In the Shadow of Zion

In the Shadow of Zion: Promised Lands Before Israel

Adam Rovner
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    In the Shadow of Zion
    Book Description:

    From the late nineteenth century through the post-Holocaust era, the world was divided between countries that tried to expel their Jewish populations and those that refused to let them in. The plight of these traumatized refugees inspired numerous proposals for Jewish states. Jews and Christians, authors and adventurers, politicians and playwrights, and rabbis and revolutionaries all worked to carve out autonomous Jewish territories in remote and often hostile locations across the globe. The would-be founding fathers of these imaginary Zions dispatched scientific expeditions to far-flung regions and filed reports on the dream states they planned to create. But only Israel emerged from dream to reality. Israel's successful foundation has long obscured the fact that eminent Jewish figures, including Zionism's prophet, Theodor Herzl, seriously considered establishing enclaves beyond the Middle East.

    In the Shadow of Zionbrings to life the amazing true stories of six exotic visions of a Jewish national home outside of the biblical land of Israel. It is the only book to detail the connections between these schemes, which in turn explain the trajectory of modern Zionism. A gripping narrative drawn from archives the world over,In the Shadow of Zionrecovers the mostly forgotten history of the Jewish territorialist movement, and the stories of the fascinating but now obscure figures who championed it.

    Provocative, thoroughly researched, and written to appeal to a broad audience,In the Shadow of Zionoffers a timely perspective on Jewish power and powerlessness.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-0457-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature, Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-xii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  4. Introduction: They Say There Is a Land …
    (pp. 1-13)

    The great Hebrew poet and translator Shaul Tchernichovsky sat aboard an electric tram as it rattled through Berlin’s busy streets in 1923. Overhead the wires sent a hum through the crowded car. He stared out the window at the cityscape and smoothed his walrus moustache with his fingers. A child of the countryside, Tchernichovsky first gained renown as a Romantic poet of the natural world. While industrialized Weimar Berlin flickered past him, he was shot through with a longing for another place, for another landscape. Inspiration creased the author’s brow and he cast a wild-eyed glance from right to left...

  5. 1 Noah’s Ark on the Niagara: Grand Island, New York (1818–1848)
    (pp. 15-43)

    In the spring of 1818, steamboats ferried passengers from the sleepy village of Brooklyn to Manhattan, the young American republic’s largest city and home to approximately one hundred thousand people. Among them were fewer than five hundred Jews.¹ Most of these souls could be accommodated in the city’s only Jewish house of worship, Congregation Shearith Israel’s Mill Street Synagogue, which was enlarged and dedicated on April 17, 1818. The featured speaker at the ceremonies that Friday was journalist, former diplomat, playwright, and political bulldog Mordecai Manuel Noah. The thirty-two-year-old Noah was a “stout … gentleman, with sandy hair, a large...

  6. 2 Greetings from the Promised Land: Uasin Gishu, East Africa (1903–1905)
    (pp. 45-77)

    European Jews swayed and prayed for Zion for nearly two millennia, and by the end of the nineteenth century their descendants had transformed liturgical longing into a political movement to create a Jewish national entity somewhere in the world. Zionism’s prophet, Theodor Herzl, considered Argentina,¹ Cyprus,² Mesopotamia,³ Mozambique,⁴ and the Sinai Peninsula⁵ as potential Jewish homelands. It took nearly a decade for Zionism to exclusively concentrate its spiritual yearning on the spatial coordinates of Ottoman Palestine. But even before the early pioneers set foot on Israel’s shores, the European lands of their birth had first to be imagined as sites...

  7. 3 Angolan Zion: Benguela Plateau (1907–1914)
    (pp. 79-115)

    The Seventh Zionist Congress convened in Basel’s Stadt Casino on July 27, 1905, in the shadow of Herzl’s death. A black band of mourning cut across the edge of the blue-and-white Zionist flag which hung at the front of the hall between imposing marble columns. Herzl’s portrait peered down at the assembled delegates as Max Nordau took center stage to open the Congress.¹ On the left of the dais sat those who identified with the territorialists, on the right those who rejected the “Uganda” plan, theTzioney Tzion(Zionists of Zion).² Nordau’s moving eulogy for Herzl briefly united the delegates...

  8. 4 The Lost Jewish Continent: Madagascar (1933–1942)
    (pp. 117-147)

    One warm spring evening in 1913, the Galician-born agronomist Salomon (Shlomo) Dyk sat on the porch of his wooden shack in Merchavia, the struggling Zionist cooperative he managed in the Jezreel Valley.¹ Before he had time to relax from the day’s labor, a shot rang out over the nearby fields.² Dyk dashed inside to grab his Mauser pistol, shoved a Browning automatic into his belt, pocketed several loaded magazines, and raced in the direction of the gunshot, firing his pistol as he ran.³ A witness who had just changed into his nightclothes recorded the scene and later hailed Dyk as...

  9. 5 New Jerusalem, Down Under: Port Davey, Tasmania (1940–1945)
    (pp. 149-181)

    In 1933, a clean-shaven forty-year-old Yiddish writer left his home in Poland to travel alone through the Australian continent’s vast emptiness.¹ His wife and two young children remained behind in Warsaw. In the outback, the urbane author wore his trousers held high above his waist by suspenders, a pith helmet tilted rakishly against the sun, and kangaroo-skin boots.² He kicked his way through the dusty lanes of an Aboriginal reserve one morning and there encountered a “full-blooded black boy”³ who begged him for candy. Perhaps thinking of his own son a world away, the man swept the child up in...

  10. 6 Welcome to the Jungle: Suriname (1938–1948)
    (pp. 183-218)

    Representatives from fifty nations attended the 1945 San Francisco conference that formally established the United Nations. Now in the U.S., Steinberg presented a memorandum that recounted territorialism’s failed efforts to these delegates. He recalled Zangwill’s support for a Jewish state in East Africa, French minister Marius Moutet’s endorsement of mass settlement in Madagascar, and the Freeland League’s own recent negotiations for colonization in the Kimberley and southwest Tasmania.¹ The document explained that the League’s principal mission was to “preserve for the future the Jewishcommunity, the historic continuity of its ideals and beliefs.”² This noble purpose, he declared, “requires a...

  11. Epilogue: Go to Uganda
    (pp. 219-228)

    In the summer of 2013, bullying wall posters appeared overnight across Jerusalem’s fervently orthodox—haredi—neighborhoods. This was nothing out of the ordinary. These broadsides, known aspashkvilim, are a familiar part of the landscape ofharedilife. Hastily pasted on walls along busy streets to communicate their messages to passersby,pashkvilimare ephemera, destined to be defaced or covered over. They are typically printed in stark black lettering against a white background, and often take the form of admonitions against such dangers as the Internet, immodest dress, or lax Sabbath observance. But these particularpashkvilimwere notable because they...

    (pp. 229-232)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 233-294)
    (pp. 295-316)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 317-322)
    (pp. 323-323)