We really cannot see why these unhappy and unfortunate Jews who have been flying from Russia to this country, who are now excluded from our ports by the bars raised against immigration, who cannot find a country in Europe that will let them live in it, who have failed in their attempts to form colonies in South America, who have searched vainly all over the world for a part of it in which they will be welcomed, should not look to the land of their forefathers, Palestine, and should not seek to repeople that land, in the hope that the power of their race will be revived as it existed in ancient times when Jerusalem was in its glory.
The idea that this restoration might be accomplished was entertained by the late Mr. Laurence Oliphant, a diplomatist, publicist, traveler and author, a true friend of the Jewish people, a scholar who knew Palestine and its resources, and the race that once inhabited it, and its rulers, and the governmental system under which it exists. Mr. Oliphant was never able to carry out the Palestinian project which he devised, but even after he gave it up and came to this country he brooded over it, and maintained that it was practicable.
We are familiar with the arguments that disfavor the Jewish colonization of Palestine in this age of the world. We know that many attempts to establish Jewish colonies there have failed. We are aware that the Turkish Government has been averse to all the colonizing projects for which its grace has been invoked. We are fully conscious of the facts that Palestine has lost many of the attractions which it formerly possessed; that much of its once fertile soil has been reduced to sterility; that the few petty old cities in it are shriveled and poverty stricken; that the people by which it is inhabited are opposed to the incoming of a multitude of Jews; and that the administration of its affairs by the functionaries of the Turkish Government is not in accord with the desires of the pious and able Sultan of Turkey.
These things are true, yet they need not dishearten Baron de Hirsch, who, on account of the suspension of immigration to this country, is again looking toward Palestine as a possible home for the millions of Jews of the Russian exodus.
Palestine itself yet stands, and it still has its old-time hills, valleys and plains, its brooks, [R1465 : page 329] rivers and lakes. The country is redeemable, and it has in some respects better prospects in these times than it has had at any other time since the fall of Jerusalem. Its climate is the same as it was when Moses started out from Egypt to occupy it. Its soil, though impoverished by centuries of neglect, can be improved by modern scientific appliances. Grain and fruit can yet be grown in its fields; sheep and hoofed beasts can yet find grass in its pasture lands; fish can yet be bred in its waters; its cities can be rebuilt and made fit for merchants and all manner of workers; its trade with the sea-coast and with distant countries can be revived and made more extensive and advantageous than it was in ancient times.
Capital can work wonders in Palestine, capital that is now in Jewish hands. Were a tithe of the enormous amount of money owned by the Jews of Europe invested in Palestine, and used there with Jewish shrewdness and energy, the country might be transformed within a brief generation. A short time ago, the Jewish millionaire, Baron de Hirsch, announced his readiness to expend $100,000,000 in the execution of his project for the removal of the four million Jews of Russia to some other country; and he had begun to carry out that project this year by transporting 25,000 of them to the United States, when we were compelled by the approach of the cholera to put a stop to immigration. It is under these circumstances that he has once more taken up the thought of Palestine, upon which, some years ago, his mind was set. Other Jewish millionaires, among whom we may name Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Sir S. Montefiore and M. Lazar Brodski, have expressed their desire to co-operate with him, and they have it in their power to furnish all the capital required for the development of the manifold resources of Palestine. At this very time capitalists are making investments there far greater than any that have ever before been made. The railroad line from Jaffa to Jerusalem, which has been built by a French company, and which will this week be open for business, is but one of several railroad enterprises in Palestine, the most important of which is perhaps the line already begun between Haifa and Damascus. The influence of the new Jaffa-Jerusalem line upon the region which it traverses, and the cities which it unites, has already been marked. Population is increasing there, and many hundreds of new houses are now building. We learn through a letter from Jerusalem that about 600 residences and shops are in course of construction outside the city walls, and that the city itself, which had but 30,000 inhabitants six years ago, has now nearly 80,000, or more than it has had at any past period since the times of Titus.
The Turkish Government has recently adopted measures favorable to the repeopling of Palestine by the Jewish race. Jewish colonists can now obtain, upon easy terms, proprietary rights in those agricultural settlements that have been turned over to them, and they are at liberty to build houses upon the lots which they may be able to procure. The price of good farming lands in Galilee, which will soon be traversed by the Haifa-Damascus Railroad, is from $10 to $15 per acre, and a farmhouse can be built for $600 or $800, while laborers who will not work very hard can be hired for low wages.
The greater number of Jews now taking up their abode in Palestine are from Russia; and several millions of Russian Jews are ready to go there, in case Baron de Hirsch and his compatriots can find no more desirable place for them.
A writer in the Hebrew Journal of this city gives some account of the new Palestinian movement. He says that the Jews who have been praying through the centuries for the "restoration" are now trying to bring it about by natural means; that the desire of the Russian Jews for it is overwhelming; that they are raising funds for the establishment of colonies; and that the "Palestinian propaganda" is sustained by the great body of the orthodox rabbis, including Chief Rabbi Joseph of this city.
There are now in the world more than ten million Jews, about three-quarters of whom are in Russia, Poland, the Balkan States, and Turkey. If the movement toward Palestine should get the impulse that the Hirsch committee is able to give it, an imaginative person can conceive [R1465 : page 330] of the country's doubling or trebling its Jewish population before the close of our century, and of its having a larger Jewish population fifty years hence than it had in ancient times, when its census ran up to three millions.
"Father, glorify Thy name!"
Is my humble prayer,
Not because in all Thy joys
I may have a share;
But because my love for Thee
Has grown deeper, Lord,
I would have Thy blessed name
By all hearts adored.
"Father, glorify Thy name!"
Is my earnest prayer.
It may cost me keenest pain
Yet, O Lord, I dare
To uplift this fervent plea,
And the answer claim:
Though it mean the cross for me,
Glorify Thy name!
"Father, glorify Thy name!"
Is my constant prayer;
I have nought to dread or fear
Thou hast all my care.
Death can be but gain to me,
E'en a death of shame:
Father, grant my humble prayer,
Glorify Thy name!
F. G. BURROUGHS.