OTD in History June 14, 1841, British Colonel Charles Henry Churchill wrote a letter to Sir Moses Montefiore supporting a Jewish state in Palestine

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OTD in History June 14, 1841, British Colonel Charles Henry Churchill wrote a letter to Sir Moses Montefiore supporting a Jewish state in Palestine



By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

unknown artist; Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885); Ramsgate Library; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sir-moses-montefiore-17841885-77099



On this day in Jewish history, June 14, 1841, British Colonel Charles Henry Churchill wrote a letter to Sir Moses Montefiore supporting the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Montefiore, was a British banker, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and philanthropist, who founded the first New Yishuv, Mishkenot Sha’ananim in 1860, the first Jewish settlement outside the walls of the old City of Jerusalem. Churchill served as the British consul to Ottoman Syria, which included Palestine, today’s Israel. Churchill, an evangelical Protestant, and ancestor of the future Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was one of the first to suggest the political establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

Montefiore spent his whole life living as part of the Western Europe’s Jewish elite and his adult life as the “the preeminent Jewish figure of the nineteenth century” as Abigail Green recounts in her biography “Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero,” the most complete biography of his life. Montefiore was one of the 12 Jewish financial brokers in London in the early 19th century. Born in Italy to a Sephardic Jewish family, his family moved back to England, where Montefiore was educated.

Afterward, Montefiore entered the grocers and tea merchants’ trade, before going into the finance business and stockbroking with his brother Abraham. Montefiore’s profile and success in the business grew when he married into Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s family. Among the Jewish world, Montefiore’s business is not what made him well known and remembered, but his philanthropy and proto-Zionism in pre-state Israel. Montefiore retired young from the business world in 1824 at the age of 40 to concentrate the rest of his long life on his philanthropic efforts.

Montefiore’s first visit to Israel was in 1827 and it changed his life, specifically when he and his wife Judith Barent-Cohen prayed at Rachel Tomb for children; although the Montefiore never had any children. He subsequently visited Israel six other times, the last time in 1875 when he was 91 years-old. The moment led him to become religiously observant, he served as the president of the Beavis Marks Synagogue for 39 years and traveled with a “shohet” to ensure all the meat he ate was kosher as he extensively traveled.

Montefiore met Churchill in Malta in November 1840, when Churchill asked if he could serve as a courier to Damascus. Churchill arrived in February 1841 and the head of the Jewish community Raphael Farhi held a reception in his honor on March 1.

Churchill gave his first speech supporting Jewry to rousing applauds:  

“May this happy meeting be looked upon as … a forecast of such a connection and alliance between the English and the Jewish nation as shall be honourable and advantageous to both. May the hour of Israel’s deliverance be at hand. May the approximation of Western civilization to the interesting land be the dawn of her regeneration, and of her political existence; may the Jewish nation once more claim her rank among the powers of the world!” (Green, 206)      

Churchill would author two letters to Montefiore advocating “Jewish national regeneration in Palestine.” (Grief, 535) In the first letter dated, June 14, 1841, Churchill advised that the Jews should commence “agitation… to resume their [political] existence as a people.” Churchill believed with the “aid” of the “European Powers,” Jews would attain in the end ‘the sovereignty of at least Palestine.”

In his second letter, dated over a year later on August 15, 1842, Churchill seemed to backtrack stating that only as subjects of the sublime Porte could Jews “recover their ancient country or regain a footing in Palestine.” They would need the Five Great Powers (Britain, France, Russia, Austria, and Prussia) to advocate that the Sultan allow them to settle and “colonize” in Palestine, “under the protection of the Great Powers.”  Under Churchill’s proposal, Jewish colonies would be autonomous but would be required to pay a tax to the Sultan. Churchill concluded that “Judea” would be “once more a refuge and resting place” for world Jewry. (Grief, 535)

