The HEJERA PLOTby Y. I. Hy (C) The Hayut Foundation, P.O.B. 8115, Jerusalem 91080, Israel.
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3.1 Dr. Theodore (Benjamin Ze'ev) Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism
Dr. Theodore (Benjamin Ze'ev) Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, and Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky had much in common. These two men were possessed by visions of the impending doom of the Jewish people and it was this foreboding which forced them to divert their successful literary careers to uphold the Zionist vision. "Herzl was really a dramatist", thought Begin when first left alone with the HEJERA, "and by the time he convened the First Zionist Congress, several of his plays had been produced in Vienna each season. But this congress was his greatest dramatic achievement. All of the delegates, even those from poor and obscure Jewish communities in backward countries, had to dress like great officials, and even wear top hats. That was audience participation at its best; an audience participating in one of the most decisive events in the history of one of the world's most ancient nations. Herzl himself, charismatic and dramatic, felt at home on the stage. His beard, which was groomed daily, was recognized even then from afar just as it is recognized nowadays from across the generations."
Begin now stood alone next to the black box. His familiar office had been transformed. With the curtains drawn, the door locked and the lights out, the only light was from the symbols on the box. Begin felt expectancy growing within him, the same expectancy one feels before the curtain rises, only stronger. Something like the expectancy he felt at Tel Aviv Airport while waiting for Sadat before the latter's first visit to Israel. He touched one of the sides of the box and a the motto ascribed to Herzl: "If you will it, this legend becomes real" appeared glowing towards him. He touched the same place again. A pyramid of light suddenly appeared in the center of the dark room, and whiffs of smoke seemed to be spiraling and rising within the pyramid. They gradually started condensing into a pinkish-grey form like the bust of a man suspended above the box. Begin immediately recognized the legendary beard.
Begin was too young ever to have met Herzl, but like every Israeli, the prime minister was used to seeing this beard on pictures, stamps, banknotes and many other places. Now the famous beard was forming out of the void right in front of his eyes, like the smile on the Cheshire cat. Soon the other features also became more defined, the strong deep-set eyes started to glow, the familiar beard started to move, and Herzl opened his mouth to welcome Begin to the HEJERA.
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3.2 Begin; A courageous man by birth as well as by long training
A courageous man by birth as well as by long training; Begin soon overcame his initial awe and apprehension before the electro-\-optical phantom; the statesman in him started grappling with the question of how to conduct the conversation. He recalled the first time he had played chess against a computer. He had won; so these machines are not omnipotent. Begin began with some of the routines he usually employed when talking to an unfamiliar interlocutor for the first time. He was courteous and cautious yet sharp, every so often tossing loose ends to see how fast the other caught them while he, Begin, kept the definition of the context in his own hand. He spoke in a variety of styles, sometimes declamatory, sometimes more personal, checking how the other would respond, ever sensitive to the very "thoughts" and "feelings" of his electronic "opponent".
Begin quickly found that his electronic guest's style mirrored his own. Whenever he himself became declamatory - the apparition also produced slogans and abstract declarations; the terms then sounded good to him, but the conversation didn't. When, on the other hand, Begin got more personal, or even hesitant, Herzl's apparition also responded in softer, more personal and relative terms.
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3.3 It was now quite late. The night before, Begin had had a horrible nightmare
It was now quite late. The night before, Begin had had a horrible nightmare, so he had begun the day tense and depressed. He had his full workday, and then he had a demanding though exciting interchange with that strange Oriental, Logi-Loony. He had spent the last half hour matching wits with an electronic apparition. By now he was quite tired - and he has not yet achieved anything. But somehow the situation tempted him and he thought to himself: after all, he greatly admired the late Herzl, and the apparition acting in his name could be friendly and personable. There were moments when he felt that he was talking with the long-dead Zionist organizer himself.
"Why fight it off? I have a problem, I need advice from someone I can respect." He thought. He recalled a saying of a great Talmudic sage: 'If I am not for me, who is for me? But if I am only for me, what am I? And if not now, when?'. This glowing apparition seems like something from another world. May it bring insight from beyond....
