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Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia

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Altneuland MAIN

Miriam told the strangers in an undertone that the white-bearded rabbi had come with the earliest group of immigrants. When he came this fertile plain was still waste land; the plain of Asochis over there-behind the mountain range to the north-was covered with swamps, and the broad Valley of Jezreel to the south still showed the effects of age-long neglect. Rabbi Shmuel was the comforter of the people of Neudorf, most of whom had come from Russia to take up the struggle with the ancient soil. He had been and remained a simple country rabbi, staying with his village congregation, though he had often been called by large urban communities. He was universally honored for his wise and God-fearing life. The eastern part of the village called the Garden of Samuel, where he had his little home, had been named in his honor. When he preached in Neudorf on festival days, people came long distances to hear him.

The guests were served with the drink of welcome and light refreshments. On the grounds behind the community center an airy assembly hall had been improvised by stretching long strips of sail cloth over poles and the tops of trees. Thither the crowd now made its way. A temporary platform had been put up, and a row of chairs arranged for the visitors. The villagers sat on long benches or stood.

Friedman was the first speaker. He enjoined the audience not to interrupt the visiting speakers even when they might not agree with all that was said. Neudorf's reputation for courtesy was at stake. He then called upon Steineck. That gentleman stepped up to the platform, cleared his throat several times and began to speak. He was rather halting in his manner at first, but warmed up as he developed his argument.

"Dear friends! I have had-hm-an accident-hm-hm-on my trip. That is-I have-hm-lost the prepared address I had intended to deliver here. It was a good speech-a fine one, in fact. You must take my word for it, since you will not hear it." A ripple of laughter passed through the audience. Steineck proceeded.

"In our New Society, we-hm-have come to a turning point-hm-I say to you only this-a turning point." Speaker paused to wipe the perspiration from his brow. "What does this turning point consist of, my dear friends? ...But before I turn to this-hm-turning point, I should like-hm-to touch on the past. What was that past-your past, our past? Hm? The Ghetto!"

"Very true!" came cries from the audience.

"Who brought you out of the Ghetto? Hm? Who?"

"We ourselves," called Mendel in a loud voice. The crowd hushed him to silence.

Steineck grew heated. "Who is that, we ourselves? Him? Is it Mendel, or someone else?"

"The people'" shouted Mendel.

"Please do not interrupt me! I accept Mendel's word. The people. Yes! Certainly, the people. Hm-but by itself-the people could not have done it. Hm. Our people were scattered allover the world, in small, helpless groups. They had to be gathered together before they could help themselves."

"Yes, yes!" bawled Mendel. "The leaders! We know all that!"

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