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Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia

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"You will also be interested to know that railway fares are very low here. We have adopted the system of fares in vogue in Baden during the reign of the kindly, wise Grand Duke Friedrich! From the viewpoint of the public interest, we have tried to make it as easy as possible for the workers to find employment. It does not happen here that railway coaches are shunted back and forth empty from a place where there is an acute shortage of labor to another where there is acute unemployment merely because railway fares are prohibitive. Our network of railways stretches from Mount Lebanon to the Dead Sea, and from the Mediterranean to the Hauran like a system of sluices for fertilizing the country with man power.

"Our freight traffic, both inland and transit, has grown very extensive because we have harbors and grain elevators, and our railways link up with the trunk lines of Asia Minor and Northern Africa. ...

"However, I don't want to go into the social and economic features of our railway system just now. You know all about these things, gentlemen, even though you were away from the world so long. They were commonplaces long ago.

"'But what was not recognized in those days," said David, turning aside from the railways, "was the beauty of our beloved land. The improvements we have made count for a great deal, of course. But the natural, God-given charm of Palestine lay unseen and forgotten for long centuries. Where in the world will you find a country where the springtime is so accessible at all times of the year? Palestine has warm, temperate and cool zones which lie not far apart from each other. In the southern part of the Jordan Valley, for instance, the country is almost tropical. The mild seacoast provides all the pleasures of the French and Italian Rivieras, while the 'majestic ranges of the Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon, the snow-covered Hermon are not far away. All these places can be reached by rail within a few hours. God has blessed our land."

"Yes," confirmed Reschid, "travel is really a great pleasure here. Sometimes I board an observation car without intending to go anywhere in particular. I do it just to enjoy the views."

"Honored host," said Kingscourt, "we ought to have been introduced to all that immediately, with all due respect to this very comfortable ark."

"I had two reasons, gentlemen," said David, justifying himself, "for not letting you travel by rail today. First, you see more of the country and of the people from an auto; second, the tourist traffic is very heavy just now on the Haifa-Nazareth- Tiberias line S (during the Easter season). It is true that the cosmopolitan pilgrimages to the holy places of Christendom are very fascinating, but I wanted first to show you the organized life of our commonwealth."

Ah, that reminds me," said Friedrich. "How did you solve the question of the Holy Places?"

"It was no great feat," replied David. "When, with the advent of Zionism at the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of the Holy Places came up, there were many Jews who, like yourself, thought it insoluble. Having been away so long, you still entertain this obsolete view. As a matter of fact, it soon became clear through public discussion and from the declarations of statesmen and princes of the church that the obstacle existed only in the imagination of over-timid Jews. The Christian Holy Places have been held by non-Christians from time immemorial. Centuries having passed since the crusades, a more enlightened view concerning these hallowed sites has gradually found acceptance. Geoffrey of Bouillon and his knights grieved because Palestine was held by the Moslems. But did the fin de siecle knights and noblemen harbor the same emotions? And their Governments? Would any Great Power have dared to ask its parliament for an extraordinary grant for the re-conquest of the Holy Land? The point was that such a war would have been waged less against the Turkish Empire than against other Christian powers; it would have been a crusade against the Cross rather than against the Crescent. The conclusion was thus reached that the status quo was the best possible status, for all concerned. However, that was what might be termed a utilitarian-political view. But parallel with it there is a higher and if I may use the term-an ideal-political point of view. The actual possession of the Holy Sites was not in question: religious susceptibilities were more at ease when the sites were not held by anyone temporal power. The Roman legal concept of res sacrae, extra commercium was applied to them. That was the safest and in fact the only means of retaining them permanently as the common possession of Christendom. When you visit Nazareth or Jerusalem or Bethlehem you will see peaceful processions of pilgrims of all the nations. Steadfast Jew though I am, these scenes of devotion stir me profoundly."

"At Nazareth or Bethlehem," added Steineck, "one is reminded of Lourdes in the Pyrenees. There is the same vast tourist traffic-the hotels, hospices, convents."

They had reached the extensive plain, which was thickly sown with wheat and oats, maize and hops, poppies and tobacco. There were trim villages and farmsteads in the valley and on the hillsides. Cows and sheep grazed ruminating in succulent meadows. Here and there great iron farm machines B gleamed in the sunshine. The whole landscape was peaceful and joyous.

They drove through several villages where men and women were at work in well-ordered farmyards, children played, and old men sunned themselves in front of the houses. The further they drove, the larger the number of pedestrians they saw on the roads. All were evidently bound for a common destination, which seemed to be a large village on an elevation to the south. As they overtook the pedestrians, some called after them. Others, however, removed their hats with ill grace or even glanced sullenly aside. The procession continued to swell in their wake. Hardly had the Littwak car passed when people jumped out of every farmyard in order to follow it. Some ran, others jumped into the saddle. Still others tried to overtake the auto on bicycles. The strangers gathered that their party was being expected.

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