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Longing for Zion

Gedenkblatt zum Fünften Zionistenkongreß in Basel 1901

Commemorative sheet for the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel 1901, drawing by Ephraim Moses Lilien Text below: "... may our eyes behold Thy return to Zion in mercy."
© Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum, Braunschweig

The desire to return to the land of Israel is as old as Jewish exile, and it is expressed in a wide variety of Jewish festivals, prayers and traditions. Many Jews realized their dream of traveling to the Holy Land and recorded their impressions in travel reports and images.

Zion was once the name of the hill at Jerusalem’s city border. After the first temple was built, the name became a metaphor for the place where God resides and ultimately a synonym for the city and the Holy Land.

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Ephraim Moses Lilien on his "old homeland" Palestine, 1906

Foto Seder-Abend

Seder evening in Berlin, around 1935. The Passover festival begins with a ceremonial meal, the Seder evening. The Passover Haggadah text is read aloud. This text contains the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt and explanations of the symbolism of the dishes.
© Bildarchiv Abraham Pisarek, Berlin

In a religious sense, "longing for Zion" thus refers to the hope that salvation is nigh and that the Messiah will soon arrive in Jerusalem.

The story describes the beginnings of settlements in the Promised Land and the expulsion of the Jews after the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 A.D.. It describes how the orientation to Jerusalem is carried forward in the Diaspora and reflected in synagogal building and in prayers. And how the memory of the Holy Land stays alive through festivals such as the Passover, Sukkot and Hanukkah.

Torah curtain

Torah curtain, Berlin, 1910. The two pillars are evocative of the two freestanding pillars flanking the entrance to the Jerusalem Temple.
© Jewish Community of Berlin

Already in the modern era, but intensified in the 19th and 20th centuries, Jews traveled to Palestine, among them the researcher Joseph Schwarz from Bavaria, the author from Vienna Ludwig August Frankl, the graphic artist from Galicia Ephraim Moses Lilien, and Hermann Struck, the artist from Berlin.

In the course of growing anti-Semitism in Europe at the end of the 19th century, the religious longing for Zion was increasingly united with the desire for national independence which was expressed through the Zionist movement and led to the founding of the Israeli State.

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