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“Watching fellow pioneers head back to Europe exhausted by Ottoman Palestine’s hardships, poet Noah Shapira lamented the beginnings of what we call “yeridah.”
“It is no time today for me to cheer,” he wrote in 1902, “only to wail and bitterly bemoan / the fate of my brethren who came all the way here / only to leave dear Mother Zion alone.”
All immigration countries saw thousands head back, overcome by economic failure, romantic disappointment, or emotional collapse.
In its circumstances, then, the emigration from Zion was no different. What was different was the mixture of blame, paranoia, self-flagellation, and mystification in which Zionists responded to their emigrants’ departures, attitudes which now – as Israel installs one as governor of the Bank of Israel – beg to be shed.
THE TERM “yeridah” – literally “going down” – was born with Abram’s flight from famine, of which Genesis says that he “went down to Egypt.” This technical reference to the elevation differences between that journey’s opposite ends was later used to deride a Jew’s departure from the Promised Land. “
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