In addition to the letter, Churchill included a detailed proposal about how this colonization would be established. The first step was an application to the British Government to the attention of Foreign Secretary Lord Aberdeen. Aberdeen would send a person to Syria “a fit and proper person to watch over the interests of the Jews.” Churchill finished his letter writing “God has put in my heart the desire to serve His ancient people… I have discharged a duty imposed on me by my conscience.”  (Grief, 535)

Montefiore took Churchill’s two letters to the Board of Deputies of British Jews were he served as president. On November 8, 1942, they responded to Montefiore, that they would not be initiating Churchill’s proposal or any other for settlement in Palestine, but would participate if a Jewish community in another country would. In less than a decade, Montefiore would begin settling Jews in settlements in Palestine on his initiative and working with Churchill.

Montefiore’s most extensive philanthropy was towards the small Jewish community in Israel, hoping to entice more Jews to live there. He turned towards settling Israel in 1854 when he became the executor of American Judah Touro’s will; Touro wanted a settlement created with his money. Montefiore used his money and that of Touro’s estate to establish agricultural communities outside of Jerusalem’s Old City beginning the New Yishuv. Montefiore purchased an orchard outside Jerusalem to provide agricultural training to Jews in 1855 and in 1860 created the first settlement, Mishkenot Sha’ananim or the Inhabitations of Delight. Montefiore added incentives to encourage poorer Jews to settle despite the dangers. The first settlement consisted of “twenty-four apartments on the slopes of Talibiyeh facing Mount Zion.” (Blumberg, 60)

Afterward, he created additional neighborhoods, “the Ohel Moshe neighborhood for Sephardic Jews and the Mazkeret Moshe neighborhood for Ashkenazi Jews.” Montefiore also set-up the essentials for a growing community in Jerusalem, including health care, education and charity, some industries and essential factories, and the Montefiore Windmill to mill flour in Yemin Moshe, which still stands today. Montefiore hired Churchill to train the Jews in agriculture. According Arnold Blumberg in “Eretz Israel, Israel, and the Jewish Diaspora: Mutual Relations,” Montefiore, however, was “not interested in creating a Jewish state, he did regard the normalization of Jewish life through self-supporting labor, as essential.” (Blumberg, 60) While, Derek Penslar called Montefiore’s settlements “Palestinophilia,” the “establishment of philanthropic enterprises devoted to the social and economic transformation of Palestinian Jewry.” (Penslar, 63)  

The exchanges between Churchill and Montefiore and Churchill’s proposal helped develop proto-Zionism, the forerunners of Zionism. As Blumberg noted, “In Palestine itself, the old Yishuv seemed untouched by the currents of nineteenth-century thought. Nevertheless… the entry of western Jews upon the scene had laid the foundation for the new Yishuv. Long before the advent of political Zionism, a new spirit was alive in Palestinian Jewry.” (Blumberg, 61) Churchill’s proposal led to Montefiore taking charge and funding settlement beyond the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem’s old city, setting the stage for the new settlements and the aliyahs to Palestine that commenced in 1882.

Churchill’s letter to Montefiore, June 14, 1841:

I cannot conceal from you my most anxious desire to see your countrymen endeavour once more to resume their existence as a people.

I consider the object to be perfectly attainable. But, two things are indispensably necessary. Firstly, that the Jews will themselves take up the matter universally and unanimously. Secondly, that the European Powers will aid them in their views. It is for the Jews to make a commencement. Let the principal persons of their community place themselves at the head of the movement. Let them meet, concert and petition. In fact the agitation must be simultaneous throughout Europe. There is no Government which can possibly take offence at such public meetings. The result would be that you would conjure up a new element in Eastern diplomacy—an element which under such auspices as those of the wealthy and influential members of the Jewish community could not fail not only of attracting great attention and of exciting extraordinary interest, but also of producing great events.

Were the resources which you all possess steadily directed towards the regeneration of Syria and Palestine, there cannot be a doubt but that, under the blessing of the Most High, those countries would amply repay the undertaking, and that you would end by obtaining the sovereignty of at least Palestine.

