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Over the past one hundred fifty years there have been many plans advanced as to the establishment of a Jewish national state. The one that was realized was the one advanced by the Zionist movement of building a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, our historic and biblical homeland. This triumph of Zionism in establishing a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel was naturally based on the centrality of the Land of Israel in Jewish religious life. The prayer texts, the grace after meals, "Next year in Jerusalem," the remembrances of the Temple and its destruction, all combined to implant within the Jewish national soul the idea that the Jewish national entity, when it would come into being, would be in the Land of Israel. However, there were other plans advanced as well, many times backed by powerful patrons. The most famous alternative site for the Jewish state was advanced by no less than Theodore Herzl himself. Herzl, in conversations and negotiations with the British Foreign Office in the first years of the twentieth century, heard of a proposition to establish a Jewish state in Uganda in central Africa. Great Britain, then in competition with the Kaiser's Germany for influence and control of central Africa, proposed the possibility of the creation of a Jewish state under British auspices and as part of the British Empire in Uganda. Herzl, enamored of the idea, stated that this Ugandan state could be a laboratory for Jewish nationhood, a training ground for learning how to be self-governing after millennia of exile. He thereupon proposed the plan to the Zionist Congress and staked his own personal prestige and position on its adoption. The plan was opposed bitterly by the Eastern European faction of the Zionist Congress, then led by the young Chaim Weizman. Because of Herzl's personal prestige the plan was able to receive a bare majority at the Zionist Congress. But Herzl himself soon realized the impracticality of implementing a plan that was opposed by half of the Zionist movement. Great Britain also had second thoughts about the matter and with Herzl's unexpected death a few months after that Zionist Congress, the Uganda plan went to the grave with him.

Menachem Ussishkin, the longtime head of the Jewish National Fund and a Zionist leader of the first half of the twentieth century, described a meeting that he attended in Warsaw in 1891 of the Chovevei Tziyon - the Lovers of Zion, a pre-Zionist Eastern European organization devoted to settling and supporting Jews in the Land of Israel. At the meeting, a representative of Baron Hirsch, a fabulously wealthy German Jew, advanced a plan to create an autonomous Jewish state in Argentina. Baron Hirsch had bought land all over the world and intended to bring Eastern European Jews to those places in order to extricate them from the Czar's persecution and to lessen anti-Semitism in Europe. He owned land in such diverse places.as North Dakota, New Jersey and Tennessee in the United States, Canada, Australia and South America. He claimed that the Argentinean government acquiesced in this project and would cooperate fully in creating a Jewish autonomous state in Argentina. The representative of Baron Hirsch spoke for three and a half hours explaining the plan and pledging the resources of Baron Hirsch to its fulfillment. At midnight, after Hirsch's representative finally finished his presentation and sat down, an old, stooped figure arose. He was Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever, the rabbi of Biyalistok and one of the founders of Chovevei Tziyon. He said: "May the Lord bless Baron Hirsch for his interest and endeavors and grant him long life and success. But we are going only to the Land of Israel." And that statement ended the meeting.

Stalin also had plans for a Jewish state - in Birobidjan. He renamed all of the streets there in a Jewish fashion and posted the street signs in Bolshevik Yiddish and had the Yevsektzia - the Jewish Communist group - undertake the project. Stalin's own later purge of the Yevsektzia and the coming of the Second World War doomed this woeful project as well. It seemed that destiny had already decreed that the Jewish national state could be created only in the Land of Israel, the Jewish national homeland. All attempts to derail this project, whether internally within the Jewish people or externally from the nations of the world, faltered and failed. Knowing all of this may give us a better perspective of what we are doing here in the State of Israel in 2005.

Berel Wein

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