Translation of an article
to be published
in Ma'ariv on May 08, 2000
HERZL DIDN'T DREAM OF IT
Columbus sailed to
find a way to India. He did not dream of discovering a new continent.
Karl Marx wanted to create a humane, egalitarian and just society, and
did not dream of Stalin and the Gulag. Theodor Herzl, the founder of
Zionism, dreamed of an ideal Judenstaat, and not of the State of Israel
that exists today, the one that is about to celebrate its 52th birthday.
Herzl scorned the idea of resurrecting
the Hebrew language. He ignored the existence of the native people of
Palestine, as well as the existence of Oriental Jewry. He vowed to keep the
rabbis in their synagogues and the army officers in their camps. If he would
rise from the dead this week, he would be surprised, and perhaps shocked.
Indeed, if we, the generation of 1948,
the founders of the state, had been told 52 years ago what would happen in
our state in the year 2000, we would have been surprised, perhaps shocked.
We could not have dreamed that a huge
Haredi (orthodox) camp would come into being and that the state would dance
to its tune. In 1948, the Haredim were a tiny, negligible and scorned
minority. The other religious Jews, too, were then but a marginal, tolerated
minority. Everybody knew that the Haredim had violently fought against
Zionism, and that all the great rabbis of his day - both Hassidim and
anti-Hassidim - had denounced and cursed Herzl and his followers.
David Ben-Gurion, the man who laid the
rails on which the state is rolling until this very day, has given the
Haredim many "presents" (exemption from the draft, independent schools
etc.). This generosity stemmed from the belief that the religious Jews posed
only a temporary problem, that this irritation would disappear in time by
itself. Indeed, we all thought so. In our eyes, Jewish religion was a matter
for old people. The old ones would die and the problem would go away. After
all, it was unthinkable that healthy young people would become religious,
not to mention Haredim.
This disdain is bearing bitter fruit
now. Who did dream that Ben-Gurion's presents would resurrect the
religious-Haredi community, and in a much more extreme,
nationalist-Kabbalist-aggressive mould to booth, changing the very face of
The disdain for the Palestinian people
prevented any serious attempt at achieving peace. Peace looked like a
marginal matter, not worth attaining at the price of the return of even a
hundred thousand refugees. Not to mention the recognition of the
Palestinians as a nation and agreeing to the setting up of a Palestinian
state next to Israel (as provided for by the UN resolution). As a result,
the war goes on to this very day. Not only were the army officers not kept
in their camps, as Herzl had decreed, but they became a decisive factor in
the state. Only last week we saw how he officers-in-uniform dictate policy
to the officers-out-of-uniform who dominate the government.
We did not dream that on the 52th
anniversary, the state would live in the shadow of the rift between
Ashkenasi and Oriental Jews. In Herzl's time, Europe was the center of
Jewry. Even in his most dreadful nightmares, he did not dream of a
Holocaust, that would destroy most of European Jewry. Zionism was an
Here, in the country, on the eve of the
founding of Israel, "Sephardis" were a small minority (even if most of the
rich belong to this community). We did not see a problem. We were convinced
that Ashkenasis and Sephardis would marry each other, that the differences
would disappear, that the New Israeli would be free from all this nonsense.
Therefore, the new state was not
psychologically prepared for the absorption of great masses of Jews from the
Islamic countries. Grievous mistakes were made, not out of bad will but
(worse) out of contempt, arrogance and ignorance.
At the end of his days, Herzl came to
realize that there is a people in Palestine. In his last book, "Altneuland"
(Old-New-Country), he produced a decorative Arab, who lauds the Jews for
their wonderful treatment. When Beh-Gurion (after a stormy but secret
debate) decided to give the Arab inhabitants of Israel citizenship and the
right to vote, he did not dream of Muhammad Barakeh, Azmi Bishara and Ahmad
Tibi. By the end of its 52th year, the state has not yet faced the fact the
every fifth Israeli is a Palestinian Arab.
All these rifts and gaps are clouding
the horizon of Israel at the beginning of its 53th year. But the
state exists and has a strong, solid foundation. Contrary to the vision of
Marx, which broke down and was disproved by reality, the vision of Herzl is
alive and kicking.
Columbus made a great mistake but
discovered America. Herzl made many mistakes, but the State of Israel is
there. Our next task is to turn Israel into a state in which we can live and
of which we can be proud: to correct the mistakes, eliminate the injustices,
overcome the rifts, achieve peace with the Palestinian nation and set up a
modern, progressive, secular and democratic society.
For this, the famous motto of Herzl can
still serve us: "If you want it, it is no fairy tale!"
the Settlement Special]