Victoria Street, Nairobi
(Now Tom Mboya Street)
in the 1900s.
Kenya would have been a different country with the State of Israel sited between it and Uganda, had a proposal to use a territory, in what is now Nairobi, as a safe haven for Jews been accepted.
It all began in 1903.
Over 115 years ago, anti-Semitism was growing in Europe, and ‘God’s chosen people’, the Jews, were being targeted, thus, they needed to flee.
The idea that Kenya, then known as the East Africa Protectorate, should be the Promised Land for the long-suffering race was introduced after a violent incident in Kishinef village in Russia on April 19, 1903, an article on Standard Digital said.
Anti-Semitic demonstrations that followed led to the deaths of hundreds of Jews while thousands were rendered homeless after their houses were torched.
There, Herzl proposed that a Jewish settlement be established in East Africa, though other accounts state that the proposal came from Chamberlain.
was nearly rejected by Herzl, who had actually wanted a Jewish settlement in Cyprus or Sinai. He, however, accepted the new offer, knowing that it would be good for the Zionist movement’s ties to the British.
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The proposal further said that a chief administrator, who would be free from British rule, enjoying freedom of municipal legislation, would rule the Jewish state.
|A group photograph of Jews|
A section of the Zionist Movement argued that establishment of a homeland in East Africa, so far away from the Holy shrines and the Jews’ ancestral land, was unacceptable, said the Standard Digital report.
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The Congress further refused to finance the investigative team that was to travel to Kenya to check out the territory offered in the proposal.
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would question the move.
In the midst of the complaints, the investigative team that was to check the suitability of the proposed land managed to fund the trip to East Africa, following contributions received from some Christians.
For three months, the investigative team checked the suitability of the proposed Jewish settlement and left to compile a joint report. In their report, two years later, the team rejected some parts of the territory given to them.
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When the team presented the report to the Seventh Zionist Congress held in Brussels in July 1905, delegates unanimously agreed that Kenya could not be made a home for the Jews, and thanked the British for its offer. The Zionists reaffirmed their commitment to a Jewish homelan
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By then, Herzl had passed away due to a heart condition in 1904, a death which many blamed on the various controversies he had to deal with over the Jewish settlement proposal.
Even though the Jewish settlement plan in Kenya was rejected, scores of Jewish families did move to Kenya.
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A musical concert in Kenya
This figure would increase after the Holocaust, however, even still increasing till date; but it couldn’t reach the extent of Jewish settlement both Chamberlain and Herzl had projected and hoped for.