "What you say is fine, but. ..." and to your amazement this "but" introduces all his former vagaries. He reverts to his old standpoint, and again proceeds to confuse and entangle the two questions as if you had not uttered a word. To discriminate clearly between them, we must picture an imaginary state of affairs, in which it will be easy to draw a line between tile two sets of interests, those affecting the Jews, and those affecting Judaism, all I ask of you is to include in a brief waking dream with me-surely not a great drain upon the powers of "Lovers of Zion,"" the banner-bearers of the future.
Well, then, we are dreaming.
And we dream that anti-Semitism has not made its appearance on earth, and the spread of humane ideas, so far from suffering let or hindrance, proceeds with assured success, The problem of the Jew has for some time been nothing more than an historical reminiscence, Israel dwells secure in every land, in the full enjoyment of the advantages of emancipation. So situated, the Jew naturally makes rapid strides forward in culture and outward assimilation. In a favorable state of affairs like this no one thinks of self-emancipation, unless the idea happens to occur to some fanciful dreamer of dreams, who forthwith earns the pitying contempt of his generation. But, on the other hand, many a heart is uneasily stirred by another question, the question of Judaism in its national aspect. The bond that has hitherto kept Israel a unit has suffered considerable weakening, and there is nothing to fortify it, not even the distress which craves the help of brethren. The customs of religion and of daily life have assumed a form peculiar to each portion of the globe, accommodating themselves to the general spirit prevailing there. The Hebrew language and its literature have well nigh vanished from the memory of Israel. Their last vestiges linger on in the liturgy for Sabbaths and festivals, and even that is not known everywhere. In short, being divided according to the lands and the nations of their sojourn, and each section of them having taken on a form corresponding to the spiritual make-up of tile nation of which it is a division, the Jews have stripped themselves wholly of all the distinctiveness of a people animated by a common spirit. Most of them have long left off felling the need of being distinctive. With tranquil mind they face the impending dissolution of their nationality. Here and there, however, there are men of strong feeling whose heart is heavy with grief and sorrow as they view the death agony of their nation-a great nation by reason of length of life at least and a. checkered history. They must needs seek means to fit the dismembered limbs together again and breathe into them the breath of life, After trying various expedients and succeeding with none, and proving to their own satisfaction that it is impossible to create a "Young Palestine" in the heart of Europe by means of researches into the Jewish past, the idea occurs to them to try "Old Palestine," the land of Israel's youth, which the Jews, no less than the other nations, continue to acknowledge as holy, and which, because it enjoys the respect of the other nations, the. Jews regard with a certain degree of national principle. This national bond, weak as it is, the nationalists consider a sufficiently strong basis for their efforts to establish national unity. It is a tangible reality, and it stands outside the circle of the civilized countries, so that all Jews are in a position to participate in the work which is to center about it, reciprocally exercising influence upon it and permitting themselves to be influenced by it. For this purpose they form, an international alliance, and they call it the "Society for the Promotion' of the Love of Zion."
The Society does not deem it advisable that its chief purpose, the unification of Israel, should be made a matter of public knowledge at once, at the beginning of its career. In the appeal addressed to all the scattered Jewish communities, it says: "Many thousands of our brethren settled in the land of our forefathers are living off the charity of others. Their disgrace is the disgrace of the whole house of Israel. How can we bear to see the soil of our ancestors cultivated by strangers, while we Jews, its tillers and guardians from aforetimes, who even now might till and guard it and enjoy the fruit of our labor- in it, are languishing there in poverty and idleness? How can we bear to see all other nations and' all other churches strive each one to establish itself firmly in Palestine, buy up the land piecemeal at any price, and build admirable asylums for their wayfarers and their sick, and well-equipped school-houses for their children, while we, who should have an interest in the land, not only on account of its holiness, but also because it was the cradle of our youth-while we Jews neglect it and make no effort to bring Judaism into prominence in its very own native land? In order to remove this stigma from Israel. we are founding the SOCIETY FOR THE PROMOTION OF THE LOVE OF ZION, whose aim is to extend the influence of Judaism in the Holy Land, and improve the material and moral condition of the Jews settled or about to settle there, by means of agricultural colonies, educational institutions, benevolent enterprises of all kinds, and by such other means as circumstances may dictate."
