Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia
"In order to visualize the situation as it developed from day to day, I used a little technical device. I had glass headed pins made in many different colors-dark blue, light blue, red, black, green. Maps of various countries were stretched on boards, and I used the pins to indicate the situation in the various local groups. For example, a white-headed pin meant merely that a local group was compiling lists of workingmen; green signified agricultural workers; red, artisans; yellow, master-workmen. Light blue, again, betokened vocational co-operative societies with capital of their own, which asked only for a tract of land on lease. Districts whose nominees had not made good were stigmatized by black pins. Some of the pins were partly-colored-red-green, blue, pale-yellow, etc. These are trivial details, I admit; but my work was enormously simplified by means of such devices. Thanks to my reports and maps, I was able to keep in daily touch with the most detailed phases of the undertaking through many years. These maps and telegrams followed me everywhere. Later we used numbered pins to denote ships and railways. I knew at any moment the number and whereabouts of all transports under way. When I was traveling, Wellner, my secretary, forwarded me a brief summary of the incoming cables twice a day from London.
"Many people thought in those days that the prospect of emigration would demoralize our people, meaning that they would not care to work or perform their duties because they were so soon to leave. The contrary turned out to be the case. Since the Zionist districts, in their own interest, named only the most industrious and respected men, there was widespread competition for the honor of inclusion in their lists, which, by the way, became rolls of honor. If a man wanted to be thought worthy of being sent to the Promised Land, he must make an honest exertion to qualify. I admit this was a by-product I had not dreamed of. Yet it could quite easily have been foreseen. Many a despairing, negligent man was aroused, and improved his conduct. Many a half-demoralized family pulled itself together. The effects of the systematic migration were thus beneficial for those who still had to remain behind. And, as they strove to improve themselves, they fulfilled their duties all the more conscientiously. The districts were instructed that we would accept only such persons as could show proper emigration certificates from their governments. We had no use for vagabonds. The various governments were kept fully informed of our work, and assisted us as much as they could. But I am anticipating.
"During the first few weeks after sending Alladino, Warszawski and the others on their respective missions, I remained in London with Fischer, Steineck, and Wellner. It was then that we outlined our great technical plans. Many of them were carried into effect; some we had to abandon; while still others were executed far better than we had dared to hope. I do not claim that we created anything new. American, English, French, and German engineers had done the same things before us. But we were the first heralds of technical civilization in the Orient.
"I had Steineck prepare plans for station buildings and for workmen's houses. A few cheap models had to suffice at the beginning. The chief thing was to get them up quickly. We could not stop to consider beauty of construction in those days. Steineck's systematic and at times magnificent work in town-planning came later. When we began, his task was merely to provide bare shelter. At his suggestion, I ordered five hundred barracks from France -a new kind that could be taken apart like a tent and put together in an hour. They were to be delivered at Marseilles by the middle of February, when Rubenz would take charge of them. After the plans for the buildings had been prepared, I gave Steineck general instructions for finding his building materials and workingmen as quickly and cheaply as possible. Wishing to give him an absolutely free hand, since he had to organize his department with the utmost speed, I said, 'Go on to Palestine at once.' His reply startled me. He said, 'I am going to Finland and Sweden first!' ..."
Here the architect's hearty roar drowned out the narrative. His brother called him sternly to order. "Be quiet! You're disturbing everyone!" David set the roller back, repeating the last words... "startled me. He said, 'I'm going to Finland and Sweden first!'...That was hardly the route to Palestine? But I judged too hastily. He went to Sweden to buy lumber. From Sweden he went to Switzerland, Austria and Germany, where he asked the technological institutes for their latest graduates.
"Six weeks later his construction bureau was operating full blast in Jaffa. He had a staff of about the hundred construction engineers and draughtsmen, some of whom soon displayed fine talents. The news of an un-hoped for demand for Jewish technicians was quickly spread through all the institutes by the students' societies. The experience we had had in the Zionist districts repeated itself in a smaller way. The prospects of work, and even perhaps of brilliant careers in Palestine, stimulated the young men in their studies. They took their examinations earlier, and wasted no more time on political tomfoolery or card playing. Their one thought was to make themselves fit for work as soon as possible.
