For many centuries, Jews all over the world ended their traditional celebrations of the festival of Passover, commemorating the redemption of the Israelites from servitude in Egypt, with the cry "Next Year in Jerusalem." This expression reflected the indelible faith, maintained by the Jewish people since the destruction of their state by the Romans in the first century, that the time would come when the dispersed people of Israel would be gathered together once again and reconstituted as an autonomous nation in their own land. However, as historical circumstances seemed to conspire relentlessly against the realization of this aspiration, it soon became transformed into a dream that was expected to be realized only in a far-off messianic time to come.
There had always been a remnant of the nation living in Palestine, the name given to the land of Israel by the Romans to efface its memory as the national patrimony of the Jewish people. There also had always been a trickle of hardy individuals who immigrated there to immerse themselves in the sanctity of the Holy Land. Nonetheless, the idea of a political restoration of the ancient Jewish state seemed rather farfetched to a people the vast majority of whom had lived in the Diaspora for some eighteen centuries. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, the course of history had taken some unanticipated turns that slowly made realization of the dream of Israel's restoration appear once again to be within the realm of historical possibility. The story of those unanticipated turns is told in an earlier work of mine, Reshaping Palestine: From Muhammad Ali to the British Mandate, 1831-1922,