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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Herzl’

Netanyahu Invokes Herzl’s Vision on Eve of Kerry’s Visit

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered a clear message to Jews and the United States on Thursday, the 109th anniversary of the death of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, that there is no peace without security.

“Peace is based on security,” said the Prime Minister. It is not based on goodwill and legitimacy as is believed. It is based, first of all, on our ability to defend ourselves.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kelly is n Jordan on Thursday prior to talks on Friday and Saturday with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu have made every effort prior to his arrival to justify their positions, and the memorial ceremony for Herzl was a golden gift of timing for Israel.

Kerry is carrying with him the coffin of the peace process that the United States has been treating as a live animal since its inception more than 20 years ago. Netanyahu’s speech emphasized security and did not even hint about the status of Jerusalem or of borders for a Palestinian Authority state.

Without security, without the army, the establishment of which Herzl called for, we will be unable to defend the peace, we will be unable to defend ourselves if the peace frays. A basic condition for the existence of peace, for achieving it and for preserving it is security,” he declared.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also cast aside illusions of the international community that satisfying Arab world demands will change attitudes towards Jews and Israel.

“Let no one among us delude him or herself that if we make a peace agreement with the Palestinians, that this agreement would eliminate the wild defamation of the state of the Jews. What has been the lot of the Jews beforehand, for generations, today is the lot of the state of the Jews. Peace is desirable in and of itself,” he said.

Kerry began his 10-day Middle East and Asian junket last Friday, arriving in Doha. Except for India, his stop-off points have been in countries directly related to the Iranian nuclear threat, the Syrian civil war and the Arab-Israel conflict.

The Story of Israel’s Independence

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Scene 1

Enter the shackled. Enter the despondent, wretched souls. Enter the man and woman, boy and girl, deemed “menace to society,” destined to roam endlessly about. Number the stars upon their lapels and the Chai’s upon the chains that grace their necks. Note the fire in their eyes and the resilience in their hearts. See the laws they transcribed from the lips of Hashem, the bulwark of civilization.

Let the backdrop be constructed, the set pieces raised onstage. Livid and malevolent minor characters fill the void, the dark world of apathy and contempt. They seek redemption, to purge themselves from their nightmares and their guilty conscience. They would fly away if they had the means. But instead, they gather scapegoats and project their hate onto the usual suspects. These be our antagonists.

Scene 2

Enter the dreamer, the conceiver of a noble and ambitious project. Distraught over the subjugation of his people, he deems it necessary to act and to will the dream into being. There are no doubts in his mind, no second thoughts. He is sure of the task in front of him and the weight he must carry. The weight of millions alive and yet to be born. He is blessed with a burden, an obligation to freedom. He yearns for the soil, the earth that gave birth to his people.  That old-new land inspires the once and future kings and queens of Zion.

Our protagonists dash. Like lightning, they hurry across the stage. They ascend and journey to that land, that they read of in their Book, that land that they dreamed of in their slumber, that they trembled for, that they dared to desire in Godforsaken places, where evil men attempted to quench their spirit. “Next year,” they whispered. “Next year in Jerusalem.” They come and go in waves. They come by the thousands. But the dream is not yet fully realized.

Scene 3

Let the lights be dimmed and the sea of humanity be tossed and turned about. Let the audience wretch at the putrid stench of the bodies stacked miles high. Feel the flames of the ovens as the sparks hit your flesh. Hear these screams, these shrieks that will remain nameless, faceless. A grandmother here or there. A young boy cursed by his age. A Rabbi made to dig his own grave. A ravine from which they must all jump. Breathe in this air, this foul air. Let it consume your lungs. But avert not your eyes, for you must always remember this, this carnage, this culmination of libels and pogroms. Etch these souls onto your bones. See this and engrave these six million in your heart.

Look how our protagonists now command the world’s attention. See how the globe convulses at its crimes. Of apathy. Of evil. Of genocide. Yet, see how the longing for the land increases, how determination abounds. Let the new Exodus begin, the glorious journey to Zion. Let the ground bring forth its food and the towers be constructed. Let the ancient settlements spring forth anew and the first to Zion rejoice. Let humanity sing, and The City of Peace be painted in gold. For our protagonists have done it. They have triumphed.


