as its result, the creation of the Wandering Arab."
-Baron Edmond de Rothschild, 1934
The state of Israel was established sixty two years ago in 1948, but its story begins long before that and has many participants.
One of the more interesting family histories in Europe belongs to the Rothschilds, a Jewish family that pulled itself up from generations of poverty. Their rise began with Mayer Amschel Rothschild, born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1744 in the ghetto called “Judengasse,” or Jew Alley. Their name, Rothchild, comes from the German for red shield or sign, literally describing the location of their home (the house by the red shield).
Mayer became the “founding father of international finance” by working as an apprentice in finance in Hamburg, developing his own banking business, and then assigning his sons to ‘branch’ offices in Europe. Together they developed a dynasty.
Their power became controversial as the years passed, but their journey very much resembled what we would consider the American Dream, and in 2005 Mayer was ranked #7 of the “20 Most Influential Businessmen of All Time” by Forbes magazine.
Baron Edmond de Rothschild
Later, one of his descendants, Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934) was not a banker, but a philanthropist and supporter of the arts who sponsored archaeological digs in Egypt, Syria, and Palestine.
Edmond was a leading advocate of the Zionist movement and began buying land in Palestine beginning in 1882. In 1924, he founded the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association, which bought more than 125,000 acres of land. In all, it is estimated that Edmond de Rothschild spent over $50 million dollars in founding and supporting the settlements, including the first site at Rishon LeZion.
In the midst of all this, it is important to note that in a 1934 letter to the League of Nations, Edmond de Rothschild stated that "The struggle to put an end to the Wandering Jew could not have, as its result, the creation of the Wandering Arab."
The establishment of Israel following World War II was a cause for great celebration for the Jewish people, and for anyone who felt the atrocity and near-decimation touch their family or awareness in any way.
The years that followed did not put an end to war, but launched instead a whole new experience of homeland insecurity, beginning with the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 that resulted in the Gaza strip.
The Gaza strip borders Egypt to the southwest and Israel to the south, east and north. It is about 25 miles long, between 4–7 miles wide, and holds a population of 1.5 million people. Displaced people. Incarcerated people. Suffering people.
But this would come as no surprise:
Why would they accept that?”
David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister 1948-1953
Child in Gaza rubble, 2009
I ask: Why must the tables turn?
Why must the settlement of one people result in the displacement of another?
Why must the newfound identity of one people result in the destruction of another’s?
Why doesn’t the knowledge of the horror of war result in the living out of compassion and forgiveness?
Why can’t we live beside each other and simply share the land that belongs to all and none of us?
Why must the children continue to suffer?
The last words of Anne Frank’s diary read, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”
In the end... we are all children of one family.
And we all just want to go home.