The creation of Israel is a story that can be told in many ways: as an oppressed people’s struggle for survival, as a typical movement of colonization, even as a work of Divine Providence. Historians tell the story in whatever fashion confirms their own view of what drives history. But no one can fail to detect the dominant role of individual leaders in the rise of Israel. Theodor Herzl stirred the Jews of Europe to see a Jewish state as a feasible project. Chaim Weizmann persuaded the world’s greatest power to shelter the movement. And David Ben-Gurion inspired a mere 600,000 Jews to win a war of independence. Subtract any one of the three, and Zionism may have fallen short of its goal of a sovereign Jewish state. Most great national revivals are driven by one transformative champion, or a group belonging to a single generation (such as America’s founding fathers). How is it possible that, over three generations, three visionary geniuses arose to lead the Jews to restored national independence? In this lecture, founding President of Shalem College and distinguished Zionist historian Martin Kramer will argue that the rise of Israel, one of the most improbable success stories in the annals of history, constituted the eruption of two millennia of suppressed longing so profound, that it raised up not one Moses but three. The birth of Israel did not take place outside human history, but it did occur on its furthest edge, where individuals have an outsized impact. It is the story of some of the greatest Jews who ever lived.
Israel's Founding Fathers