Jerusalem Freed from the Moselm Yoke
The Reconquest of the Holy City by Christian Soldiers after Seven Centuries of Moslem Misrule Thrills the World and Renews Hopes of a Jewish Homeland
[Current Opinion, January 1918]
Since the news from the Battle of the Marne reassured an imperiled civilization, no event of the world war has had such power to stir the imagination, it would seem, as the announcement that General Allenby and a British army are in possession of Jerusalem. Whether regarded from a romantic and religious point of view, or in the light of its military significance, or as a prophecy of a coming Zionist nation, the new status of the Holy City is bound to exert an influence that will be felt to the ends of the earth. Jerusalem has been the fountain-head of three world-religions—the Jewish, the Christian and the Mohammedan. "If Athens,' says the New York Globe, "stands for beauty, Rome for power, the Holy City bespeaks the deeper things of the heart-—of the mystic and ineffable puissance whose purposes join together all history." Since the days when David, the poet-king, fought the Jebusites for possession of the city, it has been the prize and prey of half the races of the world. It has passed successively into the hands of Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Arabs, Turks, the motley crowds of the Crusaders, finally to fall before the descendants of that Richard the Lion-hearted, who strove for it in vain more than seven hundred years ago. The reconquest of Jerusalem at the present time is to Christendom, according to the New York Evening Sun, "what the finding of the magic cup or ring was to the paladin of fable. It is the talisman of victory." The New York World adds: "For the Entente Allies, the 'fall' of Jerusalem, which is in fact its rise to freedom, will be an immense incentive to further effort."
Moral and Military Significance of the Capture of Jerusalem.
When Bagdad fell, the German dream of "Berlin to Bagdad" received a staggering blow. When Jerusalem fell, another towering German ambition was checkmated. It will be recalled that nineteen years ago the Kaiser visited Jerusalem and made dramatic entry through a special aperture in the old wall of the city. There is still in Zion his statue in crusader armor. There is also in Stamboul a memorial of "Hadji" Wilhelm's visit. He wanted to be known as the "Protector" of the millions of Moslems in Palestine and in Asia Minor. But, since the war, his influence, it is believed, has steadily declined. "To the Young Turks," remarks the New York Evening Post, "the fall of Jerusalem brings incalculable impairment of prestige. They will appear to the average Turk now as easy dupes in the hands of the Germans. Teutonic victory in France, Italy or Russia can only intensify the conviction that Turkey has been, used and exploited by the Kaiser." The Christian Science Monitor, of Boston, comments in similar vein.
Is Palestine to Become a Jewish State?
Now that Jerusalem has passed into the hands of the British, the recent words of Arthur James Balfour, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, addressed to Lord Walter Lionel Rothschild, Vice-President of the English Zionist organization, assume wide reaching significance. Mr. Balfour said: "His Majesty's Government views with favor 'the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use its best endeavor 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." These words make it clear that the Jews of the world are to be offered an opportunity to create a homeland in Palestine. It must not be forgotten, as the Boston Transcript points out, that the conditional promise made by the British Government carries with it no assurance of Jewish governmental autonomy in Palestine. National autonomy implies the existence or establishment of a distinct and preponderant population of a certain national type. There is as yet no such Jewish population in Palestine, the people there being predominantly Mussulman and Christian. Nevertheless, with forty Jewish self-governing villages and a population of some 15,000 already established in Palestine, Zionism may be said, for the first time, to have outgrown its Utopian phase. As the Jewish-Morning Journal (New York) puts it:
"The question of the return of a part of the Jews to our old home with the consent and encouragement, of the greatest allied powers of modern times has been brought into the sphere of practical politics, and the beginning of a natural deliverance has become as much a probability for the near future as the rehabilitation of devastated Belgium or the reconstitution of the destroyed kingdom of Serbia."
"We would have been doubtful and, perhaps, uneasy about any other power; but with England we are safe."
The Nearing Realization of an Age-Old Dream.
The full significance of the British offer of Palestine as a Jewish homeland can hardly break through the clouds of war. Its importance will become clearer a few years hence, when the stream of Jewish migration begins to flow towards Palestine. In the meantime, organization with a view of taking advantage of the British offer after the war is uniting Jewry on an unprecedented scale. The English Rothschilds and Israel Zangwill are leading the movement in London. The French Rothschilds and Max Nordau are a part of it in Paris. In New York, Nathan Straus, Jacob Schiff and Henry Morgenthau are in its ranks. Justice Brandeis is its apostle in Boston, and in Chicago the large influence and the mighty fortune of Julius Rosenwald are generously behind the movement. Even those who, like Mr. Schiff, favor the establishment in Palestine of a Jewish cultural center rather than of a Jewish nation, are keenly alive to the quickening value of the Zionist ideal. Mr. Morgenthau has lately pointed out (in a letter to the New York Times) that Jews who have not the slightest intention of surrendering their citizenship in the countries where their children are to live and work will still wish to have a share in the preservation and development of a free Jewish Palestine. Many American Jewish papers sound the same note. The American Hebrew, edited by Herman Bernstein, becomes almost lyrical in contemplation of the great changes impending. "The dream of Israel since the dispersion," it says, "is nearing realization. The ancient land of the Jewish people is to become once more the national homeland of the Jewish people. The land, where our grandfathers died, where our prophets lived and radiated inspiration throughout the world, is to be regenerated by the new spirit of Israel." One of the results of the capture of Jerusalem, it is -predicted, will be a new era of archeological discovery and a flood of light on Christian origins, The Turkish Government has permitted practically no excavations and research. Now the ban is lifted. We are to know far more than we now know concerning Jesus Christ and his life on earth.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald