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Tracing the Complex History of the State of Israel [part 2] +

February 1, 2024

Rabbi Geier


BS"D || Rabbi Geier

Tracing the Complex History of the State of Israel [part 2] +


In the 1850s, a new variety of orange was discovered in the citrus orchards of Jaffa, and by 1890, the new Shamouti orange—large, oval, and juicy—had made its way to Queen Victoria's table. The colony of Rehovot discovered the virtues of citrus in the 1920s. Rehovot was founded in 1890 on 10,600 dunams of the Ottoman feudal state of Duran, located approximately 24 kilometers southeast of Jaffa. After the barren land was purchased and the Bedouins occupying it were evicted, Russian and Polish Jews seized it in the hope of finding peace and abundance in the land of Israel.

The settlers thrived. Rehovot was a place where Orthodox and secular Jews, the rich and the poor, Ashkenazim and Yemenites lived together in relative harmony. They also lived in peace with their Arab neighbors. By 1935, the growing colony of Rehovot was the most prosperous Jewish colony in Palestine, leading the citrus industry and propelling the country into an unprecedented boom.

Rehovot was where Western knowledge, Arab labor, and liberal economics blended to make the Jaffa orange a globally recognized brand. So, while Europe and America were still in the grip of the Great Depression, Jaffa oranges and the accelerated migration to Palestine caused Rehovot to thrive. While hundreds of thousands of uprooted Jews could not find a home in Europe or America, those who chose Rehovot were flourishing. In the early 1930s, Rehovot saw the optimal conditions of Palestine intersect with the benevolent aspirations of Zionism.

In 1935, Zionism did not demand superhuman efforts and the total sacrifice of its pioneers. It already had a middle class living a life of comfort and leisure. It had cities, towns, colonies, and villages. The Jewish population of Palestine now comprised over a quarter of the total population, increasing more than ten percent each year. Jerusalem had the Hebrew University, Haifa had the Technion, and Tel Aviv, now twenty-five years old, was a lively mini-metropolis full of theaters, restaurants, cafes, and various publishers.


In the spring of 1935, Zionism was merely a national movement. Two years after Germany chose Nazism, the need for a Jewish home became evident. Any reasonable person could see that Europe was becoming a deadly trap for Jews—and it was clear that America would not open its doors in time to save the persecuted Jews of Europe. Only a Jewish state in Palestine could save the lives of the millions on the brink of death. In 1935, Zionist justice was an absolute universal justice that  could not be refuted.

Rehovot symbolizes a symbol of technological, scientific, social, economic and Zionist development, but also a symbol of what the People of Israel can achieve to save the existence of millions of Jews with nowhere to go in their possible escape from persecution and death.

Rehovot is also a symbol for the Arab people. While many took it as a model of development, and various Arab populations grew and developed, bringing that development to Arab families and individuals, others, I have shared before, see this Zionism and Jews as a threat to the status quo of Arab tradition, illegitimately and voraciously acquiring lands that once had owners of similar origin and culture to theirs or simply had no owner in an expanse where nomadism was perceived as the ruler of vastness.

Since the early Jewish settlements in what would later become the Land of Israel, there were skirmishes by Arab extremists that over time armed and trained in groups from Haifa and other northern villages, establishing that Jihad was a good means to end illiteracy and ignorance among Arab members living in British Mandate Palestine.

The term Jihad itself could pose a problem, as while the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), based in Washington, D.C., argues that Jihad “does not mean holy war” but is “a basic and broad concept that includes effort to improve the quality of life in society, effort on the battlefield in self-defense, or fighting against tyranny and oppression.” Another interpretation of this term in the Quran teaches that its meaning refers to the internal struggle of a believer to survive the rest of their life in the Muslim faith as much as possible and the struggle to build a good Muslim society.

On the Jewish side, what was happening?

A dangerous uptick in violence

The Haganah (defense) was established back in 1920 as the clandestine organization responsible for defending new Jewish settlements and populations from Arab attacks in early Israel. As is common in our people, between 1930 and 1940, more extremist groups like the Irgun, Lehi, and Etzel were formed disagreeing with the light responses the Haganah provided to Jihad attacks and responding with equal or greater violence not only against Arab attackers but sometimes against civilian populations and the ruling government, the British Mandate.