(The next section is an abridged reconstruction of the conversation which occurred at this point. For reasons mentioned in the text, the original transcript could not be obtained.)
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3.4 Protocols Of The Lovers Of Zion #1 - Begin And Herzl.
Herzl: ..So you have a problem, something is troubling you.
Begin: Almost the whole world is demanding that we shall deal with the so-called Palestinian problem, and even that we recognize the so-called "Palestinian Liberation Organization".
Herzl: I do not recognize the terms "Palestinian problem" or "Palestine Liberation Organization". I need more information.
Begin: The so-called "Palestinian problem" is a myth invented by the Arab nations. When the State of Israel was created, many Arabs chose to leave the Land of Israel rather than live with us Jews. Instead of giving them citizenship and a place to live in their vast countries, the other Arabs, who call themselves their brothers, cast them into miserable refugee camps to create and then perpetuate a "Palestinian problem" so as to continue beleaguering us.
As for the said organization, it is simply a gang of murderous thugs. But unfortunately - both many states and the United Nations organization have recognized it as the sole legitimate representative of the so-called "Palestinian people". Lately we are finding it difficult to keep even the few nations friendly to us, the United States and the nations of Western Europe, from recognizing the PLO. Even they, in fact, are calling on us to recognize the murderers.
Herzl: So the problem is that the murderer's organization is good at achieving international recognition. There seem to be two solutions: either that the Palestinians would be liberated by this organization, or that the Palestinians be liberated from that PLO organization.
Begin: I certainly agree with the second possibility which you have raised. But, if you'll excuse me, I would not use this word "Palestinian", or "Palestine". These people are simply the Arabs of the Land of Israel, as the Bible itself calls our beloved homeland. The word "Palestine" is used by anti-Semites to confuse the issue.
Herzl: Palestinians - in English "Philistine" - means "a hater of culture". Are the Palestinians haters of culture?
Begin: That's an interesting and original insight. Maybe we can use it in our information campaigns. For you see: when we try to point out that anti-Zionists are actually anti-Semites, there are those who try to confuse the issue with semantic nit-picking, saying that Arabs cannot be anti-Semites because they are Semites themselves.
Your remark about Philistines - by the way - also reminds me of "Samson", the greatest novel of my mentor and teacher Jabotinsky. Have you read it?
Herzl: I'm afraid I havn't heard of it. Maybe it came after my time. But I know about Samson the Biblical hero. I tend to recall him in connection with Bar-Kokhva.
Begin: Indeed, they are my two greatest heros.
Herzl: In my novel "AltNeuLand", about the future of this land, this "Palestinian question" does not appear. I predicted in it harmony between Jews and Arabs. This so-called "Palestinian question", is it something like what was called in my day the "Jewish question"?
Begin: Absolutely not! The two in fact are exact opposites.
Herzl: Exact opposites, you say. You mean that just as the "Jewish question" could not be solved by assimilation - so this "Palestinian question" can be solved only by the assimilation of the Palestinians?
Begin: That's exactly what I mean. You see: this Palestine, as they see it includes all our country and even Jerusalem - that is, Zion! So it is impossible for it to coexist with Zionism and with the Jewish state of Israel.
Herzl: I was certainly a Zionist. But I did not attach such absolute importance to the city of Jerusalem, I was not at all impressed when I visited there. I myself proposed two interim plans for a Zionist state: at El-Arish in the Sinai, and later in Uganda. Maybe the palestinians will be willing to establish their independent state in El-Arish, or on the east bank of the Jordan river, or in some other Arab territory?
You say that these Palestinians are seeking international recognition for their right to return to the Land of Israel. In their language - to Palestine. I also sought international recognition for the return to the Land of Israel. I agreed to a compromise. Would they not accept a compromise?
Begin: No way; You can't be comparing PLO terrorism with Zionism!
