Theodor Herzl – The Moses of Modern Times.
Theodor Herzl was born in 1860 in the Jewish quarter of Budapest, the capital of Hungary. He was the son of a bourgeois family of Germanic origin. His father was a reformist, practicing a “progressive” Judaism and supporter of the assimilation of Jews within their homelands.
Already being a doctor of law, Herzl became a journalist in Paris and correspondent of the Viennese newspaper “Neue Freie Presse”. But, eager as he was for knowledge, not being able to satisfy his curiosity, he also traveled the world.
In Berlin and Vienna, Herzl gained fame as a writer and as the author theater plays. He was appointed to literary director of the newspaper he worked for.
Herzl was of tall stature and wore a long black beard. With his sparkling deep eyes, his vivacity and eloquence, he magnetized people, from emperors to poor Jews, who would stop to touch the edge of his coat!
The Dreyfus affair and a crowed screaming “Death to the Jews” in Paris would change the course of his life.
It is said that, when he was young, he told his family doctor that the only way for the Jews was to go to Palestine. To the question who will lead them, the answer was “Me!”
In 1896 he wrote the book “The State of the Jew” (Der judenstaat) of which he said that he had never written anything in such a state of exaltation.
He went on a crusade to Germany, France and England to meet with financial sponsors, in order to raise money needed to realise his project.
Despite many difficulties, like doors that closed, and the denunciation of “false Messiah”, Herzl organized the first Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897. It was a large assembly of bearded Zionist brothers from all over the world, from all cultures united by their origin. His transcendent speech was acclaimed by these brothers, who were fascinated by the charism of this man. Unanimously they chanted Hebrew expression ”Yechi Hamelech” ” Long live the King ”.
Herzl would preside over every Zionist Congress until his death in 1904.
Better than anyone, he understood the power of Germany over Turkey, and met the Emperor WilhelmII, who was just preparing for his trip to Palestine, stopping at Constantinople. Herzl also left for Constantinople, thinking to meet the Sultan and to solicit him the cession of Palestine against money!
”Here is Jesus Christ”! HabdulHamid cried out when he met Herzl. However, nothing was signed because the Sultan wanted to be sure that the money was handed to him before making any commitment.
When the Emperor WilhelmII visited Palestine …He met Herzl there. They saluted each other majestically like two kings, although one of them had no crown!
Theodore Herzl was 44 years old when he died in 1904, leaving behind a wife and 3 children. After his death, the children were sent to foster homes as per their father’s request. They all died later under tragic circumstances.
The paradox is great between the ideology of Herzl and the misery of his family. His wife was deprived of the care of her children by this man, who lacked any compassion for her, because she did not follow him in his dream. Her destiny would end as tragic as that of her children.
Theodore Herzl’s last wish was to be buried in Palestine, after the Jewish people would have found an independent state. He had expressed the wish to have his close family at his side.
On August 17, 1949, his body and that of his parents, Yaakov and Jeannette, and his sister Pauline, were buried at Mount Herzl.
In Septembrer 2006 the remains of his children Hans and Pauline were transferred from Bordeaux. His youngest daughter, Trude Norman, died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and her remains were never found. The body of Trude’s only son, Stephan Theodore Norman, who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge in 1946 in Washington, was also transferred to Mount Herzl on December 5, 2007.
The “Kabbalah” is a familiar name, whose meaning is not always understood. It is a speculative tradition, dealing with the mysteries of God and Creation.
The Kabbalah is an interpretation of the five books of the Bible, (“Torah” in Hebrew), namely Law, or Teaching, and which make up the Pentateuch, in particular from the text of the “Vision of Ezechiel”.
It is a tradition of Judaism that appears from the time of the Second Temple. It it is based on the Revelation. A gift concerning the Nature of man, his origin and his future, this covenant is created by God and the people of Israel, chosen by Him.
Kabbalists associate word and alphabet. The 22 letters of the alphabet were engraved by and in the divine breath.