Syria and Palestine, in a word, must be taken under European protection and governed in the sense and according to the spirit of European administration.

I therefore would strenuously urge this subject upon your calm consideration, upon the consideration of those who, by their position and influence amongst you are most likely to take the lead in such a glorious struggle for national existence. I had once intended to have addressed the Jews here in their Synagogue upon the subject, but I have reflected that such a proceeding might have awakened the jealousy of the local Government.

I have, however, prepared a rough petition which will be signed by all the Jews here and in other parts of Syria, and which I shall then forward to you. Probably two or three months will elapse first. There are many considerations to be weighed and examined as the question develops itself—but a “beginning” must be made—a resolution must be taken,”an agitation must be commenced”, and where the stake is “Country and Home” where is the heart that will not leap and bound to the appeal?

Supposing that you and your colleagues should at once and earnestly interest yourselves upon this important subject of the recovery of your ancient country, it appears to me (forming my opinions upon the present attitude of affairs in the Turkish Empire) that it could only be as subjects of the Porte that you could commence to regain a footing in Palestine. Your first object would be to interest the Five Great Powers in your views and to get them to advocate your view with the Sultan upon the clear understanding that the Jews, if permitted to colonise any part of Syria and Palestine, should be under the protection of the Great Powers, that they should have the internal regulation of their own affairs, that they should be exempt from military service (except on their own account as a measure of defence against the incursions of the Bedouin Arabs), and that they should only be called upon to pay a tribute to the Porte on the usual mode of taxation. I humbly venture to give my opinion upon a subject, which no doubt has already occupied your thought—and the bare mention of which, I know, makes every Jewish heart vibrate. The only question is – “when” and “how”.

The blessing of the Most High must be invoked on the endeavour. Political events seem to warrant the conclusion that the hour is nigh at hand when the Jewish people may justly and with every reasonable prospect of success put their hands to the glorious work of National Regeneration.

If you think otherwise I shall bend at once to your decision, only begging you to appreciate my motive, which is simply an ardent desire for the welfare and prosperity of a people to whom we all owe our possession of those blessed truths which direct our minds with unerring faith to the enjoyment of another and better world.

“Proposal of Colonel Churchill” August 15, 1842:

Human efforts preceded by prayer and undertaken in faith the whole history of your nation shows to be almost invariably blessed. If such then be your conviction it remains for you to consider whether you may not in all humility, but with earnest sincerity and confiding hope direct your most strenuous attention towards the land of your Fathers with the view of doing all in your power to ameliorate the conditions of your brethren now residing there and with heartfelt aspiration of being approved by Almighty God whilst you endeavour as much as in you lies to render that Land once more a refuge and resting-place to such of your brethren scattered throughout the world as may resort to it.

Hundreds and thousands of your countrymen would strain every effort to accomplish the means of living amidst those scenes rendered sacred by ancient recollections, and which they regard with filial affection, but the dread of the insecurity of life and property which has rested so long upon the soil of “Judea” has hitherto been a bar to the accomplishment of their natural desire.
My proposition is that the Jews of England conjointly with their brethren on the Continent of Europe should make an application to the British Government through the Earl of Aberdeen to accredit and send out a fit and proper person to reside in Syria for the sole and express purpose of superintending and watching over the interests of the Jews residing in that country.

The duties and powers of such a public officer to be a matter of arrangement between the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Committee of Jews conducting the negotiations. It is, I hope, superfluous for me to enlarge upon the incalculable benefit which would accrue to your nation at large were such an important measure to be accomplished, or to allude more than briefly to the spirit of confidence and revival which would be excited in the breasts of your fellow-countrymen all over the world were they to be held and acknowledged agents for the Jewish people resident in Syria and Palestine under the auspices and sanction of Great Britain….