The founders of the Society being men of dignity and knowledge, who have intelligence and skill and use all needful care and foresight, they succeed in attracting many members from among the Jews living in the various countries of the Dispersion, as well as in collecting considerable means. Without delay the Society proceeds to execute its plans. It begins by founding agricultural colonies, settling them with the best of the young native Palestinian Jews, who are joined by robust and experienced men from elsewhere; by founding also a number of schools, religious, secular, agricultural, and technical; and in general by giving intelligent attention to whatever scheme may result in the elevation of Judaism and, its adherents in the Holy Land. All its undertakings are carried on in a spirit of true love for the people and the land, under the supervision of men equipped for the task, and according to well-considered plans, looking always to the ultimate and essential purpose of the Society.
A few years elapse, and the work of the Society is beginning to show results. Several Jewish colonies have been established, and they maintain themselves on a satisfactory basis. The colonists till their parcel of ground with love and eat their bread in joy. A number of the schools 'have succeeded in turning out a generation of well-bred pupils trained in the religion of their fathers as well as in the branches of secular knowledge and in their respective .trades and professions. And so in its various departments success has attended the efforts of the Society.
Throughout the Diaspora the news spreads that there are true Jewish farmers in the Holy Land-true farmers, who with their own hands plough and sow and reap, and true Jews, sterling men, who at eventide, when they come home from the fields, read and study, nor do they drink to excess. Jewish fanners in an age of complete emancipation! A rare, almost incredible phenomenon in the lands of the Diaspora! Is it remarkable, then, that a number of prominent Jews journey from their homes in the various countries of the Exile and go to Palestine to witness the wonder with their own eyes? And when they see this and more that has been accomplished by the Palestinian Jews, their hearts swell with deep love for the land of their fathers and for their brethren there, who by their normal, healthy life are glorifying the name of Israel in the sight of the other nations. No need to say that the visitors acknowledge their assistance to the Society, and, besides, some of them acquire fields and vineyards for themselves as an "everlasting memorial" in the Holy Land. The example set by the distinguished is followed by the rank and file, until it becomes customary for every Jew of any pretensions to respectability to consider it a duty and a privilege to he a member of the "Society for the Promotion of the Love of Zion," and now and then to pay visits to the Holy Land when he travels abroad for rest and diversion.
The young men who are raised in the schools of the Society take up temporary residence in the civilized countries, in accordance with its arrangement to send well-endowed pupils abroad to finish their education. And wonder of wonders! Here we have intelligent students, who are neither from Germany nor from France nor from any other European country, who are only Jews from Palestine, and care to be nothing else. They are masters of several languages, but their own language is the- ancient Hebrew, for the Society has made Hebrew the official language of its schools, to avoid all occasion for the display of jealousy among- the students, who, it is well known, even in the Holy Land are patriotic citizens of their respective countries and enthusiastic champions each of his own tongue. The German and the French and other students of the Mosaic faith, when they first hear, are amazed and inclined to make game of the Palestinians. But gradually they grow accustomed to the Hebrew, and in spite of themselves they begin to consider it a language, the peer of other languages. When they see their Christian companions pay respect to the venerable tongue in which the Holy Scriptures were written, they, too, the students of Mosaic faith, begin to remember and remind others, that Hebrew was the language of their forefathers in ancient times, and they end by being proud of it. Suddenly they even discover that its sound is sweet and pleasant, and they express a desire to study it. When this desire becomes general, there is no dearth of "native Hebrew teachers from Palestine," who are preferred to teachers of Hebrew hailing from other countries, as "native teachers" are preferred in the study of all living languages.
Seeing its work prosper, the Society resolves to extend the circle of its activities to include the field of languages and letters. First of all it founds a great and respectable journal, edited by accomplished specialists. Its columns are filled with notable articles on the land, its inhabitants, and its antiquities; on the position of the Jews in all countries of the world, their mode of life, their needs, etc. The paper acquires an enviable reputation among all Jews, and even the prominent European journals know it well, and quote it with due respect. The increase in readers brings about an increase in writers, and with the increase in expert writers increases also the number of good books in the Hebrew language, which appear in Palestine and are read with avidity in all the lands of the Dispersion. So Hebrew literature grows in quantity and, what is more important, in quality, too.
But why should I continue? In this style we might lengthen out our dream indefinitely. To sum up the whole matter: In the measure in which the work in Palestine develops and ripens, the number of interested participants grows in the other countries; and in the measure in which the number of participants grows, the work develops and ripens, and the more effective becomes its influence upon the Jews of the Diaspora.
