An Orthodox Proto-Zionist remembered…

by Maskil on October 16, 2007

One can only wonder how much stronger the Jewish State might have been (and how many lives might have been saved) had more Jews (both Orthodox and Reform) heeded Rabbi Zevi Hersh Kalisher’s call. There is still much that is still relevant here…

When the Orthodox did finally commit to Zionism, much of the effort went into settlements across the Green Line. Sadly, this settlement enterprise has proved to be an unmitigated disaster for Israel and for the Jewish people as a whole. What should have brought the secular/traditional and national-religious together under the banner of Zionism has divided us as never before.

1874 (5 Cheshvan 5605): On the secular calendar, the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Zevi Hersh Kalisher. Born in 1795 in the Polish town of Lissa that had just become part of Germany, Kalisher was unique because he was an Orthodox Rabbi who believed that Jews develop a practical program for returning to Eretz Israel instead of just waiting for the coming of the Messiah. In 1860, he published Derishat Tziyyon, his blueprint for the return to the Holy Land. Almost forty years before the advent of Herzl and Zionism he called for a systematic purchase of land, the development of agriculture, the development of a self-defense force and the need to develop viable businesses to replace the charitable institutions that traditionally supported the Jews in Palestine. The Reform opposed Kalisher because of the nationalist content of the proposal. The Orthodox saw it as a form of blasphemy. One of the practical results of his work was the establishment of Mikveh Israel, a school located near Jaffa, designed to treat the new generation of pioneers the scientific agricultural skills that would enable them to reclaim the land.

This Day … In Jewish History: This Day, October 15, In Jewish History

Kalischer’s essay “Seeking Zion” was included in Arthur Hertzberg’s absolutely invaluable reader “The Zionist Idea”, which is still in print.

The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader

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