This is for you. This is for you, oh man and woman, boy and girl. I can trace the laugh lines of your 65 years across your beautiful terrain. I know your worth and your virtue. They speak of you in paradise. Your spirit is infinite.

So take my hand and walk this land with me. For this is a production of epic proportions. This is Judah’s manifest destiny. This is the uncanny persistence of his youth, the anthem of his old. The memory of his fallen, the battle cry of his founders. The depth of his texts, the blast of his trumpet. This is the no more huddled, no more wretched. This is Judah’s voice, no longer whispered but bellowed. No longer stifled but liberated. So sing it, scream it, shout it until your lungs bursts, not of gas but of joy. Not of sorrow but of delight. Let Judah roar and his enemies quiver in fear and let the song of his people resound throughout the earth. Am Yisrael Chai.

Friday Morning Overnight Update

Friday, November 16th, 2012

7:35 AM NYC closed the area around the Israeli Consulate in light of the protests and for security reasons. Security has also been increased around other Israeli sites in the city.

The Federation announced they are donating 5 million dollars to Israelis in the South.

A Suspicious Object was found near the Jerusalem light rail at the Herzl train stop.

IDF was busy pounding terror targets overnight.

6:55 AM Missile hits house in Ashdod. No injuries.


Benzion Netanyahu, Father of Prime Minister Benjamin, Dies at 102

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Benzion Netanyahu, the father of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Entebbe rescue hero Yoni Netanyahu, died Monday at his Jerusalem home at the age of 102. The elder Netanyahu was visited by his son Benjamin for the last time on Sunday at the family home on 4 Haportzim Street.  He will be laid to rest on Monday at 5pm at Jerusalem’s Har Menuchot Cemetery.

Benzion Netanyahu served as secretary to Revisionist Zionist proponent and Beitar leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, served as editor for the Encyclopaedia Hebraica, and served as professor emeritus at Cornell University.

Born in Warsaw on March 25, 1910 as Benzion Milikovsky, he and his family immigrated to Israel in 1920.  In 1944, he married Tzila Segal, with whom he had three sons: Yonatan, born 1946, a former commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal who was killed in the 1976 Operation Entebbe rescue of 102 Israeli and other hostages, Benjamin, born 1949, and Ido, born 1952, a radiologist, author, and playwright.

Working as the secretary of Zionist icon Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Netanyahu maintained a belief in Jewish sovereignty over the Greater Land of Israel, including parts of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.  He was one of the signers of a petition against the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947.

Benzion’s strong Zionist values were a major part of Benjamin’s upbringing.  The prime minister’s father imparted on him the importance of protecting Jewish heritage sites such as Hebron.  He advocated a tough stance in the region, and predicted that threats to world peace would emerge from parts of the Muslim world harboring violence, terror, nuclear power, and oil.

According to a report in Haaretz, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that his father predicted a Muslim attack on the Twin Towers in New York, as well as the rise of tyrannical Islamic regimes which would make efforts to attain nuclear weapons.

In his last interview with Channel 2 news – at the age of 99, Benzion stated that his powerful son does not support a Palestinian state.  “He supports the kind of (diplomatic) conditions they (the Palestinians) would never in the world accept,” Benzion said.  “That’s what I heard from him.  Not from me – he put forth the conditions.  These conditions – they will never be accepted, not even one of them.”

“No, No, Herzl and Landau did not toil in order to build a Palestinian state,” Benzion told the reporter.  “This land is a land of the Jews, not a land of the Arabs.  There is no room here for Arabs, there will not be, and they will never negotiate to terms (which would create a Palestinian state).”

Moreover, Benzion believed that Arab citizens are a threat to the fabric of Israel, and that they would conflict with the Jews by nature.  “The tendency to conflict is in the essence of the Arab.  He is an enemy by essence… His existence is one of perpetual war,” Benzion is quoted by the Associated Press as telling Maariv in 2009. “The Arab citizens’ goal is to destroy us. They don’t deny that they want to destroy us.”

Benzion was a strong opponent of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Jewish communities in Gaza known as Gush Katif.  The forced expulsion of Jewish residents who wanted to remain in the area was a “crime against humanity”, according to Benzion.

