Herzl on Jerusalem
At the end of October and the start of November 1898, Herzl visited Israel, whereby his main objective was to meet with the German Kaiser, with the aspiration to gain his support for the Zionist concept and his influence over the Turkish government. Herzl visited Jaffa and the adjacent settlements, and also Jerusalem, there he met with the Kaiser. Hereinafter are several excerpts from his journal, which describe his impressions of Jerusalem
“I am just looking through the windows and see that Jerusalem is sitting there in its glory. Notwithstanding its ruins today it is still a beautiful city, and could be, if we come here, to again be one of the most beautiful cities of the world.
When I think of you in the future, Jerusalem it will not be with pleasure. The dark memories of two thousand years are saturated in lack of humanity, lack of tolerance and filth rests in its dividing alleyways.
If we ever receive Jerusalem and if I will still be able to do anything when the time comes, firstly I will clean it of its filth. Everything that is not within the realm of a holy place, I will order to vacate. I shall construct workers housing outside of the city, I shall vacate the webs of filth, I shall destroy them, I shall burn the ruins that are not sacred and I will move the markets to another place. Later a new city will be built around the holy sites, comfortable, aerated, with sewage channels, while maintaining as far as possible the style of the old construction.
We were close to the Western Wall. I am not capable of feeling deep excitement, as this place is full of ugly and profiteering begging. Thus at least it was last night and this morning when we were there.
Last night I visited the Tower of David. At the entrance I said to my friend: “It could be a good idea for the Sultan to imprison me here”. There was a fascinating view through the abandoned arrow slits of the city submerging in the veil of the evening.
Before that we walked – fairly quickly – through the Via Dolorosa, as this place is not permitted for Jews. Zeinder who lived here previously, refused to join us. I would see this as weakness and therefore I walked via the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Street. My friends advised me not to put one foot in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is also forbidden to enter the Omar Mosque on the Temple Mount, for a fear of a boycott by the rabbis. That is what happened to Moshe Montefiore. So much superstition and so much zealousness in every direction.
Today we were at a Jewish hospital. Neglected and dirty. In the visitors’ book I had no choice but to tell them about the cleanliness of the place. This is how lies are created.
From the balcony of an old synagogue we enjoyed the view of the Temple Mount, Mount of Olives and all this legendary scenery in the sunlight of the late morning.
I am really convinced that it is possible to build gloriously outside of the walls of the Old-New City of Jerusalem. The ancient Jerusalem shall be and a kind of Lourdes [a town in the south of France which became a site for pilgrimage and tourism, following the appearance of the Virgin Mary in a dream of a local girl, in 1858}. Mecca and Jerusalem, a beautiful and very elegant city is definitely possible alongside the Old City.
This afternoon we were on the Mount of Olives. Huge vistas. What can’t be seen from this area!
The Old City with its holy ruins I would capture within a capsule, remove from it all the transport vehicles, between the ancient walls only houses of prayer and charitable organizations would remain. And on the surrounding foothills, that will become green as a result of our work, the wonderful new Jerusalem shall be spread out. The dandies from all over the world will walk via the Mount of Olives. If it is nurtured Jerusalem will become a precious object. Everything holy – will be kept within the ancient walls, everything new – will be dispersed in the surrounding area.
In 1902 the novel “Tel Aviv” (Altneuland) was published written by Herzl. In his descriptions of Jerusalem one can feel echoes of his impressions from four years previously, first of all from his first visit:
The view of Jerusalem was not that wonderful by day.
Shouting, filth, an unclear confusion of colours, a mixture of people wearing rags in the narrow streets, paupers, the sick, hungry children, wailing women, shouting pedlars. This crowning Jerusalem from days of yore could not help but fall as it fell.
Kingscourt and Friedrich looked at the magnificent plots, the buildings and the ruins. They also came to the street of the Western Wall sad with its grief. The view of the paupers praying, the wage acted amongst them as an annoying act.
And later, some twenty years later:
Previously Friedrich and Kingscourt came to Jerusalem at night, from the west. This time they came during the day and from the east. Previously they saw here a melancholy town spread over those hills. This time they saw a city full of hidden splendour and might. Previously Jerusalem was dead, and now it had shaken itself off and was alive again.
They came from Jericho and stood on the Mount of Olives, on the ancient mountain of wonders, from which there is a view of the land surrounding them. It was still a celestial abode for human beings. The various symbols of the religions of the various peoples and various generations still rose upwards, strong and happy. The life! Jerusalem was a huge garden and inhaling life. The Old City between the walls overlapping with the splendour of return, and they could see from above this observation point has only changed a little. They saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre of the Christians, the Omar Mosque and other ancient domes and roofs. However many other wonderful things had been added.
Here for example is a wondrous shining building in all its glory. It is the Hall of Peace, serenity in the Old City.
However this was not the view outside and in the surrounding area. There new parts of the city have been constructed, full of electric railways lines, broad streets and two avenues of trees, many houses, divided by green plots of land, large parks, boulevards, schools, trade, magnificent buildings and joyous homes. David named the rising buildings and their surroundings. It was a city of the universe, almost one hundred and twenty.
However their eyes could not stop looking at the Old City in the centre of the picture. It was displayed before them, over the Kidron Valley, the afternoon sunlight, and a kind of breeze of a festival above it. Kingscourt already asked all the questions to be asked and had already received all the answers from David. Now he wanted to know the roots regarding the huge magnificent building that was shining with its stain of gold; its garden was resting on marble columns, a forest of columns, and on each column a capital of gold. And Friedrich’s heart was beating when he heard these words from David:
That is the temple.