More than ten years ago I published an article on Alexander the Great in the political discourse of the 19th century Levantine national movements when he struck a chord with the masses and was the perfect historical poster child for all manner of independence efforts from the Ottoman Empire.
The following account written in 1914 by an Arab reformist – none other than al-Hilāl’s editor Jurjī Zaydān himself in the same year of his death – not only recognizes that the Zionists did a great many efforts to develop Palestine but also that their achievements constituted a good example to the Arab population as being pointed out by the author (my emphasis):
“Education is poor in Palestine as is in most parts of the Ottoman Empire and in Palestine it is the poorest, esp. in Jerusalem. There is only the constitutional school of Khalīl Efendi Sakkākīnī, the kindergarten school of Sheikh Muḥammad aṣ-Ṣālīḥ al-Ḥusaynī and the state-run preparatory school. They are all on the level of elementary schools. Only foreigners in Palestine run higher schools for enlightening the local population. […]
The Jews have many schools in Palestine which are outstanding. Some of them are traditional and teach the Torah, the Talmud and so on, while others teach modern sciences. Many traditional schools are based in Jerusalem comprising 200 teachers and 4000 students. Outside Jerusalem there are many Jewish schools based in Yafo. […]
The faculty of Tel Aviv is an example of the life of the Jewish community and its scientific and social progress in reviving the language which used to be spoken by the fathers of the Torah in the time of its glory. This is a lesson we turn our eyes to as being students of reform among the Arabs and others – In fact, the umma doesn’t live but through its language and the language doesn’t live but through the richness of its advanced scientific publications. And the foremost means to this goal is the language of learning in the higher schools. […]
The Tel Aviv college is the model of the Jewish colleges but two years ago another one in Haifa became under construction, funded by the Zionist League. It will be under the supervision of Germany which also helped the League to get the royal approval for its erection. While the Zionist organization wants Hebrew to become the teaching language, Germany wants German. On their last conference in the previous year the Zionist League decided to build a college or a university in Jerusalem which will be the noblest of all Jewish colleges in the world and in which all branches of modern sciences and arts are taught in the Hebrew language. […]
In Jerusalem the Jews, together with foreigners, also founded a laboratory for medical studies and microscopical examination which is rarely to be found in the East. It was jointly built by the German Society for Fighting Malaria, the Jewish Health Bureau, and the Society of Jewish Doctors and Scholars for the Improvement of Health in Palestine. […]”
It is interesting to see that the author is full of respect for the successful reviving of the Hebrew language and that he thinks the Arabs could find inspiration in it as well as in the establishment of all those facilities for their own education question.
SOURCE: Jurjī Zaydān, “Filasṭīn: tārīkhuhā wa-āthāruhā wa-sāʾir aḥwālihā al-ijtimāʿiyya wa-l-iqtiṣādiyya wa-ʿilmiyya min riḥla li-ṣāḥib al-Hilāl hādhā al-ʿām,” in: Al-Hilāl, no. XXII, April 7, 1914: 603-7.
(Geringfügig überarbeitet am 08.12.2018.)