The city of Tsfat, also called Safed, is located on Mount Canaan at over 900 meters above sea level, and is the city of Kabbalah. It is one of the four Holy Cities of Israel, together with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias.
In 1492, during the Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella banned the practice of all religions other than Christianity, whereupon many Kabbalists and their followers fled to Safed.
It became a city renowned for its synagogues, with the names of Kabbalah scholars, some of whom lived in Safed. For example, Rabbi Isaac Louria, the Ari, who settled here in the 16th century. He developed a method how to study the Kabbalah, which is followed even today by all Kabbalists. His pupil Rabbi Joseph Karo wrote the book ” Choulhan Arouh ”, where the laws of Judaism are summarized by subject. Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz wrote the famous song with which the Shabbat begins: Leha Dodi.
To visit the Rabbi Abuhav’s Blue Synagogue is a delight. It is adorned with many symbols.
Inside a holy arch stands a sixteenth century Bible, which is taken out and read only on Yom Kippur, Shavuot and the Rosh Hashanah Holidays. The legend says, that if a person ignores this message, a misfortune will befall him within in the year.
The first letters of the three words: Kippur, Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah mean “Kasher” (kosher). It is also said, that in another holy arch, during the Ottoman period, the “Koran” was kept, a ploy that would have saved the synagogue from muslim attacks in times of tension ….
In this holy city, the mystical atmosphere is intertwined with many legends. Visitors enjoy the narrow passage in its alleys, surrounded by numerous colourful galleries of artists.
It is said that, when the Messiah will come from Meron, He will enter the Old City of Safed by “the path of the Messiah”, which has remained untouched until today.
Legend has it that the clean air of Safed allows a longevity of up to 120 years!
Berenice was born in Rome to Agrippa and Cyprus before Agrippa became king in 36 C.E. She bore the Roman name of Julia.
She was Herods’ great-great-granddaughter and only thirteen years of age at the time she married Marcus, the son of Alexander, Head of the Jewish Community in Alexandria, and nephew of Philo the philosopher.
With the death of Marcus in 44 C.E, Berenice became a widow at only sixteen. She then married Herod -her father’s oldest brother- and became Queen of Chalcis, a tiny principality in the Lebanon Mountains. She would retain this title even after her husband’s death.
Berenice had two sons by Herod: Hyrcanus and Berenicianus. She was widowed for a second time in 48 C.E, being only twenty years of age.
After Herod’s death, the Kingdom of Chalcis was given to Berenice’s older brother, Agrippa II. Together with his brother and sister, he moved into the new Kingdom’s Residence into close quarters.
Many sources indicate that Agrippa II and Berenice were often found together in official capacities. They would appear in public together, as when Agrippa gave his peace address to the people of Jerusalem just before the outbreak of the revolt against Rome.
The New Testament mentions Berenice’s presence with her brother at Paul’s trial, and in rabbinic literature, she is mentioned as the Queen alongside her brother, the King. In two sources this constant companionship is interpreted as incest.
Josephus claimed that rumors of the siblings’ inappropriate relationship led Berenice to seek a third match.She decided to marry Polemo, King of Cilicia, who had to be circumcised and undertake a Jewish lifestyle. However, this was not a successful marriage. She, later on, left Polemo and returned to her kingdom.
Berenice was present in Palestine during the outbreak of the Jewish revolt against the Romans between 66–70 C.E. Josephus Flavius described her as a solitary peacemaker, using all her strength in that difficult period of the preliminaries of the revolt. She had made a vow to be in Jerusalem at that time.As required by the vow, her hair was shorn and she walked barefoot.
She made her way to the Roman governor’s palace to ask Gessius Florus and demanded to desist from the violent activities he had undertaken against the Jewish population of Jerusalem. But her efforts were to no avail.
She finally joint venture with her brother to still the Jewish insurrection.
It was during this time that Berenice met Titus and fell in love. He was eleven years her junior.
After the revolt, Titus returned to Rome to assist his father in the government, while Berenice stayed behind in Judea.They would be reunited after four years when she and Agrippa came to Rome in 75.
