David Matlow
Owner of the world's largest Herzl collection
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Four artifacts: a question, a warning, a reminder and a hope

Reminders from my Herzl and Zionism memorabilia collection of what Israel was intended to be
Srulik by Kariel Gardosh (1921-2000), a visual representation in human form of Israel and the Jewish people in their homeland.

I have a regular segment in the Canadian Jewish News called Treasure Trove. Each week I take one item from my collection of Herzl and Zionism memorabilia and tell a short story about it, accompanied by a photograph. As I said in the introduction to my book 75 Treasures: Celebrating Israel at 75 (which is available for free download at, the artefacts weave together our story: of the Jewish experience outside of Israel and the longing for a Jewish homeland in it.

Since the book was completed in February, much has changed in Israel. I am watching with great concern and fright. It is also frustrating not being able to do anything meaningful about what appears to be a looming disaster.

The best I can do is use some of the items in my collection as a reminder of what Israel was intended to be, with the hope that it can find its way back. Here are four recent Treasure Trove segments that are my very limited contribution to the discussion.

In 1958 Israel celebrated its tenth anniversary with a year-long celebration. Israel’s First Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, asked Meyer Weisgal who was the head of the Weizmann Institute to coordinate the anniversary events inside and outside of Israel. The biggest celebration in the United States was held in the Polo Grounds (the home of the New York Giants) before a capacity crowd of 50,000.

Then Senator John F. Kennedy said at a Washington observance of the anniversary on May 11, 1958 that “the people of Israel, who have combined the loftiest idealistic vision with the greatest practical vigor, have proven that the human spirit – even under the cruelest suffering – has a power of endurance which no tyranny can extinguish.”

The Jerusalem Post issued a special magazine to mark the anniversary. It opened with the following words: “The tenth anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel is an event of moral and political significance in modern history. A decade is too short a period to permit us to know with any confidence and sense of finality just what Israel means.”

Do we know any better at the three-quarter of a century mark?

Yehudah Leib Gordon (1831-1892) was the most important Hebrew poet of the 19th century and a leading figure in the Russian Haskalah movement (from the Hebrew word sechel or intellect, in English the enlightenment which sought to broaden the intellectual and social horizons of Jews to enable them to take their place in Western society). His poem Awake My People called for Russian Jews to be part of the civilization around them while remaining committed Jews. The Tip of the Yud (the Hebrew letter) criticized the role of women in traditional Jewish society and called for their liberation.

Gordon took a very controversial position when he actively supported the emigration of Jews to the United States rather than Palestine. He believed the land of Israel was the national home of the Jewish people, but that the national movement would only succeed in Palestine if the Jews who moved there dropped their religious traditionalism; otherwise, he warned, the Jewish community there would run the danger of becoming a theocracy.

Gordon is featured on this flyer published by Montreal’s United Committee for Hebrew Culture for the 1942 Writer’s Week it organized.

Albert Einstein ( 1879-1955 ), in addition to being one of the greatest and most influential physicists of all time, was a prominent booster of the The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and star fundraiser for the Zionist cause. In 1952 David Ben Gurion asked Einstein to be the President of Israel, an offer he declined.

Einstein believed that whatever their beliefs, all Jews shared common traits. The first trait was an ability to face the world with a sense of awe and joy. The second was a sense of social justice, as he wrote in 1938: “The bond that has united the Jews for thousands of years and that unites them today is, above all, the democratic ideal of social justice coupled with the ideal of mutual aid and tolerance among all men.”

Einstein visited Israel once, for 12 days in 1923. The trip’s high point was a speech about his theory of relativity given on Mt. Scopus where the Hebrew University was being built. Tel Aviv’s Mayor Meir Dizengoff was in attendance and said this: “From his entire lecture I understood one thing – that the entire audience understood nothing of it”.

This sketch of Einstein is by Hungarian-born painter, caricaturist and medalist Ivan Sors (1895-1955) who drew portraits of thousands of public figures including Zionist and Jewish leaders.

Srulik is the creation of Kariel Gardosh (1921-2000), known by his pen name “Dosh”, who was a political cartoonist, journalist, author and illustrator. Dosh immigrated to Israel from Hungary after surviving the Second World War. Srulik (once a popular knickname for boys named Yisrael) is a cartoon character of a young sabra (Israeli born) boy who first appeared in 1951. He is a visual representation in human form of Israel and the Jewish people in their homeland, wearing a kova tembel (pioneer’s hat), biblical sandals and shorts, and standing proud and strong. Srulik is the antithesis of the antisemitic caricatures historically drawn of Jews, and has been described as an icon of Israel in the same way that Uncle Sam symbolizes the United States. At this time of great internal conflict in Israel, Srulik takes us back to Israel’s early days and founding ethos, and reminds us that Israel in its 75 years has overcome great challenges, and will continue to do so.

Here’s hoping that is the case.

About the Author
David Matlow practices law at Goodmans LLP in Toronto. He owns the world's largest collection of Theodor Herzl memorabilia and his Herzl Project is designed to inform people about Herzl's work to inspire them to work to complete Herzl's dream. He is the Chairman of the of the Ontario Jewish Archives and a director of the ICenter for Israel Education. More information about the Herzl Project is available at David's new book 75 Treasures-Celebrating Israel at Seventy-Five is available for free download at
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