THE POSSIBILITIES OF MODERN JOURNALISM.
THE following article appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette of 30th October last. We prefer giving the article in full before making any comments thereon. Here it is : —
The Zionists and Palestine.
RE-BUILDING THE TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM.
It is not a little curious to regard the re-building of the Temple of Jerusalem as within the range of practical politics, but the latest information to hand with respect to the Zionist movement unquestionably presents the view of the probability of the prophecy being fulfilled in the very near future. Zionism is one of the newest of our public movements. It virtually came into existence no longer since than last August, but the astonishing success that attended its inauguration was due to the fact that for the first time it gave voice to the aspirations of centuries and the desires of a nation. For nearly two thousand years the Jews, though scattered all over the civilised world, have preserved the traditions of their race and their religion, and they have never ceased to look on Palestine as their mother country, to which they would some day be restored, but not till last August, when the Zionist Congress met at Basel, had an adequate expression been given to the national aspirations of the race. But once the subject has been launched, the development of details has advanced by leaps and bounds. With the Jew the spirit of patriotism is inseparable from religious ambitions, and the question of the return to Palestine had not been long on the carpet before the restoration of the Temple suggested itself with irresistible force.
In the time of the Crusades the grand objective was the Holy Sepulchre; but it is now pretty generally admitted that the pious warriors of the middle ages had marked out a wrong location, and they were prepared to fight to the death for a false site. In the case of the Temple this is different. There is no doubt that the Mosque of Omar, in the south-east of the city, stands on the very ground occupied by Solomon's Temple, and in the wall of that curious passage known as the Wailing place of the Jews there still remain some of the stones used in the fabric of the original Temple. From this mosque, and indeed from the whole precincts, the Jews are rigorously excluded ; nor, indeed, would any Jew wish to penetrate into the mosque, for the simple reason that some where within its enclosing walls is the Holy of Holies, but all record of the exact spot has been lost, and a Jew could not enter those walls without incurring the danger of placing his foot on holy ground. This fact suggests a difficulty in the way of the restoration of the Temple.
MATERIAL FOR THE TEMPLE ALREADY ORDERED.
To the ordinary observer there does not appear to be at the present moment any indication of a speedy return of the Jews to Palestine, but in the sacred and profane writings of the East there are many prophecies that point to an early disruption of the Turkish Empire, especially as far as concerns its sway over Syria, and it is a fact that much of the land included in ancient Palestine is heavily mortgaged; that those mortgages are in the hands of Jews, and that a number of them expire, subject of course to [Continued on Page 16] renewal, in the early part of next year. This is held to give the Jews a favourable opportunity of making a treaty with the Sultan, based, of course, on financial considerations, which have always proved powerful at Constantinople. To this end there has been some talk of forming a huge syndicate, with a capital of some fifty millions sterling, and it is difficult to realise the concession that such a sum would not wring from the Yildiz Kiosk. As may be imagined, this proposal was met with considerable opposition as being of too mundane and commercial a way of fulfilling a Scriptural prophecy; but in the community there is a strong conviction that a fitting way will be found of acquiring the Holy Land, and that the time is at hand. So strong is this conviction that preparations are actually being made for the rebuilding of the Temple, which would unquestionably be the first act of the restored nation. Orders have been given in England and in Italy for material that would be required in the work of restoration, and at the present moment marble is being carved in Italy for the capitals of pillars, and wrought-iron is being produced in England for outer gates, together with work of other kinds. No doubt when matters have progressed somewhat orders will be given in other European countries, but at present there is no indication that any part of the new Temple will be made in Germany. Though some of the work has been completed, it will readily be imagined that none has yet been consigned to Palestine, but when the time arrives there will be no great difficulties of transit. The railway from Jaffa to Jerusalem will simplify the collection of materials, although the company seem to have followed the English railway companies in country districts, and constructed their station a good half-mile outside the walls of the town.
The Tomb of Moses.
The immigration of Jews into the Holy Land has already commenced, and there are numerous colonies in different parts of the country. In Jerusalem itself there is a Jewish quarter as distinctly marked and separated from the other parts of the town, as in the case of Frankfort. But most of the Jewish colonists belong to the poorer classes, and many of them are supported to a large extent by the Jewish communities in Europe, The self-supporting section are largely engaged in market-gardening, but the present condition of the country does not encourage industry of this kind because of the curse that clings to the hoofs of the Sultan's horse. But this is a state of things that under other conditions could be remedied, and with proper encouragement to agriculture there is no reason why the country should not flow once more with milk and honey. But at present the Jews' idea of nationality is in a nebulous stage. The form of government to be established when the opportunity arises has scarcely been considered, and the extent of the restoration of the Temple has not been approached in practical form. No doubt there would be a considerable pause before it was decided to demolish the magnificent Mosque of Omar. The Moslems themselves view with considerable reverence some of the most sacred spots of the Jews, and would be very unwilling to relinquish possession. Among these are the Mosque of Hebron, into which no infidel is allowed to enter, and the rule has been relaxed only on three or four occasions. With reference to the tomb of Moses there is a difference of opinion as to site between the Jews and the Moslems. The latter have located it on the west side of Jordan, and declare that the Archangel Gabriel moved the body to its present resting-place, which is the object of a great annual pilgrimage.
Many people may be tempted to wonder what the Jews will do if they return to Palestine. They are not an agricultural people, and the genius of the race will not find a sufficient outlet in trading among themselves. But for the moment the Jew is wrapped up in the sentiment of nationality. He has no yearning for the flesh-pots of Egypt—his eyes are fixed on the cradle of his race. He is prepared to make almost any sacrifice to secure the re-establishment of his nation, and to be able to await in his own country the coming of the Messiah. But it must be confessed that there are many Jews who view with misgiving the return to the Promised Land, and it is certain that when they do return to the shores of the Mediterranean and found a government of their own there will be no lack of willing representatives at the western courts of Europe. Of course, there are numerous political considerations underlying all these arrangements, but the Jews have a powerful influence in the councils of Europe, and a strong avowal of national sentiment on their part would be a backing that would well-nigh be irresistible.
On reading the foregoing article we experienced several difficulties. In the first place, we found it difficult to decide whether the writer is in earnest or whether he is a humorist. His observation that no part of the Temple is to be "made in Germany" seems to show that the man is poking fun at the rabid Protectionists. But the rest of the article, in fact by far the greater portion, seems to be concerned in real earnest. If, on the other hand, the man means what he says, it is just as difficult, if not more so, to decide whether his simplicity exceeds his belief in the credulity of his readers, or vice versa. Fancy, preparations are already made for the re-building of the Temple ! Who signed the contract? Who is responsible for "the sinews of war?" To be sure, all the Jews that attended the Congress at Basle cannot together muster sufficient cash to pay for the stones, and it is a noteworthy fact that men of standing in the commercial world keep aloof from the Congress, as, indeed, they boohoo the whole scheme. Who is to be High Priest? Is Herzl the fit person for the office, or Nordau? We don't think either of them has the requisite knowledge of the ritual. In short the whole affair is "bosh," to use a colloquial term. The only pity is that such stuff is dished up for the intellectual entertainment for English readers, who do not know better. What a lot of mischief these papers are able to do !