As an academic, Netanyahu specialized in Medieval Spanish Jewry.  In his controversial book on the subject, he rejected the theory that the Spanish Inquisition was a result of Jewish isolationism or separatism, saying Spanish Jews were interested in assimilating into Christian society and Spanish culture, and were forced into being Marranos when their efforts to shed their Jewishness did not afford them full acceptance.

1 Dead, Several Injured in Stage Collapse at Har Herzl, Jerusalem

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

At least one person has been reported killed and 6 injured in the collapse of a light array above stage being assembled at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem for Rememberance Day ceremonies.

Initial reports indicate that the deceased is a 20 year-old female soldier and that at least two of the injured are in moderate condition.

A lighting fixture collapsed on a crew assembling the main stage for the annual day memorializing soldiers who have fallen in defense of the State of Israel.

Magen David Adom paramedics and Jerusalem police are on the scene.

Jewish State, Zionist Conflict

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Near the end of the nineteenth century, Theodor Herzl, the Viennese journalist who would wrestle with the plight of Jews amid the enticements and dangers of modernity, felt trapped. For his son’s sake he considered conversion to Christianity; to solve the vexing “Jewish Question” he even fantasized the mass conversion of Jews.

Yet Herzl also worried lest the freedom enjoyed by newly emancipated Jews lead to assimilation (as, indeed, it did for Herzl himself). In the end, he decided the solution could be found in Zionism, the nascent national movement that had begun to inspire handfuls of Russian lovers of Zion (known as Hovevei Zion) to relocate to Palestine and rebuild a Jewish community there.

The virulent French anti-Semitism that erupted in 1894 with the scandalous trial and conviction of Captain Alfred Dreyfus for treason convinced Herzl that Jews were “one people” needing a state of their own. “We have sincerely tried everywhere to merge with the national communities in which we live, seeking only to preserve the faith of our fathers,” he wrote. But, he concluded, “it is not permitted us.” Religion alone was insufficient.

Herzl’s The Jewish State, published two years later, was his plea for a Zionist solution to the Jewish problem. But Herzl was too much the assimilated Viennese gentleman to want anything other than an “aristocratic republic” (preferably modeled on Switzerland), which would become an “outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism” in the Middle East.

His dream of a Jewish state was conspicuous for its Jewish barrenness. Jewish history, for Herzl, was a burden from which emancipated Jews, even Zionists, must escape. Religion offended him: “We do not mean to found a theocracy,” he wrote, “but a tolerant modern civil state” in which “our clergy” would not have “even the slightest chance to assert their whims.” His Jerusalem would feature a grand Temple, emptied of Jewish content, and an Old City that would become “an international centre which all nations might regard as their home.”

In Herzl’s multilingual state “every man can preserve the language in which his thoughts are at home.” After all, he wondered, “Who among us knows enough Hebrew to ask for a train ticket?” Yiddish, the “stunted and twisted jargon” of Eastern European Jews, was a ghetto remnant deserving to be eradicated. Jewish culture must draw upon Enlightenment virtues: “justice, truth, liberty, progress, humanity, and beauty.” Herzl cared little about the location of a Jewish state; as between Argentina and Palestine he was indifferent.

Herzl’s call for the revival of Jewish nationalism proved equally offensive to the Protestrabbiner (as he labeled his European religious opponents) as it did to the enlightened and emancipated Jews of modernity. Because American Jews already stood on “freedom’s holy soil,” prominent Reform rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise declared, Zionism was nothing more than “a momentary inebriation of morbid minds.”

* * * * *

Secular Zionists succeeded in creating the old-new land of Herzl’s imagination. Against seeming insuperable odds, Israel not only survived the murderous hostility of its enemies; it flourished. Finally, Jews could once again live as citizens in their own country and, if necessary, die defending it.

But neither the Zionist movement nor its ultimate fulfillment in Jewish statehood could resolve the underlying tension between competing Israeli and Diaspora visions of Jewish modernity: independence or assimilation. Jewish leaders in the United States were infuriated when Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion appealed to young American Jews to make aliyah to the fledgling state. Then and ever since, the overwhelming majority of American Jews have preferred to remain where they are, ever more closely identified with the liberalism that has been their entry ticket to mainstream American society.

It might be said that American Jews have remained faithful to the teaching of Jeremiah after the Babylonian exile: “Build houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.” Indeed, when Ezra led the exiled community from Babylon back to Jerusalem, he discovered an “unclean” land whose Israelites, hardly immune to the enticements of foreign cultures, had adopted their “abominations.” Exile, even then, might also occur at home.

