Jul 21, 2021
TFJ: Series 1 Episode 24: Special Episode: The Birth of Israel
After the French Revolution there was a sense that the quest for liberty, egalitarianism and brotherhood were attainable, just like after the American revolution there was a sense that the pursuit of happiness was an attainable goal. Borders were changing, maybe even human nature was changing. Maybe, maybe there was even hope that a Jewish state could be restored.
To enlarge his empire and further secure his personal record in history, Napoleon traveled with his army to Egypt. And even though he was routed by the British in the Battle of the Nile, this did not dampen his visions of grandeur and he decided to invade Palestine. After some initial successful battles, basing himself on a sense of overconfidence and being undefeatable, he granted the Jews freedom to their own land and signed his proclamation from his headquarters in Jerusalem that he had not yet captured and never would.
He gave the Jews hope for their homeland, and then dashed it when it turned out to be a promise that he could never deliver. His second blow was even more devastating: in 1791 France declared all men to be equal, even Jews.
Napoleon and the French people, then had second thoughts. They had given the Jews equal rights too cheaply. For the Jews to be awarded the status of equality they would have to swear that they were Frenchman with loyalties exclusively to fellow Frenchmen, not fellow Jews, with no national aspirations for the Land of Israel. This affirmation was to be sanctioned by the Sanhedrin which had been defunct for 13 centuries.
Any observer viewing matters in 1807 would have concluded that the idea of Jews returning to the Land of Israel was over for good. History had the last laugh.
This episode is dedicated in memory of Yocheved Orbach by her family.
Edited and Produced by Alex Drucker
Learn more at TellerFromJerusalem.com
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