Page 181 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 11 (1952-1952)

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upon the service of God, its workmen and artisans engaged in all
the various crafts, its judges watched over virtue and justice, its
overseers directed the many trades and occupations. But when
danger threatened, the peasant left his plow, the artisan put aside
his tools, the judge descended from his bench, the priest forsook
the sanctuary. All rose up as one man and went forth to defend
hearth and home, God and fatherland. What a contrast between
the vision of a Jewish people battling with the Holy One of Israel
for Zion against the hordes of Sennacherib and the reality of
enduring hardships for the realm of Nicholas I or of going forth
as unwilling conscripts to oppose the Turks, French and English
at Sevastopol and Balaklava!
After reading Mapu, the longing for a homecoming to Zion
became almost unbearable and yet this longing could at first find
no more fruitful expression than in dreams and prayers, in tears
of lamentation and folksongs of plaintive melancholy.
When the pogroms of 1881, however, forced the Jews of Russia
to contemplate flight from their ruined homes, when indeed the
Czarist regime of Alexander III encouraged mass emigration as
a desirable means of getting rid of Russia’s unwanted Jews, then
the seeds planted by the Dreamers of Zion ripened into deeds.
Though reason might have dictated westward migration to the
New World of America as the preferred solution, the heart that
had been nourished by Mapu’s novels and the imagination
that had been set aflame by Mapu’s visions of the grandeur of
Zion disregarded all practical considerations and began the east-
ward migration towards the Holy Land.
The dreams of
Ahavas Zion
matured into the thoughts of the
Hoveve Zion
and the heroic acts of the
The century
since the publication of Mapu’s novel saw the transformation of
a Utopian vision into a living reality. I t witnessed the rebirth
of Israel. In the vales of Sharon, along the slopes of Mt. Carmel,
and in the hills of Galilee, school children, whose native tongue
is reborn Hebrew, still read of the love of Amnon and Tamar, of
Theman and Penina, and nod assent to Mapu’s conclusion that
hope smiles from heaven upon the brave and that deliverance
springs up from the earth for the resolute.