Herzl: Why can I not compare the two? I have just heard from you that the Palestinian problem is, from their side, that of wanting to return to the land of Zion, by whatever name they call it. They have founded an organization to gain recognition for their return, or their right for a land of their own. This is similar to my own understanding of Zionism. Moreover, the land in question is the same, it is Zion by whatever name.
Begin: I refuse even to listen to such sacrilege! I have said it to you clearly enough: there can be no comparison between this criminal organization and Zionism! Even if there was some sense in your strange logic - your words are a mortal danger to Israel!
Herzl: Israel is the cause I lived and died for. And my words to you can never endanger anything or anyone, because no one will ever know what passes between us unless you repeat it.
I advise that we go on to re-examine it. Everything. As closely as possible. Do not discard anything off-hand. Please allow me to be of assistance to you, and tell me more about that PLO. What precisely is the difference between it and the Zionist movement. Why does it seem impossible to compare the two? I need more data.
Begin: The PLO is the very embodiment of the evil which has always plotted against the Jews. It is an organization of fanatics who believe only in destruction. It is not a movement for national liberation, as it claims to be. They are not nationalists but chauvinists; they believe in nothing but brute force, conquest and murder. Can't you see the difference? We're the eternal victims, they our murderers. There's not the slightest resemblance between them and Zionism!
Herzl: Let us examine the good side. Talk about what is positive in Zionism. Outside, it is perhaps dangerous to be naive and to believe in goodness, to take risks in a cruel world. But here you are protected. Remember: nothing is stable and eternal in that world. Evil can turn into goodness, whereas an uncompromising defence of justice against evil - sometimes may also turn into evil. Let us start with the positive. So try to make the comparison, or the distinction, from the positive side. What is for you the positive essence of Zionism? Wherein is it better than other movements?
Begin: Zionism is above all a great vision. A vision of the renascence of the people of a great virtue who were exiled and dispersed and despised in the eyes of all. Even in our own eyes we were despised. But never more! Zionism is the new vision which has given us back dignity. Now at last we are a chosen people - not to suffer, but to build our own nation as a model to the world. Zionism may be parochial in its material aims, but its spiritual aim is universal; they are inseparable from the Biblical prophesies for the great role of Israel for the redemption of all mankind.
The PLO, on the other hand, is meanwhile doing all it can to make Zionism hated and despised in the eyes of the world. They want to destroy not only our state and what we have built in it. They also seek to destroy our pride, our spiritual renascence.
Herzl: You mean then that Zionism has to do with ideals, whereas the PLO with the destruction of ideals.
Begin: Exactly. They have no conception of what ideals are. That Arafat, the leader of those thugs, he tries to turn our sublime vision into an obscene joke.
Herzl: We spoke of complete opposites. Can't you turn the joke around on them? They should be made to declare themselves Zionists.
Begin: You have very strange ideas. I don't quite follow you.
Herzl: We have said: Zionism is an idealistic movement, it's aims are universal. We said: we want Israel to contribute toward the redemption of all mankind. We have also agreed that the PLO is like us in the most superficial sense: it wants to return the Palestinians to Zion by whatever means. As long as they are Philistines, namely: haters of culture - we should despise them. But if they were to become Zionists as we ourselves understand the term - aspirants of excellence and culture - shouldn't we then respect them?
I myself, incidentally, have invited Christian Zionists to the first Zionist Congress, these were people of distinction and they have given much assistance to our organization,
Begin: But that's impossible to compare! The PLO is without any question the most anti-Zionist organization in the world. It forbids other Palestinians from accepting Israel or Zionism. It would not even allow any thought about Zionism!
Herzl: You said there are pressures on you to recognize them. This is among your greatest problems. If they would declare themselves Zionists - then there would be a point in recognizing them.
Begin: Some Israelis maintain, that a PLO which would recognize Israel would no longer be the PLO. Certainly it could not accept Zionism. I am certain that such a turn is completely impossible.
