Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia
The wall which sheltered the artist's home on the street side gave no hint of the beauty within, and the visitors were the more surprised when they entered the forecourt. The entrance hall, whose glass roof rested upon marble columns, was draped with antique Gobelins, and contained fine copies of antique sculptures. A servant led them to an inner court which was really a roofless salon. Only the blue sky covered it. This court, which was paved with stone, was surrounded on three sides with colonnades, and on the fourth was separated from the garden by a movable gilt trellis that was standing wide-open. The garden, which lay several steps below the court, was not large, but seemed to have a considerable depth owing to a skillful arrangement of bushes. Noble marble statues gleamed here and there among the green palms. Gently murmuring water flowed through the wide basin of the fountain in the court. Comfortable easy chairs of all sorts were grouped cozily in the corners. The broad arcade could be easily transformed into a closed room by raising its glass doors from their grooves along the sides. At the moment, it stood open in the mild spring air. Carved doors opening off the court into various rooms were partly open, and allowed glimpses of magnificent furnishings. It was obviously the palace of a prince of art.
The door of the atelier opened, and Isaacs came out to greet his visitors. With him was a distinguished-looking couple. Steineck introduced Friedrich to the host, who in turn introduced him to Lord and Lady Sudbury. They were staying in Jerusalem while Isaacs painted the portrait of the beautiful Lady Lillian.
The artist was a dignified man of forty or so, who carried himself with charming distinction, and obviously accustomed to meeting great folk on a level of equality, though he had been a poor Jewboy whose present position in the world was won through sheer grace of talent.
Isaacs soon set his guests at their ease. Servants brought in refreshments. The gentlemen lighted cigars. The fragrant weeds, remarked Isaacs smilingly, were Palestinian a fact in which he took obvious pride. This brand was called the "Flower of the Jordan," because it was made from tobacco grown in the Jordan Valley.
While the gentlemen talked over their cigars, Lady Lillian approached Miriam, whom she had previously met at the studio, and whispered some request into her ear. Friedrich noticed that Miriam refused, though with a smile. It seemed to him that she glanced his way as she shook her head. Lady Lillian also sent a fleeting glance in his direction. The two were standing beside the trellis, their slender figures a pleasing sight. Miriam, dark-haired and somewhat the shorter cut no poor figure in her simple gown beside the tall, blonde Englishwoman whose costume bespoke a Parisian tailor. Friedrich felt a vague pride as he observed .the daughter of the Jewish peddler carrying herself so modestly and yet with such dignity beside the great English lady. In the manner of his absent friend he said .to himself, "All the Devils! We've even achieved a modest entree into Society!"
Lady Lillian and Miriam walked slowly out into the garden. Friedrich, who would gladly have followed them, was obliged to remain because the conversation was directed chiefly at himself. They were speaking of things still not known to him,-of the place of art and philosophy in the New Society. Only now, as he was listening to Isaac's mellow tones, did he realize that he had as yet heard nothing on these questions. He had seen the Temple and the electric machinery, the ancient people and its new social order in the Old-New-Land. But how did sensitive souls, the artists and the scientists, come off in all this? The so-called moderns of his day had objected to Zionism, to the idea of the national rebirth of the Jewish people, on the ground that it would be a stupid reaction, a kind of millennial terrorism. And here was Isaacs declaring it to be nothing of the sort. There was anything but intellectual deterioration in the New Society, even though everyone was allowed to find salvation in his own way. Religion had been excluded from public affairs once and for all. The New Society did not care whether a man sought the eternal verities in a temple, a church or a mosque, in an art museum or at a philharmonic concert.
Art and philosophy had their independent places in the Jewish Academy. This institution was no brand-new creation, but had been patterned after the centuries-old model of the French Academy. It was endowed by a rich American who had been among the guests of the "Futuro," and the statutes of the Society provided that, as far as possible, the spirit of the "Futuro" was to pervade it The membership was limited to forty, as in the Palais Mazarin. When a vacancy occurred through the death of a member, the survivors chose the most meritorious successor that could be found. The members received ample salaries, which relieved .them of the cares of livelihood so that they could devote themselves to art, philosophy or scholarship without an eye to any man's favor. It was natural that the forty Jews of the Academy should be free from chauvinism. When the Academy was established, the original members came from various countries whose cultures had been developed in their respective languages; and they united on the basis of their common humanity. Their fellowship thus created a spirit that could not be overthrown, since they chose their own successors. The founder's first condition was: "It shall be the duty of the Jewish Academy to seek out meritorious persons who work for the good of humanity." This duty was obviously not limited by the boundaries of Palestine.
The forty members of the Academy also formed a Jewish Legion of Honor like the French Legion of Honor. The emblem was a knot of yellow ribbon worn in the button hole. Friedrich had seen several persons wearing the ribbon, but had thought it a mere survival of the old foolish honors system. He was the more impressed when he heard Isaacs says that he himself, like Professor Steineck, had the knot of yellow ribbon. "You must not believe, Dr. Loewenberg," he added, "that we were either stupid or vain when we founded our Legion of Honor. Statesmen in the old days recognized that honor needs a currency of its own. Why should we have despised a means whereby so much can be achieved for the common good? We have setup a very high standard, so that the decoration is difficult to obtain. The higher grades are very rare. The grand master of the Legion is the president of the Academy. The" Legion consists of men without private interests of any kind, who, above all, hold themselves entirely aloof from politics. No one, therefore, can win the yellow ribbon for financial or partisan services. That was what made orders so ridiculous in the old society. The erstwhile silly emblem is a token of high achievement among us. The color recalls evil times in our national history, and reminds us to be humble in the midst of our prosperity. We have taken the yellow badge of shame that our unhappy, revered ancestors were compelled to wear, and made of it a badge of honor."
"Understand?" cried Steineck.
Friedrich nodded reflectively.
Dr. Marcus was announced. Isaacs rose quickly to receive the white-bearded visitor. "You come like the wolf in the fable, sir," he remarked, and introduced Dr. Marcus as the president of the Jewish Academy. "I have just been speaking of the Academy. Lord Sudbury already knew a good deal about it, but it was all new to this gentleman though he is a Jew."
"How is that possible?"
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