Huberman Alkalai

  • Issue: September 1989
  • Designer: R. Beckman
  • Stamp size: 25.7 x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 91
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Offset

Rabbi Yehuda Hal Alkalai is known to history as being among those first promulgators of Zionism, before Herzl, who were given the epithet the Fathers of Modern Zionism". Rabbi Alkalal was born in 1878 in Sarajevo (today the province of Bosnia in Yugoslavia), then under Ottoman rule. He received his religious education from his father, who was a rabbi and teacher, and later on he also immersed himself in studying the books of the Kabbalah.

Early on he was appointed Cantor and Rabbi of the township of Semlin, near Belgrade. During this period he wrote his first work "Darkhei Noam" (Paths of Pleasantness") - a booklet on Hebrew language and grammar. This booklet was written in Ladino, though all his later works were written in Hebrew.

It was the period of the "Birth of Nations" in Europe, a period of political ferment and national awakening which was particularly active in the Balkan Peninsula. In Serbia, the country in which he lived, and in Greece, Serbia's southern neighbour, uprisings and wars of national liberation were taking place.

Rabbi Alkalai was greatly impressed and influenced by what was happening around him and which was leading, in the end, towards the liberation and independence of small and oppressed nations. There is no doubt that in this situation and under these conditions, he conceived and nurtured the glimmering of the idea of the return of the Jewish People to its historic homeland.

In 1840 the Damascus Affair took place, and this gave him the incentive to consolidate his ideas. The Damascus Affair was for him what the Dreyfus Affair was to be for Herzl some 56 years later. Rabbi Alkalai was taken up With Zionism before the word could be found in any dictionary.

He began to travel and to visit some of the capitals of Europe. He met with contemporary leaders of the Jewish communities including Montefiore, Cremleux (a member of the French Parliament), Charles Netter (the founder of Mikveh Israel) and others. Quietly and with gentle, inexhaustible persuasion, he spread his propaganda and his new ideas. At the same time he wrote and published essays and pamphlets and had his articles published in the "Jewish Chronicle", "Havazzelet", "HaMaggid" and "HaMevasser".

In his meetings, publications and articles he related to the overall political events of his time and connected them up with Judaism and his own unconventional ideas. He built a complete political programme, assigning roles to the countries of Western Europe, particularly to Britain, to help carry it out, and all this two or three generations before Herzl and Hibat Zion. His ideas aroused a mixed response: from enthusiastic agreement to violent opposition and disparagement. In the course of his life he knew disappointment and disillusion, since his ideas were way ahead of their time.

Towards the end of his life he emigrated to the Land of Israel and settled in Jaffa and Jerusalem. Here too he aroused disagreements; here too he had supporters and opponents. He was fanatically opposed to the "Halukkah - Charity from Abroad" means of survival, and promulgated the acquisition of lands for the Jewish masses who could come to the country and make their livelihood from creative work.

Old age and deteriorating health finally took their toll; he died in the month of Tishrai 5639 (September 1878) and was buried in the Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives; and a few days later his wife Esther was buried alongside him.

In 1879 about a year after his death, the first settlers arrived and settled the land of Petah Tikvah, the "Mother of the Settlements", and three years later the settlements of the First Aliyah were founded. Yehuda Hal Alkalai did not live to see his dream realised.

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Rabbi Alkalai