"Steineck reported to Rubenz day by day as he placed orders for lumber in Sweden and Finland, for iron in Germany and Austria. Rubenz made his arrangements with railways, steamship companies, and port authorities. He was an expert traffic manager, and carried out his task very efficiently during those months. His services are quite forgotten nowadays because our facilities for transportation by water between Europe and Palestine are so good. But during the first three or four years, it required much wit to find cheap means of transporting freight. Rubenz used to avail himself of the most curious opportunities on Spanish, Greek, and North African ships. I often suspected him of looking upon freight traffic as a kind of sport. He would send his goods on the oddest journeys and detours, but it was always on hand on the day it was wanted. Often we realized that he had chosen slow transport in order to save storage charges. To him a ship was a floating dock. He, too, had numerous maps in his office, on which colored pins indicated shipments of grain, flour, sugar, coal, wood, iron, etc. I needed only a few moments with his maps to have a complete view of the supply department. Rubenz was thrifty with the pence, too, and she saved us large sums.
"It was he who thought of negotiating with large firms in England, France and Germany before the beginning of our immigration. They would be only too pleased to find a market for the large quantities of shopworn goods they I had on hand; and for us it was a distinct relief because; we had to provide for all the needs of the immigrants. How could we have prepared all the beds, tables, cupboards, mattresses, pillows, blankets, bowls, plates, pots, underwear, boots and clothing they would need? That would have been a large undertaking in itself. We preferred to leave it to the competing firms which eagerly sought a market in Palestine. True, in our poor immigrants, the merchants had a public of very small cash purchasing power. Payment for purchases was, however, guaranteed because the New Society deducted the agreed-upon installments from the earnings of its officials and laborers, and sent the money directly to the department stores. In this way we had the opportunity of influencing the prices charged to the settlers. Our accounting department entered into agreement with the firms only after fixed price lists had been submitted. The settlers were thus secured against overcharges, while the department stores sold large quantities of goods for which payment was guaranteed. Rarely in the history of commerce have purveyors of goods been able to estimate so closely the amount of stock required for a given period. There was something military about the procedure, and yet competition was entirely free and open to all. The formation of a department store trust was easily hindered, because our accounting department would serve no firm that was a party to a price-fixing agreement. It might whistle for customers.
"We thus arranged a market for the first two or three months. While the local Zionist groups were selecting their best human material for Palestine, English, French, and German firms established branches in Haifa, Jaffa, Jericho, and before the gates of Jerusalem. The natives were astonished at the sudden appearance of Occidental goods in the country, and at first could find no explanation for the marvel. We had an amusing letter from Steineck at the time, in which he described the solemn puzzlement of the Orientals. 'Grave camels stopped stock still,' he wrote, 'and shook their heads.' But the natives began to buy at once, and word of the new bazaars spread quickly to Damascus and Aleppo, to Bagdad and the Persian Gulf. The customers streamed in on all sides. Our enterprise, casting its shadow before, brought on a commercial revival. The business of the first few months was so good that some of the firms began to manufacture the articles most in demand within the country, so as to save freight charges. There was the beginning of our present flourishing industries.
"I was reproached with having enriched the business men. The newspapers, also, attacked me on that score. I did not mind. I had no choice, and one can't please everybody. It was my duty to see to it that no official of the New Society received more than his proper salary. And I did see to it. I was ruthless in such matters. Everyone will bear me out. That I did not enrich myself is also known. But if independent firms made large profits, I was well content. Our own cause was served in that way. People will rush to a place where gold grows out of the earth. How it grows does not matter. I do not underestimate ideal and sentimental motives. But material incentives have their value as well.
"Again I am anticipating a later development. Once Steineck was gone, I found leisure to study Fischer's plans. His sketches for streets, water and power supply, railways, canals and harbors were classic. It was at that time that he submitted to me his plans for his greatest work: the canal from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea in which he utilized the difference in levels very cleverly. In drawing up the canal plans he was helped by a Christian Swiss engineer, who was so enthusiastic a Zionist that he became a Jew and took the name of Abraham. Fischer, who was very modest, always put him forward as the real author of the plan.
"The excellent maps of the English General Army staff, and especially the relief maps prepared by Armstrong for the Palestine Exploration Fund, were of the highest value to us in those days.
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