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Zion Before Zionism 1838-1880

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Zion Before Zionism 1838-1880

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Zion Before Zionism, 1838-1880
By Arnold Blumberg
Devora Publishing (2007)
ISBN: 978-1-932-687-82-8

Reviewed by Boris Segel - May 11, 2009

The history of modern Israel can be said to have started in 1838 when it became legal for non-Moslems to lease properties for the purposes of settling permanently in the Holy City of Jerusalem, which was at that time under the rule of the Turks. Twelve years later, the Turks made it legal for Jews and other non-Moslems to purchase land in the Holy City! In comparison to the nearly four-hundred years of Turkish rule in Palestine, this change in legal status from being able to settle permanently in the Holy City to actually buying property there, happened in relatively quick order! In Zion Before Zionism 1838-1880, Arnold Blumberg chronicles this momentous change, and explore what it meant to Israel's history and how it helped to set the stage for the Zionist influenced First Aliyah - the mass migration of Jews back to their homeland.

Dr. Arnold Blumberg, z"l was a renowned historian who taught history at Towson University, in Maryland, for forty years. He is the author of six books, including A View from Jerusalem, 1849-1867, The History of Israel, and Kovna, Two Street, and Jerusalem. This excellent history of this pivotal period in Israeli history is enhanced by a brief biography of Dr. Blumberg, who passed away in Jerusalem in 2006.

Within the course of this engaging study, Dr. Blumberg details how these legal inroads into the leasing and purchasing of property in the Holy City, by non-Moslems, helped to fuel the growing sense of Jewish Nationalism. In addition, he examines how this availability of properties encouraged more Jews to return to their homeland, and by extension, help lead to the founding of the Modern State of Israel. Along the way, he examines the interactions between the various residents of Turkish Palestine (Jewish, Christian, and Moslem) with the ruling Turkish government and the encroaching western powers who hungrily sought to extend their dominion over the entire Middle East.

A great deal of attention has been focused on the period after 1881 and the period of the First Aliyah, when the first great, modern migration of Jews to Israel began. However, few books have focused on the pivotal period, from 1838-1880, which laid the foundation for this migration. In Zion Before Zionism 1838-1880, Dr. Blumberg has corrected this oversight by crafting an enthralling account of this period and the long-term implications of this seemingly minor change in property law had for Jews around the world. Zion Before Zionism 1838-1880 is a highly informative and fascinating book to read. Dr. Blumberg's writing is engaging, and equally accessible to general readers and scholars alike. For those desirous of exploring this subject in greater detail, you'll find Dr. Blumberg's endnotes and extensive bibliography of great assistance. A glossary of foreign terms is also included. I highly recommend Zion Before Zionism 1838-1880 for public, high school and college libraries, as well as for anyone with an interest in the modern history of pre-state Israel.

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