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The list of colonies given above includes Zikhron Yaakov and Rosh Pina, both of which were Romanian, products of Oliphant persuading the Ottoman court that they had responsibilities to the Romanian Jews, denied citizenship in the now independent Romania. But it also mentions Petah Tikra. What Frankel doesn't mention is that Petah Tikra was older than Rishon Le-Zion and had been formed in 1878, prior to the Russian empire pogroms, by Jews who were native to Palestine (so in fact was Rosh Pina, ceded to the Romanians in 1882). And here I'd like to intrude a piece of my own personal history.

Back in about 2004-5, as a result of my commitment to the idea of a single Israel-Palestine state for all its citizens (still amazed how long its taking for this simple and obvious proposal to gain traction) I was briefly in email communication with a very interesting man called Uzzi Ornan. In his youth in the 1930s, Ornan had been a bomb-maker for the Irgun and I believe was involved with the Stern Gang, which split off from the Irgun in 1940 with a view to continuing the fight against the British through the war. He was arrested in 1944 and kept in camps in Africa until returning to Palestine in 1948 when he was horrified by the way the Palestinian Arabs had been treated. He believed that he had been engaged in an anti-imperialist struggle against the British on behalf of both the Jews and the Arabs. He was one of a small group called (derisively at the time) the 'Canaanites'. Although numerically insignificant, they included a number of well-known artists in different fields including Ornan's brother, Jonathan Ratosh, recognised as a leading Hebrew language poet. Ornan's own major commitment was to the revival of Hebrew as a language of everyday use, regarding himself as a Hebrew speaking Palestinian rather than as a Jew (among other things he argued for a transition to the Roman alphabet, parallel to the alphabet introduced for the Turkish language by Ataturk).

I was at the time running the Brecon Political and Theological Discussion Group and when the Cornish language poet Tim Saunders gave us a talk on the revival of Hebrew I took the opportunity to post on the Discussion Group website an article by Ornan in which he showed that the 'Old Yishuv' was itself undergoing changes prior to the arrival of the first aliyah. (6)

(6) Uzzi Ornan: 'Hebrew in Palestine before and after 1882', Journal of Semitic Studies, Vol 29, no 1, 1984 and on my Discussion Group website at

The conventional history of the revival of Hebrew in Palestine (we are talking about revival as a language of everyday use, not a language of literature) presents it as almost entirely the work of Eliezer ben-Yehuda who arrived in Palestine from an area that is now  part of Byelorussia in 1881 and so was part of the first aliyah. Ornan is not at all denying his importance but he says:

'The will to revive Hebrew had manifested itself quite a few years before Ben-Yehuda's arrival in Jerusalem. A spirit of awakening and a yearning for a change of values spread among the members of the Old Yishuv during the 1860s. About twenty years before Ben-Yehuda's arrival, Hebrew newspapers began to be published in Jerusalem.

'According to Galia Yardeni, the publication of these newspapers happened as a result of a "circle of young people who ... aspired for changes in the structure of the Yishuv". It is clear that there existed in Palestine young people who "thirsted for cultural enlightenment and also sought a window opening out on to the big world beyond a Jerusalem imprisoned within her walls". These young people sought ways of supporting themselves, not through the Haluqa (charitable funds received from abroad by Jews in Palestine for distribution among the needy), but through the labour of their own hands.

'During this period, the first genuine attempts were made to venture out beyond the walls of the cities in order to acquire land for agriculture and to settle on it, to establish businesses for crafts and commerce and so on. The activities of [the English Jewish leader, Moses] Montefiore were oriented to the general mood and fervent desire prevailing at that time to break away from the life of Haluqa and from financial dependence on benefactors from outside Palestine. This time they achieved more success than the earlier attempts in this direction had yielded.

'This trend waxed strong during the 1870s. More groups with an aim to settle on the land came into being, and towards the end of the decade they succeeded in purchasing areas of land and settling its members there, something it had not previously managed to achieve. Petah Tiqwa was thus founded by those who ventured beyond the walls of Jerusalem, and Rosh Pinna by those from Old Safed [particularly noteworthy as a major centre for study of the Kabbalah - PB]. For they also, as they put it, "despised the bread of humiliation", that is, the charity of benefactors from abroad' [which was the necessary condition of a life devoted to integral observance and study of the eminently impractical laws of the Torah - PB].

Thus the picture Rabkin draws of a native Jewish population wholly committed to a strict religious conception of Jewish life in Palestine needs to be modified. Rabkin gives as one of the Old Yishuv objections to the arrival of the newcomers that they were tempting Palestinian Jewish youth away from strict adherence to a life bound by the Torah. But it appears that the temptation was already present.

This series, supposedly a commentary on Solzhenitsyn's book, is proceeding very slowly, largely owing to my own weakness for digressions. The 'first aliyah' in the wake of the 1881- 2 pogroms was only important as the first step in the process of developing a much more substantial Zionist body of thought, issuing in the 'second aliyah' which followed the more bloody pogroms of Kishinev in 1903 and, in 1905-6, in various parts of the Pale after the 1905 revolution. Among other important figures in the later history of 'Israel' David Ben Gurion was part of this second aliyah. There was also the development of a distinct Jewish national consciousness not tied to emigration but to a demand for Jewish autonomy within the area of the Russian empire. Its most important Socialist manifestation was the Bund, formed in Vilna (modern Vilnius, capital of Lithuania) in 1897. All this will have to go into the next article, if I have the energy to write it - it will be largely taken from Frankel's very impressive book. The present article has concentrated on the emergence out of a people bound by religious obligations of a people defined by race - one might almost say defined by the perceptions of their enemies. That has its own importance, particularly since, no matter how important the development of Zionism might have been in Germany and France, 'Israel' would not have emerged in anything like the shape we know today were it not for the experience of the Jews in the Russian empire prior to 1914.

Rishon le Zion as it is today