While he didn’t live to see the creation of the modern state of Israel, Zionist Leopold Kessler certainly played an important role in its creation.
Born in 1864 to a Jewish family in present-day Poland, Kessler studied to become a miner in Germany, but faced great anti-Semitism from his fellow students, who also enjoyed “drinking and brawling.” After finishing his studies, Kessler left Germany, vowing never to live someplace where his Jewish faith faced such persecution. He moved to Africa, where he worked as a miner in Rhodesia and South Africa.
While in Africa, Kessler read “The Jewish State” by Zionist Theodor Herzl (the father of modern Zionism), and considered it the solution to the anti-Semitism he’d experienced. Kessler founded Africa’s early Zionist groups, and received huge applause at the Third Zionist Congress for his ideas.
A trip to the Holy Land (then still Ottoman-ruled Palestine) in 1900 found Kessler reporting to Herzl on the region’s geographical, agricultural, and political possibilities. In it, Kessler wrote that “optimism, Jewish energy, endurance and intellect, combined with a steady immigration into the country, would lead to the factual recognition of the historical claims of the Jews to Palestine.”
After working on both the El Arish Proposal and Uganda Proposal that suggested possible locations for the settlement of a Jewish state, Kessler further supported establishing a Jewish state in the Holy Land, calling it “the ideal which all nations profess to have made their own.”
Kessler served as chairman of The Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish National Fund before passing away in 1944, only four years before Israel won her independence. While Kessler never saw this miraculous establishment of the modern state of Israel, this Zionist pioneer certainly helped make it happen. May his memory be a blessing.Tags: History Israelis You Should Know Zionism