READ MORE / SOURCES


Adler, Joseph. Restoring the Jews to Their Homeland: Nineteen Centuries in the Quest for Zion. Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1997.

Blumberg, Arnold. Zion Before Zionism 1838-1880. Jerusalem: Devora Publishing, 2007.

Green, Abigail. Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012.

Grief, Howard. The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel Under International Law: A Treatise on Jewish Sovereignty Over the Land of Israel. Jerusalem, Israel: Mazo Publishers, 2013.

Mor, Menachem. Eretz Israel, Israel, and the Jewish Diaspora: Mutual Relations: 1st Annual Symposium. University Press of America, 1991.

 

 

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OTD in History… June 10, 1967, The Six Day War ends with Israel victorious

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OTD in History… June 10, 1967, The Six Day War ends with Israel victorious

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

OTD in History June 10, 1967, the Six-Day War ends with Israel victorious and tripling their territory capturing the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and the old city of Jerusalem. Both Israel and the Arab nations involved; Egypt (the United Arab Republic), Jordan, and Syria agreed to a United Nations ceasefire to broker an end of the war. In addition, to the territory, Israel also gained a population of hundreds of thousands of Arabs. Although, it is 51 years later Jerusalem has still not received the universal recognition as the Israeli capital. Only this past year for Israel’s 70th anniversary did the United States President Donald Trump recognize Jerusalem and moved the embassy there in May, followed by Latin American countries Guatemala and Paraguay.

In the first months of 1967, Syria ramped up their civilian bombing attacks against Israelis in the northern kibbutzim, agricultural villages. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol warned Syria they would retaliate, but they would not listen, and Israel’s attack downed six Syrian MiG fighters, given by Russia. In retaliation, Syria told Egypt, Israel was mobilizing the army on the border, which they were not, and Egypt realized. The response, Egypt moved troops forward into the Sinai and asked the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to vacate the border, on May 19, the UN did. Three days later on the May 22, Egypt cut off Israel’s shipping access to the Straits of Tiran, an act tantamount to war. On May 30, the Arab alliance of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and coalition partners Iraq, Kuwait, and Algeria signed a pact, and by June 4, were set for war with 230,00 troops mobilized.

With little help from outside, the Israeli cabinet voted on June 4 to give the Defense Ministry the decision making power to strike. Israel decided on a preemptive defensive strike on June 5, commencing the war with Jordan, Syria, and Iraq joining in the attack on Israel. The surprise attack destroyed Egypt’s air force. Israel was fighting on three fronts, Egypt in the West, Syria in the North and Jordan from the East. Israeli paratroopers took Jerusalem on June 7. On June 8, Israel gained control of the West Bank and also Gaza and the Sinai. By June 10, Israel had garnered the strategic Golan Heights. Although it was a decisive victory, Israel lost 776 soldiers in the six days of fighting.

The most significant of those territorial acquisitions was the Eastern Jerusalem, reunifying the city. Since 1948, when Jordan won Eastern Jerusalem and West Bank, Jews were unable to enter the Old City and visit the holiest of sites the Kotel, Western Wall. Upon gaining control and access, Israeli soldiers wept, prayed and blew the shofar at the Kotel, the first time in 19 years. Israel had control of the Temple Mount, Islam’s holiest site, out of good faith they ceded it to Jordan.

Israel hoped the war could lead to peace and offered the land in exchange for a peace agreement. Three months later on September 1, the Arab nations met in Khartoum, Sudan and gave Israel their answer, establishing “the 3 Nos of Khartoum”: “No peace with Israel, No recognition of Israel, No negotiations with Israel.” Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban, remarked on the irony, “This is the first war in history which has ended with the victors suing for peace and the vanquished calling for unconditional surrender.”

READ MORE

Lorch, Netanel. One Long War. Jerusalem: Keter, 1976.

Oren, Michael. Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. New York: Rosetta Books, 2010.

Sachar, Howard. A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.

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