Whom do we blame for all this? The Arabs who killed Israel Hazan in 1936? A farmer traveling to Tel Aviv to sell his chickens or those who entered Abu Rass's banana plantation and killed him to avenge Hazan's death, which caused the funeral procession to spiral out of control in anger and kill four Arab citizens, and the list goes on...

We can go back to the death of Moshe Rosenfeld on Mount Gilboa, not far from the Valley of Harod, on November 7, 1935, at the hands of the gang led by the religious leader Al-Kassam, who organized the revolt against invading Jews and the British Empire from Haifa. We can blame the British themselves, who from an airplane detected them and engaged in a battle in which five Palestinians were captured, and three died fighting. The first to die, on November 20, 1935, was Izz Abd al-Kader Mustafa Yusuf ad-Din al-Kassam, known as just Al-Kassam.

Al-Kassam became the necessary martyr.

Two days later, the rumor spread in Jaffa that four Arabs had been killed in neighboring Tel Aviv. Hundreds of Arabs crowded the streets, marching to the city's police station and government headquarters, demanding the corpses of those supposed to have died. They then gathered in groups on street corners, waiting for their prey. They stoned Jewish buses, taxis, and cars. They pursued innocent Jewish pedestrians. Chaim Pashigoda, twenty-three, a court employee, was heading to the civil registry offices in Jaffa. Armed with stones, hammers, and knives, a crowd of Palestinians attacked and killed him. Eliezer Bisozky, an elderly Jew who spoke Yiddish, tried to escape the furious Jaffa. He almost managed to jump onto a horse-drawn cart heading to Tel Aviv but fell into the hands of the crowd, who killed him with blows. Chaim Kornfeld, thirty, and Victor Koopermintz, thirty-four, were plasterers renovating a large Arab house in the exclusive Arab neighborhood of Jabaliya. The crowd coming from the citrus port killed them with blows. Yitzhak Frenkel and Yehuda Siman-Tov were killed in a very similar way. Electrician David Shambadal was dismembered with an axe by a group of young Arabs when he arrived at a cafe to install a new lighting system. Zelig Levinson was shot to death on the outskirts of Jaffa. The next day, seven more Jews were murdered. In three days, Tel Aviv buried sixteen victims of Arab violence.

Fires broke out in Jerusalem, in Kfar Menachem kibbutz, and in the Balfour Forest in the north. The fields of the Harod Valley were set ablaze, and hundreds of orange tree forests were burned, cut down, or uprooted. Three weeks later, on May 13, two Jews were killed in the Old City of Jerusalem. On the 16th, three Jews from a crowd leaving the Edison cinema in Jerusalem were killed by snipers. On August 13, a gang broke into the home of an ultra-Orthodox family in Safed, killing the father, his sixteen-year-old son, his nine-year-old daughter, and his seven-year-old daughter in their beds. The next day, Arabs ambushed four Jews driving to a quiet shelter in the mountains in the Carmel Forest. A day later, a Jew was killed in Sarafand, a few kilometers from Rehovot. While the victim's funeral was taking place in Sarafand, a bomb was thrown from a moving train onto the busy Herzl Street in Tel Aviv, injuring nineteen Jews and killing an eight-year-old Jewish child. The next day, two young Jewish nurses were shot when they arrived to work at the Jaffa State Hospital. Three days later, a rifle bullet penetrated the skull of a scholar reading an ancient Islamic manuscript in his humble home studio in Jerusalem. A day after that, a Jewish worker and three Jewish workers were killed when they returned from working in an orange grove in Kfar Sabba.

The list is endless, and it continues to this day.

Before we continue, we must make one more stop on our journey. It will be in the year 1947, shortly before the declaration of the independence of the State of Israel. But to make it, let's wait for the March issue of the Temple Times.

Meanwhile, let us continue praying and asking for the hostages who have not yet returned home. it is not a matter of territorialism or political rights. There should be no terrorism from either side of this conflict.

[End of part 2]

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