Don Silverberg is a physician who gives enthusiastic and informative lectures at AACI Netanya about the history of Israel. His latest was entitled, “The amazing jig-saw puzzle that created Israel.” He mentioned the web-site Zionism101.org as a very useful historical source. Don firmly believes that “man creates history” rather than vice versa, and he described the contribution of many individuals, often unknown, whose actions led eventually to the establishment of the Jewish State.
He has previously described how Isaac Kligler eradicated malaria from Palestine in 1922, the first place in the world where that was accomplished (see IsBlog 11/1/15), that enabled the further settlement of the land. He also mentioned the Jerusalem ophthalmologist Dr. Avraham Ticho, the husband of the famous artist Anna Ticho, who in the 1910’s with his colleagues eradicated trachoma, a blindness that was endemic to Palestine.
Don mentioned the contribution of important Christian Zionists who facilitated the return of the Jews to Zion, including Lord Arthur Balfour, who was a devout Bible scholar as well as being the British FM. Although he formulated the important Balfour Declaration, the British Government solicited US approval before actually publishing it. Pres. Wilson held off his response for months, but then read a book by an American Christian Zionist William Blackstone, who he invited to the White House, and then signed the letter giving his support to the Balfour Declaration, which was subsequently published by the British Government in Nov 1917.
The first settlement established in central Israel in 1882 was Rishon L’Zion (literally “First in Zion”). They dug wells, but could not find enough water. So they sent one of their members to Rabbi Mohilever a religious Zionist in Paris, who was the Hebrew teacher of the Rothschilds to ask for help. The Roshschilds helped them and became major benefactors of the settlement activities of Jews in the Holy Land. The town of Zichron Yaakov founded in 1882 is named after Yaakov Rothschild, the father of the donor, Edmond James de Rothschild, known as “HaNadiv” the Benefactor, who is buried with his wife in a magnificent garden (Ramat Hanadiv) nearby. In Rehovot you can visit the site of the first orange plantation which resulted from the digging of a huge well by Zalman Minkov in 1904 with the installation of a pump, that still works today. Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief Rabbi of Palestine under the British, was not only one of the few religious Zionists, he founded the movement called modern Orthodoxy in Israel and the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, that is still very influential.
Berl Katznelson was a Jewish socialist leader who made aliyah in 1910 and became one of the leaders of the Zionist enterprise. He was responsible for the founding of the Histadrut, the main Union in Israel, the Hamashbir Department stores that sold affordable goods, and the Kupat Holim (Sick Fund) the medical system in Israel. He was one of the founders of the Israel Labor Party (then Mapai) and was editor of its newspaper Davar. He was very anti-Communist and it is he who we must thank for preventing Israel going Communist. He favored tradition and was responsible for the Labor Party, although socialist, also remaining traditionally Jewish.
James McDonald was an extraordinary friend of Israel. In 1946 he was appointed by Pres. Truman to a Joint Committee consisting of 6 US and 6 British reps to decide whether or not to allow Jewish survivors in Europe to emigrate to Palestine. He was the only one who supported their right to move to Palestine. Finally the Committee agreed to allow 100,000 Jews to move there, but the British FM Ernest Bevin vetoed it. The problem was then given to the UN that voted to establish the Jewish State. McDonald became the first US Ambassador to Israel.
At the UN the votes were very close, but on the Friday when the vote on Partition was due to take place the Jews were 8 votes short. The Jewish reps held up the vote by a filibuster so that they had the long weekend to try to get those votes. During that crucial weekend they managed to persuade the Philippines, Haiti and Liberia to support them, but they needed more. They approached a man named Sam Zemurray, also known as “the banana man.” Sam was a Jewish kid on the Gulf coast of the US who found good ripe bananas washed up on the beaches, that had been thrown overboard by the shipping companies because they needed only green bananas. He collected the bananas and began to sell them, eventually he made a fortune and established a company in S. America that bought up rights to bananas and eventually he became Chairman of United Fruit Company, the biggest importer of fruit into the USA. The Palestinian Jews asked him to help them with the S. American countries, where he had massive influence. He did, and practically all the Central and S. American countries voted for partition and the establishment of the State.
These are only some of the people and occurrences that led to the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel. In this account history is seen as the result of the arbitrary interaction of extraordinary individuals.