- Aug 15, 2005
The Tribes Return
For 2,000 years the Tribes of Israel had wandered exiles from their homes, and yet each year they prayed and yearned to return to the land of their ancestors. For more than a millenia this prayer was only symbolic, the Jewish communities grew up around the great cities of Europe and were always subject to the benevolence of their Christian monarchs. But in the early 1800's radical changes swept Europe, Napoleon broke open the Jewish Ghettos, reformed legal codes were enacted across Europe liberating the Jews of Europe. This sudden liberation led to a new idea, instead of remaining in the lands of their oppressors why not seize upon their new found liberty by going to the land of their ancestors? Instead of just saying "Next year in Jerusalem" why not actually go there? And so a great exodus began, with Jewish agencies financing mass transport out of ports in Italy, Austria, France, and Spain with hundreds of thousands flocking from every nation in Europe. Colonies sprouted up all along the coast of the Levant, while the minor cities exploded in population swiftly becoming Jewish strongholds of population. Jewish business elite purchased vast amounts of land, started businesses, and even opened several factories industrializing and commercializing the Levant to an extent not seen for a 1,000 years.
But the Jewish population now had dreams of nationhood, to found a Jewish nation once again in the land of their ancestors. But as an Ottoman fief that chance seemed slim, that is until Mehmed Ali of Egypt seized the region and expanded his campaigns into Syria. It became apparent that the Ottomans would not regain Palestine, and so Jewish leaders petitioned the Egyptian Sultan for the independence of their small nation. Ali was no fool, he realized the benefit of creating a buffer state which would act as an obstacle to any Ottoman counterattack, he also fully weighed the benefits of holding onto the territory, which was little.
The Jews had not risked everything by asking for Jerusalem, and even still they expected rejection. Yet all their hopes were answered when Sultan Ali granted the Jews their country. For a week they rejoiced and the news reverberated around the world, a Jewish nation was born again. Delegates from each major city were sent to plan the foundation of the state, one of the first questions asked was, what to name the state? Barak Kaufmann a German immigrant and mayor of Jaffa, was quick to answer "Must we really debate? This is Yisrael!" and with that he not only named the nation, but secured the provisional presidency. Yisrael was born.
President Kaufmann had petitioned Sultan Mehmed for the census records from the Egyptian archives. The Sultan had no issue and oblidged without complaint. The records were surprisingly detailed:
One of the main questions posed was what to do with the sizeable non-Jewish minorities in the country. The decision was made to extend to them equal rights in the government, but to at all times advance the concept of a Jewish State. One aspect of advancing this was the decision to only recruit Jewish soldiers, this would ensure that the Jewish people would always have a monopoly on force in their own country. The Jerusalem Corps was formed as the first armed Jewish force in more than 1,800 years, the Lion of Judah Brigade was formed from diehard Jewish zealots, fiercley loyal to the state and to their faith.
The Knesset was formed within a week of the nations establishment. It was to be the legislative body of the state, it would have 100 members with each party gaining a seat after they passed the 5% mark in an election. This high threshold was given so as to keep the Christian and Moslem minorities in check and out of power in the state. The influx of so many immigrants gave a politically diverse state, with socialists, conservatives, and liberals all making the nation their home. The political soul of Israel had yet to be won.
Though the nascent state and its exhausted government was preoccupied with building the proper workings of a state, they could not help but cast a gaze towards Jerusalem and the Jewish colonies throughout Palestine. Would Jerusalem fly the Banner of David once again?