A movement like this, having its origin in the problem of Judaism and not in the problem of the Jew, hence not receiving its impetus from outward accidental circumstances, is not subject to feverish, convulsive changes. It is a well-ordered movement, directed by inner, rational considerations. It does not make its way hurriedly, precipitately, nor call into requisition hollow phrases and extravagant language that intoxicate the crowd and confuse the minds of the young. It develops gradually and in tranquil peace, without sudden leaps and bounds forward or backward. Finally, after the lapse of several generations, it attains to the desired end: In Palestine there exists a "national, spiritual center" for Judaism, a center beloved of all the people and dear to it, serving to unify the nation and fuse it into one body; a center for the law and the science, for language and literature, for physical labor and spiritual elevation; a miniature representation of what the Jewish people ought to be. All this accomplished the Jew living in the Diaspora deems upon himself fortunate if once in his life he is permitted to look upon "the center of Judaism" with his own eyes. When he returns to his home he says to his neighbor: "You desire to see the type of the full statured Jew, be he Rabbi, scholar, or writer, be he peasant, artisan, or tradesman? Then go to Palestine, w here you will behold him."
We are awake again and we see life as it is, vastly different from our dream picture. The old "psychic disorder" rages virulently in Europe, and the problem of the Jews with all it implies occupies minds and hearts, leaving no room for the problem of Judaism which clamors for a solution with equal impatience. The most distinguished representatives of the Jewish people hold meetings upon meetings, to determine what to do about the Jews, where to find' a land fit to be a "safe retreat" for them. The "Lovers of Zion" withdraw to their tents in high dudgeon. "What land!" they exclaim. "Foolish question! Palestine of course." Pitched over against them is the great camp of the "sons of modern culture," who again and again remind their adversaries of the "outward obstacles" connected with Palestine, obstacles existing as much in their imagination as in rea1ity, and strenuously seek to banish the faintest recollection of the Holy Land from their memory. But, lo! Here comes the author of "Auto-emancipation;" He stands between the two camps, and he says: "You are both right! The land of Israel cannot be a safe retreat for Jews, but it can be, and it should be made, a safe retreat for Judaism."
Now, then, what is our choice: Palestine for Judaism or for the Jews?
How fortunate it were if we could reply: "For both together, for the people of Israel." With a heavy heart we are forced to admit that the time has not arrived for this answer, not only on account of the "outward obstacles," but still more on account of the inner obstacles, for not yet are we a people, we are still "only Jews."
And so the question remains: For Jews or for Judaism?
The "Lovers of Zion" shut their eyes to what is going on without and within, so their reply is: "For the Jews, come what may!" The author of "Auto-emancipation," seeing at first only what was happening without, replied: "Not for the Jews" then, looking- again and seeing also what was happening within, he added: "but for Judaism." We, however, whose vision is directed first and foremost toward what is going on within, we set the Palestine Judaism of our dream and its work over against the Palestine Jews of our waking sight and their works, and we reply: "For Judaism first, and for the Jews in days to come, when they shall have left off being 'only Jews.' "
When that comes to pass, when Judaism shall have returned to its source, and the Jews, wherever they live in the Dispersion, no matter how safe their retreat, shall turn in loving thought not only to the Jerusalem of the past and the future, but also to the Jerusalem of their own day; then it will no longer be necessary for wise men like Pinsker to urge the idea of self-emancipation by means of logical arguments. The idea will spring up of its own accord, as an "immediate, spontaneous issue from feeling," from the feeling of love for Judaism and for its land. .Once this idea flows naturally from the heart, once it no longer is merely a "postulate of reason and logic," there will be no shrinking back from "outward obstacles." Plans and means will be devised to remove them, and if plan and means are sought after as they should be, with knowledge and the requisite patience, the day will come on which they will be found.
"But," I hear you object, "how long the road you tell of, how distant the hope you hold out!"
True, my brethren, "distant, very distant is the port our souls seek. But no road, however long, may seem too long to the wanderer of thousands of years."
These precious words of the author or "Auto-emancipation," which I have placed at the head of my letter in their original German setting, ought to be emblazoned upon our banner in letters of gold.
Sources: Zionism and Israel Information Center, This article was originally translated from the Hebrew by Leon Simon in 1912, for the Jewish Publication Society of America. This adaptation corrects and modernizes the text.