She lived with Titus at the palace and reportedly acted as his wife in every aspect. This was the time she was at the height of her power and quite influential during this period.
However, being under public pressure, Titus had to restore his reputation for his people and sent her away. When he became Emperor in 79, Berenice returned to Rome but she was not welcome anymore. Titus died two years later.
Berenice was to be remembered as a ”little Cleopatra” in her aspiration to become the Empress of Rome.
A few years ago, to my surprise, I was told that the sarcophagus of Queen Helen of Adiabene, which was in the Louvre Museum, would be lent for a few months by France to be exhibited at the Israel Museum.
She was the queen of a country called Adiabiene, which corresponds to the Kurdish territories of today. According to Flavius Joseph, Ananias converted her towards the year 30 AD before he became a high priest.
Known for her generosity and being a benefactress for the poor of Jerusalem, she brought constant support to the Jewish people of Judea and Galilee.
During a famine, she sent ships to Alexandria in order to bring wheat and cereals to the victims.
The Talmud tells us that she followed the Jewish laws rigorously and that she made numerous gifts to the Temple of Jerusalem, including a golden candlestick for its door.
Helen died in her territory of Adiabene in the year 56-58.
Her body was brought back to Jerusalem and buried in the pyramidal tomb she had built during her life time, north of Jerusalem.
During an excavation in 1863, the French archaeologist Félicien de Saulcy discovered a large limestone tomb near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. He was convinced that it was the tomb of the great kings of the Bible David and Solomon, which explains the name “Tomb of the Kings”, but it turned out to be of Queen Helen.
This tomb was transferred to the Louvre in full agreement with the Ottoman archaeological authorities at the time.
This venerated Queen will remain forever engraved in the memory of the Jewish people.
Due to the seven types of fruits and grains, the main products of the land of Israel, it is mentioned in the Torah as :
“A land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey.
This is the first element needed to build Personality, the Spiritual and Intelligent side of a person
This provides animal feed, an important element for human existence.
A VINEYARD expresses Joy and Festivity
Life is made of moments of happiness which are celebrated by enjoying a good wine. ” The wine delights the hearts of humans ” Psalm 104-15
DATE HONEY symbolises a Good, Sweet, and Abundant life in the Land of Israel
In biblical Hebrew, the word for date palm is Tamar, a woman’s name evoking grace and elegance. The name is popular even today.
The FIG is the symbol of Celestial food
The fig tree is a Messianic tree and one of the first tree to bloom in February.
It has this peculiarity that none of its leaves are the same, like the image of Israel, or the Torah, where every biblical verse can have a different explanation.
THE POMEGRANATE is the symbole of Prosperity, Fertility and Beauty.
It has many seeds. The children of Israël should feel inclined to perform as many good deed (Mitzvoth) as the number of seeds of the pomegranate.
The OLIVE tree is the symbol of a Blessed and Happy family life.
It is also that of Longevity, Hope and of Peace … and is reputedly to live forever.
Beit She’an ” Scythopolis ” is certainly one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in Israel.
It was one of the ten cities of the decapole located around the Jordan river, a strategic crossroads of 40,000 inhabitants in Roman times and destroyed in 749 CE by an earthquake, the beauty of its vestiges keeps impressing me at each of my visits :
- His theater (still used for events and shows),
- Its public hot baths (the most important found to date in Israel),
- The Cardo ” Palladius ” largely restored main alley adorned with magnificent columns,
- The ” Nymphaeum ” monumental public fountain, adorned with sculptures and water games.
- The Temple of Zeus, the King of the Gods whose crushed columns remind us of the relentless violence of this earthquake and of course many mosaics, some of which are exhibited at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem,
- The magnificent reconstructed mosaic of the goddess Tyche, the Greek goddess of Good Fortune, holding the Horn of Abundance. It was stolen a few years ago, but a reconstruction was made and is exhibited on the site.
Dionysus was also the protector of Beit Shean, the God of grape harvest, vinification and wine, ritual madness and fertility.
Legend tells us that the nymph Nysa nourished him and raised him during his childhood.