kibbutz – -the Palestinian problem ……… 16

The earlier settlers, like Aaron Aaronsohn’s parents, had been adherents of back-to-the-land movements, families eager for a simple life in the Promised Land, their motivations neither utopian nor even ideological: they were fed up with anti-Semitism and pogroms, and exhausted from the poverty and restricted economic opportunities of their shtetls in the Russian Pale of Settlement and Romania.
They came to Palestine as families, and pursued the small private farms they had been denied in Russia and Romania.
Many in the vanguard of the second aliyah to Palestine, after 1904, were young, unmarried, and idealistic, often aggressively ideological, even fanatical, in their adherence to Tolstoyan or Marxist socialism.
With the passion of youth, they were determined not only to build new lives for themselves in a new land, but also to reform the evils they saw in the world through their example.
In place of the moshavah, the individual farms of the first aliyah, some of the new settlers wanted to build a revolutionary new life around a new institution, the kibbutz, a true collective where the land and tools of production would be held in common, private property would be reduced to a minimum, and physical labor would be glorified.
They were secular rather than religious, eager to learn Hebrew as a new language that would bind people from many origins into a single nation, and intensely political.

In late 1905, the Tolstoyans established the Hapoel Hatzair Labor Party at Chaim Bloch’s pension in Jaffa, with A. D. Gordon as chief ideologist, declaring themselves opposed to violence, justifying self-defense only in extreme situations, and demanding that the Jewish pioneers plant every tree and bush in the Jewish homeland.
Within a month the Marxists had established the Poale Zion Party at Spektor’s pension a few blocks away, pledging to pursue a traditional Marxist approach to their socialist goals, and arguing that a Jewish state would never be achieved by appeals to the Great Powers, but only through the inexorable forces of the class struggle from the example of kibbutzim in the countryside and the growth of a Jewish proletariat in the cities.
This young vanguard of the second aliyah ran head-on into the anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Jews of Jerusalem, Safed, and Tiberias, who adamantly opposed the secularization and modernization of Jewish life and the use of the sacred language of Hebrew for anything other than prayer and study, and who regarded calls for an ingathering of the Jews in Zion, a mission reserved by scripture for the Messiah, as nothing short of blasphemy.

By 1905, relations between the two sides were so tense that ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Jerusalem ritually cursed Zionist educator David Yellin, who had established secular Hebrew-language schools, in an unprecedented ceremony called a Pulsa Denura (“whip of fire”), going beyond the snuffed candles and blowing of the shofar of a traditional erem, or excommunication, to include calls for Yellin’s death.


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