by Herman Bernstein Contributing Editor
Speaking at a special conference of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, Dr. Chaim Weizmann discussed the question of land in Palestine, immigration and the proposed Legislative Council.
With regard to the question of land, Dr. Weizmann said that it was no secret that acquisition of land by Jews in Palestine was becoming increasingly difficult and was fraught with so many obstacles and hedged around by such an intricate legislation that it was becoming almost a science or an art to be able to acquire a little piece of land. This, he pointed out, has given rise to enormous speculation in land values, which has made the acquisition of land still more difficult.
He emphasized that under present conditions there is a very strong moral reason for the Jews of the world to say that at some date Transjordan must be opened to Jewish endeavor.
Taking up the question of the proposed Legislative Council, Dr. Weizmann said that he would quite understand any structural change in the constitutional life of Palestine if it would flow as a result of an agreement between Jews and Arabs, and an agreed policy of that kind would be an ideal way out. He thought such an agreement was not so impossible as people thought, and that it might come about if the life of Palestine at present was not interfered with so drastically as it might be through the forcing of the Legislative Council.
“The difference between the Jewish population and the Arab population is that the Arab population is in the country and the Jewish population is en route.”
He pointed out that while the Jews at present represent only twenty-six or twenty-seven per cent of the population, they are bearing fifty per cent of the burden of the country, if not more. He explained why, under these circumstances, the Jews were forced to oppose the proposed Legislative Council, even though they wished to cooperate with the Government.
Dr. Weizmann, with his usual skill, touched upon the most vital problems confronting Palestine today. Next to Dr. Herzl, Dr. Weizmann made the greatest contribution to the realization of the Zionist ideal. It is a pity that Dr. Weizmann did not always speak as frankly and as firmly as on this occasion. It is quite possible that if he had done so in the course of his negotiations with the British statesmen during the first years after the war, some of the present perplexing problems would have been satisfactorily solved by this time.
THE IRISH AND THE JEWS
Sean O’Casey, the Irish dramatist, author of “Within the Gates,” is one of the truly great personalities of our timeâ€”simple, modest, unaffected, courageous, endowed with a fine sense of humor and with deep human sympathies.
The other day I met him for a short while and we talked of many things briefly â€” of the drama and theatre, of Tolstoy and Andreyev, of the Habimah Players, of the Jews in Ireland, and of the Irish as the “Lost Tribes of Israel.”
Mr. O’Casey was particularly enthusiastic in his praise of the Habimah Theatre and the Habimah players.
“The Habimah Theatre is the very finest theatre in the world,” he said. “The Habimah players are unsurpassed by any group of artists. They are, in my opinion, even greater than the members of the Moscow Art Theatre. I know that they had received their first training in Russia, under the influence and guidance of the Moscow Art Studio, but they have created a distinctly Jewish theatre. I have seen five of their productions, including Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It was the finest performance of the Shakespeare play I have ever witnessed. I also met the players, and was impressed by their earnestness and their utter simplicity. The Habimah is an institution of which the Jewish people may be justly proud.”
Speaking of Leonid Andreyev, Mr. O’Casey said:
“He was one of the really great dramatists. I have read his works, ‘The Life of Man’ and ‘The Waltz of the Dogs,’ and have seen a production of his ‘Katerina’ in London. ‘The Life of Man’ is a vital masterpiece. ‘The Waltz of the Dogs,’ too, is a genuine work of dramatic art. ‘Katerina,’ is one of the most daring studies of woman in the modern drama, was not so successful in London. The English are incapable of appreciating the Andreyev plays.”
Then he spoke of the Irish and the Jews.
“There are many Jews in Dublin, not too many. The Irish and the Jews are getting along very nicely together. They understand one another. They have the same characteristics. There has never been any anti-Jewish feeling in Ireland, certainly no anti-Jewish outrages. There may have been individual cases of conflict between Irishmen and the Jews, but no more than between Irishmen and Irishmen. And you must remember that both the Irish and the Jews are sometimes quite excitable.
“There exists a legend that the Irish are the descendants of the ‘Lost Tribes of Israel.’ Whether there is any basis for that theory or not, it is a fact that there is a striking similarity in their national and personal characteristics.”
Then Mr. O’Casey again reverted to the Habimah Theatre and its achievements.
Strangely enough, when the Habimah players visited the United States and presented their unforgettable plays in New York, the greatest Jewish centre in the world, they met with a certain measure of praise, but with half-hearted support. The great artists were practically stranded in this country, and it was necessary for a few art-loving philanthropists to make contributions which enabled the Jewish players to proceed to the Land of Israel where the Habimah has found its new home.
Asser Levy, a Jewish trader, became the owner of real estate at Albany, N. Y., in 1661.