The History of a Nation
Theodor Herzel, 1901, in front of the 5th Zionist congress-
“Less than one year ago, Sultan Hamid II, of Turkey, told me that he would rather be penetrated by iron than seeing Palestine lost! Let me tell you, I will not be the one to call our people to arms against the Arabs! This obviously means that we aren’t getting a shred of land in the Middle East any time soon. I talked to the British, however, and they have an option. They have offered, as a Jewish homeland, a large portion of northern Uganda. Now, my fellows, the Jews need a place- for protection. There are growing tides of Anti- Semitism in this world, if the pogroms are any proof. This place can act as a home away from home, a temporary shelter for our people in waiting for Palestine. My friends- do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed! This land will be a makeshift bunker for our people, in preparation for the liberation of Israel! My fellows, whom ever are with me, vote with me! Whoever wishes for a future for his people, vote to purchase Hebrew Uganda!”
Theodor was a Hungarian Jew, the founder of modern Zionism, and a great speaker. This speech reverberated around the world. The Zionist congress voted to fund the purchase of the land from the British. But at this time in history, the congress was a poor organization. Herzl gave a worldwide call for Jew and Gentile alike to help. The governments of Poland and the United States felt compelled to give huge grants to buy the land of Hebrew Uganda, along with thousands of private donations from around the world. And so it was that all of the land was bought by 1906, and Hebrew Uganda had gained independence from Britain by 1911. Though this new country was not welcomed by all, thousands of Jewish pilgrims flocked to their new haven. Under the leadership of Herzl, the country started to thrive.
The native peoples of this land had been abused and taken advantage of from the beginning of their colonial history. With the arrival of the Jews, a haven of protection was created for them, too. Although it was a non-secular state, the natives were treated as equal citizens, and there were influxes of Africans from the surrounding areas seeking freedoms and equality. Many were also willingly converted to Judaism.
When WWI broke out in 1914, Uganda joined the Allies, gaining the Western portion of German East Africa (Tanzania) in the peace treaties. In 1922, Britain thought it saw a way to gain some quick territory and staked a new claim upon Uganda, declaring war and sending in an army of almost 35,000 men, easily outnumbering the poorly armed Jews more than five to one. The native peoples, however, led by young Maasai chief Lekoche Maimai, intervened on the side of the Jews. They repelled a British invasion, then pushed them North into Sudan, gaining a region north of the Hebrew lands.
A series of wars with Belgium in 1925 and 1927 gave Uganda ownership of the regions of Rwanda and Burundi. In 1934, another unprovoked war was declared on them by Britain. Again outnumbered and after initial losses, the Jewish and native forces trapped the bulk of the British forces on a peninsula jutting into Lake Turkana
. Of the 30,000 British troops deployed, 6,000 soldiers were killed by enemy forces, and another 16,000 drowned in the saline waters trying to escape to the mainland. The remaining forces, having been routed, retreated to Nairobi, were they met up with the garrison of the city. The siege of Nairobi was the stuff of legends. The new commander of the garrison, Bernard Montgomery, took control of his force. He was to face off against Moses Smith, a recent Jewish-American immigrant, and Lekoche Maimai, the war hero from the fist Anglo-Ugandan war. In one of the greatest tactical battles in history, Montgomery broke out of the city and was out-flanked and defeated by the Hebrew troops after more than seven days of fighting. The Jews continued on and eventually pushed the Brits back to the sea.
This establishes the territory of Hebrew Uganda, as of 1935.