Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia
"Ample physical and intellectual recreation was provided. All the comforts known to tourist agencies were to be found on board, for our guests were to enjoy six weeks without a cloud. Nothing that could give them pleasure was overlooked from the ship's orchestra that played at mealtime to the ship's paper published every morning. With such a passenger list, you may imagine that that sheet did not lack fascinating content. The trip was taken along many coasts; and, at every port, the 'Futuro' picked up news telegrams from the whole world, which promptly appeared in the next morning's paper. But, of course, by far the most valuable section was the literary page, where the events and experiences of each day were described by master pens. For example, the celebrated 'Table Talks,' which were later referred to as the New Platonic Dialogues, appeared there from day to day. Questions of the highest import were discussed -on an exalted level, you may be sure. The noblest minds of the period were expressing themselves, giving and receiving memorable stimulation.
"I shall mention only a few of the topics they discussed, such as the establishment of a truly modern commonwealth, education through art, land reform, charity organization, social welfare for workingmen, the role of women in civilized society, the progress of applied science, and many other topics. The 'Futuro Table Talks' have long been a gem of world literature. I myself know them only from the printed page, for it was not given me to hear them with my own ears.
"I had not the time then to make a pleasure trip, since I had to keep closely at my work. When the 'Futuro' anchored at Genoa, I had already been in Palestine for some time. But I read the ship's bulletin with a close attention and appreciation I have never given a newspaper before or since. I am not a philosopher, and in those days certainly was too busy to occupy myself with abstractions. But I searched in those 'Table Talks' for whatever seemed practical, and then tried to apply the ideas.
"It was as if the spirit of the times were speaking to the Jewish people from the 'Futuro' at the very moment when we were about to re-establish ourselves as a nation. The words that came from the ship were treasured and taken to heart by us. But it was when our honored guests actually trod upon the soil of Palestine that their comments were particularly fruitful and stimulating.
"The Ship of the Wise sailed along our coast. The passengers traveled about the country in large groups or small as they preferred. Their comfort was well looked after in every case.
"Not all of them were interested in the same things or in equal degree. The geologists wanted to see this, the electrical engineers that. Botanists, architects, painters, political economists-all sought out their own fields. The groups formed themselves naturally for the expeditions on shore; but so delightful was the spirit on the 'Futuro' that some of the passengers rarely left the ship at all. There were among them some who saw nothing of Palestine but the railway between Jerusalem and Haifa. There is a story, which I do not vouch for, that one accomplished writer never left the ship for a moment, declaring, 'This ship is Zion!' Later, however, he described Palestine and its people very fully.
"I must admit that this writer had excellent sources of information. When his fellow-passengers returned to the boat, they brought back an abundance of material which they had observed with expert eyes, and described it in masterly fashion. Each time after an excursion there were new themes for the table talk, which gave rise to the marvelous dialogues concerning what could be done in Palestine. I read and re-read those dialogues until I knew them by heart, as I do to this day. The comments of the artists impressed me most deeply-perhaps because I am myself no artist. On its practical side, our enterprise required only enough common sense to adapt the available facilities to Palestinian conditions. But it is to the artists. of the- 'Futuro' that I owe the valuable lesson that our land had much natural beauty; and that it must be made beautiful everywhere, always more beautiful. For beauty gladdens the heart of man.
"It is one of my most curious experiences that I never properly saw the 'Futuro.' I arranged the cruise, followed its developments, took to heart the words of wisdom that came from the ship, but-saw nothing of it. This is how it happened:
"When the 'Futuro' appeared off our coast, I was busy inland. Fischer, Steineck and Alladino presented the compliments of the New Society when she anchored at Jaffa. I intended to present myself when I should have completed an urgent piece of business. But it was a time when I was traveling day and night from one labor camp to another. Very often I slept in my touring car. And in those days there were no such comforts as we now have. When I knew in advance where I was going to spend the night, a barrack was knocked together for me. However, it was not always possible to foresee this. Besides, it was just as well for me to appear here and there unannounced in order to inspect the laying of the roads, the distribution of land, and the agricultural work. Though detailed plans and instructions had been prepared for everything, I preferred to convince myself in person that all was going according to schedule. I was in constant touch with my Haifa headquarters. Thence came messages which sent me scurrying from one end of the country to the other. Despite all our planning, it was not possible always to prevent occasional hitches with the workmen or in the commissariat. These things required rapid action and revised arrangements. At times there would be Gordian knots in connection with assigning land that no one but myself could cut.
"We were doing the spring planting on the lands of the New Society. Though we had organized agricultural producers co-operatives on the Rahaline model, our people were still new at it, needing guidance, and also at times someone in authority to make decisions. Our tasks were by no means extraordinary, but they did require close attention. There's no art in planting summer wheat, barley, oats, maize or turnips. And yet all sorts of difficulties arose. We had to battle with the neglected soil, which resisted our efforts. However, we had the newest agricultural equipment and cast-iron determination so that in the end, we mastered the soil, and it became our friend. Organization is the chief thing; and we had organized everything down to the last detail before our mobilization.
"The men in the employ of the New Society worked only several hours a day, but they concentrated all their strength into those seven hours. They laid roads, dug canals, built houses, cleared stones from the fields that were to be plowed with electric plows, planted trees. Each man knew that he was working for all his comrades, and that all were working for him. They went out singing to their work in the morning, and returned singing at night. Our work was like a sudden burst of spring, when bare trees turn green over night. And every day increased our momentum.
"I installed a telephone and telegraph system immediately. Though these services could not be made available to the public in the beginning, we made use of them at once in our administrative work. The wires ran out from Haifa. In the convoy car behind mine, .I carried a telegrapher who connected me quickly with my Haifa office and with the London headquarters. Only in this way could I have supervised the distribution of labor and materials.
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