The pursuit of normality, given the tragedies and horrors of Jewish history, inspired Zionism, and statehood was its astonishing – and historically unprecedented – achievement. But the tension between a normal and a chosen people, between secular liberalism and Judaism, would remain deeply embedded in the fledgling state. Indeed, Israel has long displayed its own Zionist version of the tale of two cities, with Tel Aviv as the apex of secular Zionist hedonism and Jerusalem as the sanctuary of Jewish history and memory.

Built a century ago on sand dunes along the Mediterranean shore, Tel Aviv symbolized the Zionist repudiation of Jewish memory. With its back to the geographical cradle of Jewish history in the Samarian hills, it faced west toward modern sources of inspiration, at first Europe – witness the Bauhaus architecture in the old city center – and eventually the United States.

Zionist Art Nouveau: Ideal Or Idealistic?

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

Artistic Expressions of’ the Jewish Renaissance

Hermann Struck and E.M. Lilien

Opened November 17, 2005

Curated by Amy Stempler

I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection

The George Washington University

Melvin Gelman Library

2130 H Street, NW, Washington, DC



It’s just about the last thing you’d suspect of relevance and contribution to anything culturally meaningful. Its size is unexceptional, and the tiny exhibit in which it resides, occupies a pair of glass cases of the Kiev Collection at the seventh floor of the George Washington University Gelman Library. But Ephraim Moses Lilien’s (1874 -1925) etching of a man dressed in Babylonian garb with a Renaissance halo about his head – all set in a dreamy, Art Nouveau backdrop with glittering stars and volcanoes that evoke “spaghetti” – is, alone, well worth the trip. Sounds like a pointless artsy gimmick? Consider that the portrayed man is the Budapest-born Zionism futurist, Theodor Herzl, and that Herzl is boldly – even profanely – cast as Moses with the tablets in his hands, and suddenly the piece emerges as one of the most provocative gems of Jewish art.

Lilien’s move of casting Herzl as Moses makes a lot of sense. Moses is a fierce warrior, steadfast in his stance against his people’s every attempt to return to Egypt to assimilate. Moses is literally an iconoclast – he smashes the Golden Calf – and he strives his entire life for the one goal he can never attain: to enter the holy land. Like Moses, Herzl was steadfast in his view that his people must not assimilate, even to escape anti-Semitism, a view he came to embrace in college and later more strongly, during the Dreyfus Affair. Like Moses, Herzl died outside of Israel, weakened by pneumonia before he could see Israel arise as a state.

Lilien’s name might be obscure to many readers, but his work probably isn’t. He is the photographer of Herzl, and his famous photograph of Herzl leaning over a balcony at the Drei Koenige (Three Kings) Hotel in Basel, at the First World Zionist Congress, is very widely known. It would later be hijacked and re-appropriated by Zionist propaganda that would use the image for stamps, brochures and other campaign materials.

But Lilien’s portrait of Herzl-as-Moses should also be considered as an effort in self portraiture. When considered as such, it is ambiguous at best, and even foreshadows Lilien’s eventual disillusionment with the Zionist ideal. Lilien started off as a fierce Zionist, evidenced by a letter to his future wife, the assimilated German Jew, Helena Magnus. Lilien writes, “You do not know Jewry and you are like that pauper who speaks of a million and thinks of a million pennies. You think about the 800,000 German Jews, who however have no significance compared with the nine million Russian, Austrian and Rumanian Jews These millions of Jews, who all speak Hebrew and have their own poets and philosophers, do not even consider committing suicide through assimilation.” Lilien writes of the need for a Jewish state: “When a Jew writes me saying: I am a German, I have to remember the bridegroom who says ‘I am half in agreement with my bride: I want to and she does not’ The Jew must therefore strive for what is the ideal of every nation: political independence.”

