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Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia

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III

"Does anyone else wish to speak?" asked the chairman.

"I do!" shouted Mendel, and leaped up to the platform. "Mr. Steineck," he began, "has just delivered an address to us. You might say that it was good, and again you might say that it was insulting. I say it was insulting."

Friedmann interrupted him. "You, Mendel! I won't allow you to be insulting."

"Who's insulting?" retorted Mendel. " I say he is! He said we were not worthy to have the sun shine upon us. Because we don't want to let everyone in. Who toiled and moiled over the soil? We! Who pulled out the stones? We! Who drained the marshes! We! Who dug the canals, who planted the trees, who sweated and froze until all this was finished? We! We! We! And now, suddenly, it's not to belong to us. No...that's no way to talk. When we came here, there was nothing, nothing at all. Now Palestine is a model country. We've sunk our blood and sweat and toil into it!

"I don't understand that about the immediate and the permanent advantage. Perhaps you do. As for Dr. Geyer, he doesn't appeal to me much. I don't like what he said in the old days. But I do know that now he is right. What we made with our own hands must remain ours. We shall let no one take it away from us. So! .I have no more to say!"

Subdued applause greeted Mendel's words, but people were obviously restraining themselves out of respect to the visitors.

Mendel stepped down, and David ascended the platform. He was very grave as he began to speak in a clear, carrying voice.

"My friends! You will listen to me. You know I am one of yourselves. I worked in the fields just as you did, by my father's side. I have risen a bit in the world, but I know the joys and the pains of the farmer. I know how you feel. Nevertheless, I must say that Mendel is wrong.

"To begin with, no one wants to take away anything that belongs to you. I should fight beside you to the last breath against any such attempt. But there is no question of infringing upon your hard-earned rights. The fruits of your labors will remain your own, and be multiplied. The issue is quite different from what has been told you.

"Mendel means well, but he is mistaken. He is mistaken chiefly because he thinks that all we see here is the work of your hands. Your hands made it indeed, but your brains did not conceive it. You are not so ignorant, thank Heaven, as the peasants of other times and countries; but you do not know the origin of your own happier circumstances. What is Neudorf? A person who looks at the settlement for the first time without knowing its history will wonder-or rejoice-that so prosperous a village has been founded in the Vaadi Rumani, on the old Roman road to Tiberias. I have brought two strange gentlemen with me today, and I was proud to be able to show them many fine things on the way here-our fields with the ripening barley, our meadows, our tree nurseries, our well-built houses and blooded cattle and up-to-date machinery; our irrigation system and our reclaimed moors. I say 'our,' though I own no acre of land here nor a single head of cattle. Everything is yours, but I feel so much at home here that I venture to speak in this fashion. And if these gentlemen ask me who conjured up all this within twenty short years, I shall reply in Mendel's own words: 'We! We! We!'

"Yes, we. But how? Did we simply come here and work with our hands as Mendel says we did? With our unskilled hands that were so unaccustomed to work on the soil? How could we have achieved results that no one else had achieved here before? No one, I mean to say, except the German Protestant farmers who founded several colonies in this country toward the end of the last century. We not only kept pace with those highly efficient Germans, but outstripped them! How did that happen?

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