The German Fountain

Why is the German fountain pictured here and what specifically has it to do with the story of the Holy Land in general and the story of Israel in particular? In order to live up to my promise of introducing only items that can be connected to my central theme of Israel and her history, there should be a link somewhere. So what is it? Well let's look at the wording of the dedication and see where that takes us: WILHELM II DEUTSCHER KAISER STIFTETE DIESEN BRUNNEN IN DANKBARER ERINNERUNG AN SEINEN BESUCH BEI SEINER MAIESTAET DEM KAISER DER OSMANEN ABDUL HAMID II IM HERBST DES JAHRES 1898. The translation is: "Kaiser Wilhelm II presented (founded) this fountain in grateful remembrance of his visit to the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, in the Autumn of 1898."
Many great events took place in the closing years of the 19th century concerning the fate of Jews and the Jewish people, in which both the Kaiser and the Sultan were involved. In 1898 Kaiser Wilhelm visited Constantinople, and also the Holy Land; from his visit to the Holy Land - apart from the central point I am going to make - we have the Church of St John the Redeemer (just round the corner from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre), the modern Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion and the Augusta Victoria Hostel on top of Mount Scopus, named in honor of his wife. (Incidentally, in addition to the Fountain in the Hippodrome, the Kaiser presented a painting of the Royal Yacht - also named Augusta Victoria - and that painting now hangs in the corridor connecting the public rooms of the Dolmabahçe Palace with the Harem rooms).

During the last decade of that century, the French political establishment was rocked by the Dreyfus Affair: Captain Alfred Dreyfus, an assimilated Jew and career officer in the French army, was accused of spying for Germany. In spite of his protestations at his trial in 1894, and the many clearly judicial irregularities, he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in France's notorious penal colony, Devil's Island. An Austrian journalist - also an assimilated Jew - Theodore Herzl, writing for the Viennese "Neue Frei Presse", was assigned to Paris to cover the trial. As a result of what he saw and heard, he became convinced that the constant persecution to which the Jew was subjected could be relieved only by the Jewish Peoples re-establishing themselves, once again in the eyes of the world, as citizens of their own country. Herzl managed to convince many wealthy and interested Jews and together they arranged the First Zionist Congress which took place in Basle in 1897. The Zionist Party was formed and the modern history of the Jewish people began culminating in the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
In the meantime, Emile Zola, the eminent French writer became convinced of the subterfuge and deliberate framing of evidence against the innocent Alfred Dreyfus and in an unprecedented attack on the French military and political establishments, he laid bare the blatant anti-Semitism, which had motivated them and the deliberate cover-up and with-holding of evidence which proved Dreyfus' innocence conclusively and without doubt. His open letter to the French president M. Félix Faure, "J'Accuse" published on 13th January 1898, in "L'Aurore" became a world famous indictment which shook the French nation and took decades for France to come to terms with - and led eventually to Dreyfus' release. (Click here, if you would like one of the best English language sites on the topic of Captain Dreyfus and Emile Zola to start you off - there are many) and there is an excellent French site on "The Dreyfus Affair" here.

Captain Dreyfus was rehabilitated with full seniority, served his country with distinction as a senior officer and died in 1935.

Herzl burnt himself out in his zeal and efforts to obtain as much international support as possible for his plans to recreate the Jewish homeland, even weighing a plan to settle Uganda - an initial consideration of which lost him much favour with his supporters for a time (especially his grass-roots support from hundreds of thousands of east European Jews, mostly on the religious side of the divide), because "Uganda" is not the Holy Land of the Jewish people and little or no enthusiasm could be found for the idea. Herzl died in 1904 having prophesied at the time of the first Congress, seven years earlier, that the Jewish State would be re-established in 50 years; he erred by only one year!
During Kaiser Wilhelm's visit to the Holy Land, he met with Theodore Herzl at the agricultural college of Mikveh Yisrael just outside today's Tel-Aviv - an agricultural school still functioning, by the way. Herzl had also approached the Sultan with only moderate success, and the matter had been discussed by the Kaiser (with whom Herzl had made prior contact), and the Sultan.

So you can see I was not way-off target by claiming relevance; my connection is admittedly somewhat tenuous - but it is there - all three personages and the geographical sites associated with them are connected together in these historical events. If you would like to read Zola's letter in English click here.
I am indebted to Dr. Guieu, of Georgetown University for his kindness and generosity in supplying me with his translation.

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