But Lilien’s Zionism has something of James Joyce’s love for Dublin; he does it best from a distance, with nostalgia. Though Lilien would co-found the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design with Boris Schatz and would, by all appearances, seem ready to move to Palestine and live the Zionist dream, instead, he remained in Israel only for several months. He left Israel, armed with his portraits of Jews and his landscapes, and moved to Germany. Some of his best work was for the multi-volume set of Bibles in German that he illustrated, based on many of his photographs and paintings made in Palestine. Like Joyce, he seemed to love his country best by attacking it in his art, from a far distance. And yet, like Joyce who would forever describe himself an Irishman, and like Modigliani who overtook the Parisian art world by storm, announcing himself as Modi the “Italian, the painter, the Jew,” Lilien would sign his artwork as “E.M. Lilien, son of Jacob Lilien, who was a kohen.”

To me, The Herzl-as-Moses painting in the Art Nouveau style foreshadows Lilien’s eventual disillusionment with Zionism. Art Nouveau was born in the later two decades of the 19th century and is often called an “international style”, which explains why it later gave way to Art Deco. For Nouveau, the names to remember are Aubrey Beardsley, Antonio Gaud

í, Gustav Klimt, and more locally, American artists Louis Sullivan and Louis C. Tiffany. Nouveau relies heavily on curvaceous, often organic, forms that derived from the East.

Both curator Amy Stempler and George Washington University Assistant Professor of Hebrew, Yaron Peleg were skeptical about my proposition. Peleg, who is the author of the recently published “Orientalism and the Hebrew Imagination” (Cornell University Press, 2005), mentioned Susan Sontag’s essay “Notes on ‘Camp’” (1964), which explores how “camp” experiences are often “consciously artificial.” Sontag writes, “Camp is a vision of the world in terms of style – but a particular kind of style. It is the love of the exaggerated, the ‘off,’ of things-being-what-they-are-not.” She calls Nouveau the “most typical and fully developed Camp style. Art Nouveau objects, typically, convert one thing into something else: the lighting fixtures in the form of flowering plants, the living room which is really a grotto.” But Peleg finds no indication that Lilien used Nouveau in any way to critique Zionism.

I respectfully disagree. Viewers can easily recognize Lilien’s detachment from Israel in his image. Though Moses’ (Herzl’s) beard and eyebrows are bold and clear, the entire picture shows an idealistic castle in the clouds. Moses’ feet are obstructed by rapidly evaporating cloud formations. Moses, very literally, has no solid ground upon which to stand. He happens to be suspended conveniently at the moment of capture in the drawing, but Lilien offers us no indication that he won’t topple head over heels the next moment. Is this drawing then, a compliment of the Zionist state – and thus, Herzl by association – by appropriating the budding, organic creative aspects of Art Nouveau to show a ripe, healthy Zionism? Or, is Zionism a sham, a strong, powerful face upon a body that is only suspended by amorphous, unstable clouds? And that, perhaps, is why Lilien casts Herzl as Moses atop Sinai with the 10 Commandments. Moses has a choice: to keep the tablets, or to cast them down and shatter them across the mountain; that is the question.

That Lilien portrays Herzl in an Art Nouveau format is also revealing. The Nouveau forms were set in a dreamy atmosphere that later inspired much of the artistic exploration of Freud, such as in Magic Realism and Surrealism. Using that dreamy temperament, Nouveau achieved some sort of bridge between architecture and decorative design. But Lilien’s blend of Judaism and Nouveau, happily and diplomatically playing together in the same historical sandbox, is hardly a new idea. In fact, architect, Hector Guimard’s synagogue Agudath Hakehilot at 10 Rue Pavee, Paris, is arguably one of the finest Nouveau specimens, and Aubrey Beardsley’s Nouveau illustrations adorn Oscar Wilde’s play (later an opera) Salome, which tells the tale of Herod’s stepdaughter, Salome.

By combining the dreamy Art Nouveau form with Herzl’s Zionism and Moses’ revelation and receiving of the Law on Sinai, Lilien does far more than random “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey”. The image is edgy by trying to modernize Moses. But it is a microcosm for Lilien’s politics and religious views, foreshadowing his later assimilation. Maybe Lilien didn’t know for certain that he would abandon his Zionism, but his pen subconsciously drew his uncertainty and his criticism even into his idolization of the Zionist giant, Herzl. And yet in doing so, Lilien produced one of the greatest pieces of Jewish art that manages to join Herzl and Art Nouveau into “happy matrimony” to both praise and condemn Zionism, in one grand brushstroke.

Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, DC.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/zionist-art-nouveau-ideal-or-idealistic/2006/02/15/

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