The BILU were a student Proto-Zionist organization for immigration to the land of Israel (Aliya), part of the First Aliya. The name consists of initials of the words in verse in Isaiah II:5, "House of Jacob, come, let us go." (Beyt Yaakov Lechu Ve -Nelcha). This movement grew out of the Chovevei Tziyon movement in Kharkov Russia following pogroms in that country. The Bilu arrived in Turkey, where tried to enlist the help of Robert Oliphant unsuccessfully. They issued the manifesto below in Constantinople, calling on Jews to emigrate to the land of Israel, and announcing their intent to ask the Sultan for national rights. Nothing came of that project, but they proceeded to Yaffo nonetheless.
The introduction above is copyright 2007 by Ami Isseroff. The document below is in the public domain.
To our brothers and sisters in Exile!
"If I do not help myself, who will help me?"
Nearly two thousand years have passed since, in an evil hour, after an heroic struggle, the glory of our Temple vanished in fire and our kings and chieftains exchanged their crowns and diadems for the chains of exile. We lost our country where our beloved ancestors had lived. Into the Exile we took with us, of all our glories, only a spark of the fire by which our Temple, the abode of the Great One, was engirdled, and this little spark kept us alive while the towers of our enemies crumbled into dust, and this spark leapt into the celestial flame and illuminated the heroes of our race and inspired them to endure the horrors of the dance of death and the tortures of the autos-da fe. And this spark is again kindling and will shine for us, a true pillar of fire going before us on the road to Zion, while behind us is a pillar of cloud, the pillar of oppression threatening to destroy us. Are you asleep, O our nation? What have you been doing until 1882? Sleeping and dreaming the false dream of assimilation. Now thank God, you have awaked from your slothful slumber. The pogroms have awakened you from your charmed sleep. You eyes are open to recognize the obscure and delusive hopes. Can you listen in silence to the taunts and mocking of your enemies?..
Where is your ancient pride, your old spirit? Remember that you were a nation possessing a wise religion, a law, a constitution, a celestial Temple who wall is still a silent witness to the glories of the past...
Your state in the West is hopeless: the star of your future is gleaming in the East. Deeply conscious of all the foregoing, and inspired by the true teaching of our great master, Hillel, 'If I do not help myself, who will help me?" we propose to form the following society for national ends:
1. The society will be named 'BILU', according to the motto, "House of Jacob, com let us go.' It will be divided into local branches according to the numbers of its members.
2. The seat of the Committee will be Jerusalem.
3. Donations and contributions shall be unfixed and unlimited.
1. A home in our country. It was given to us by the mercy of God; it is ours as registered in the archives of history.
2. To beg it of the Sultan himself, and if it be impossible to obtain this, to beg that we may at least possess it as a state within a larger state; the internal administration to be ours, to have our civil and political rights, and to act with the Turkish Empire only in foreign affairs, so as to help our brother Ishmael in his time of need.
We hope that the interests of our glorious nation will rouse the national spirit in rich and powerful men, and that everyone, rich or poor, will give his best labors to the holy cause.
Greetings dear brothers and sisters!
HEAR O! ISRAEL! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one, and our land Zion is our only hope.
GOD be with us! The Pioneers of BILU
Thank you. <
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