In the mid-1800s, a new energy seized the Jewish community in Palestine. With help from philanthropists like Sir Moses Montefi ore and donations from ordinary Jews around the world, Jews branched out from the cities and began purchasing land and building farms, villages and schools. More exiles returned. By 1854, Jews were the largest religious group in Jerusalem; by 1870, they were once again the majority of the city’s population.
Between 1882 and 1914, a new kind of Jewish immigrant arrived—the “Lovers of Zion” and other early Zionists—who laid the groundwork for the modern Jewish State.
These immigrants sought freedom from the oppression and persecution that had plagued Jews in Europe and the Middle East.
Between 1881 and 1906, Jews in Russia were slaughtered, their homes and towns were destroyed, and their women were raped. In Kishinev, [“The mob was led by priests and the general cry, ‘Kill the Jews’ was taken up all over the city. The Jews…were slaughtered like sheep.…Babies were literally torn to pieces by the frenzied and bloodthirsty mob.”—New York Times, April 28, 1903, p. 6].
“Like the miserable dog without an owner, he [the Jew] is kicked by one because he crosses [a Muslim’s] path, and cuffed by another because he cries out—to seek redress he is afraid, lest it bring worse upon him; he thinks it better to endure than to live in the expectation of his complaint being revenged upon him.” — British Consul in Jerusalem, William T. Young, to Colonel Patrick Campbell, May 25, 1839.
They were young, energetic idealists imbued with Western political principles and the dreams of national liberation that were sweeping across Europe. Many were socialists. They believed their country could be restored through their hard physical labor and dedication. They hoped to start a renaissance of Jewish culture and to restore Jewish dignity, self-reliance and The returning Jews had no powerful nation to help them. They had no weapons. They were often penniless.
The land was only sparsely populated, and much of it had become barren. The Jews wanted to restore the land’s once-famous fertility and build villages and communities where none existed.The region was an impoverished backwater of the Ottoman Empire. In 1880, there were only an estimated 250,000 to 400,000 people, many of whom were also recent arrivals, who had no sense of unity or ethnic or national identity. 3 Their allegiance was to the Ottoman Empire, their religious group, their clan and their local community.
“The country was…and is now, underdeveloped and under-populated.…There are…large cultivable areas that are left untilled. The summits and slopes of the hills are admirably suited to the growth of trees, but there are no forests. Miles of sand dunes that could be redeemed, are untouched.” — Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine to the League of Nations, June 1921
The area included such an assortment of ethnic groups that over 50 different languages were spoken. —“Palestine,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, 1911, p. 600