Herzl: You are pressed to recognize the PLO. You are finding it harder and harder to explain your refusal. But the solution is in your hand. You could agree to recognize them on the condition that they perform this act that you are sure they will never perform - that of accepting Zionism, declaring themselves as Zionists.
Begin: And then - when they refuse - the guilt will clearly be on their hands?
Herzl: Right. And the more spectacular your offer - the greater their shame in refusing. I can suggest to you the right forum - the World Zionist Congress which I founded. Use it as a stage for that act - invite the PLO to send to it a delegation.
Begin: This is ingenious! It sounds impossible; but it might work out very neatly. We would discredit them while compromising nothing of our positions. Those other advises I was offered always entail giving away vital positions that would become impossible to regain in case of regret.
Herzl: Then you accept the idea?
Begin: In the final analysis, I am afraid, it is out of the question. You are no longer the boss of the World Zionist Organization, and would not stand by my side when I would have to explain this notion to my nation. Quite elementary - the Arabs are simply not Jews. What I mean is: like all the Jews in the State of Israel, I see Zionism as a Jewish movement designed for solving the Jewish problem in the Land of Israel. So I see no basis for inviting the Palestinians, or any other Arabs, to become members of the Zionist Congress.
Herzl: Let's examine the matter once more: Are all the Arabs not Jews? Are all the Jews not Arabs?
Begin: In the State of Israel we have clear laws on the matter. A person is a Jew if he was born to a Jewish mother or was converted to Judaism.
Herzl: Let us examine the case of the past: a Jewish woman at the time of the Romans had a daughter, this daughter was a Jew?
Begin: Yes, of course.
Herzl: And the daughter of that daughter of a Jewish woman, she would still be a Jew, even if her family was already not considered Jewish?
Begin: I believe that is correct.
Herzl: And the same would be true of her daughters to any number of generations. Even if by Christian criterion they were Christians. Even if by Moslem criterion they were Moslems.
Begin: Apparently - it seems so.
Herzl: So it follows that some of these so-called Palestinians, are in fact Jews. They are remnant of those Jews who did not go into exile, and their descendants through the female line must, strictly speaking, still be Jews.
Begin: Even if this is so - the number of such people must be very small. And what is more - they don't see themselves as Jewish.
Herzl: I only want to establish the principle, and even one such person would suffice to establish that some Palestinians are legally Jews. I'm sure your Israeli courts would uphold such a claim by a Palestinian.
Begin: Though you were a doctor of law at your time, the Israeli legal system is very different in such matters from those you are familiar with. It is the rabbinical, rather than the civil courts, which decide such matters; and they decide according to the Halakhah.
Herzl: Of mishnah and Gemarah I know almost nothing. In fact I did not anticipate them to rule in the Zionist state. But if so - you need a Talmudist to help continue the analysis. I can, however, recommend to you one who is as good as any.
Begin: Anyone I might know?
Herzl: I'm talking about Akiva ben Yoseph.
Begin: The great Rabbi Akiva himself?
Herzl: He is on the Board of, or you might say on board, the HEJERA.
Begin: You and Rabbi Akiva are both on the Board of the same agency? What a strange combination of personalities!
Herzl: My vision of Zion and his of the Heavenly Jerusalem have something in common. He no doubt can explain the whole thing better than I can.
Begin: I have always held the greatest respect for Rabbi Akiva and his judgements. It was Rabbi Akiva, against all the other religious leaders of his time, who supported Bar-Kokhva. Akiva put his great spiritual authority behind this heroic revolt.
Herzl: If you don't mind - I'll clear the board to give you an opportunity to talk to him.
Begin: I thank you for a most fascinating conversation.
Herzl: Feel free to call me again whenever you like, have peace.
(Begin then pressed a light on the side of the HEJERA, and the image of Herzl gradually faded. Eventually all that was left was a beard hovering in thin air, and then this disappeared. Begin was once again alone.)
(C) The Hayut Foundation, P.O.B. 8115, Jerusalem 91080, Israel.
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