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Next Year in Uganda!

Here’s what really happened, in a nutshell:

At the 6th annual Zionist conference in 1903, as Jews in the pale of settlement faced increasing violence and anti-semitic victimization (and the utopian dream of Eretz Yisrael seemed all but unreachable), Theodor Herzl proposed Uganda as a temporary locale for a Jewish State. The Uganda Proposal caused enormous rifts among Zionist leaders and was eventually rejected (on claims of “unpractibility”) by theBritish in 1905. But what if, in some alternate history, the Uganda Proposal had made it through the Zionist Congress, garnered British approval, and been put into effect? What if that roughly 15,500 km of virgin land in land-locked east Africa had become a Jewish state? What if, among thetribal herdsman and pygmies and subsistence farmers, alongside the Arab traders and British explorers, where the savannah meets the jungle, came those waves of Russian and European Jews fleeing persecution in search of a place to call home? What might the Jewish state in Uganda look like today?
What, in other words, makes a place holy? Is it specific dirt and longitude and latitude? Biblical shout-outs? Is it a “promise” in an old, old book of questionable/mysterious authorship? Or is it spilled blood, sweat, and tears; lives being lived, children born and elderly dying and professionals wrangling and artists creating and politicians fucking up? On the one hand, the notion of a State of Israel anywhere but in Palestine is almost too strange to indulge. On the other, do we educated liberals really believe a) in a God who parceled out the earth or b) that this God really parceled out a piece of earth especially for one religious group? From the Ugandan Tourist Board:

Where else but in this impossibly lush country can one observe lions prowling the open plains in the morning and track chimpanzees through the rainforest undergrowth the same afternoon, then the next day navigate tropical channels teeming with hippo and crocs before setting off into the misty mountains to stare deep into the eyes of a mountain gorilla? Certainly, Uganda is the only safari destination whose range of forest primates is as impressive as its selection of plains antelope. And this verdant biodiversity is further attested to by Uganda’s status as by far the smallest of the four African countries whose bird checklist tops the 1,000 mark! Entebbe’s modern and efficient international airport, with its breathtaking equatorial location on the forested shore of island-strewn Lake Victoria, it is clear that Uganda is no ordinary safari destination. Dominated by an expansive golf course leading down to the lakeshore, and a century-old botanical garden alive with the chatter of acrobatic monkeys and colourful tropical birds, Entebbe itself is the least obviously urban of all comparably sized African towns. Then, just 40km distant, sprawled across seven hills, there is the capital Kampala. The bright modern feel of this bustling, cosmopolitan city reflects the ongoing economic growth and political stability that has characterized Uganda since 1986, and is complemented by the sloping spaciousness and runaway greenery of its garden setting.

Sounds pretty darn great, no? Come on, World Zionist Organization, let’s think retroactively outside the box! Your great-great-grandchildren could’ve been teen-touring and teen-whoring on safari, for goodness sake! Learning about wildlife by day and disco-ing away the night on the shores of Lake Victoria! At the goddamn source of the Nile! And would it be over the top to suggest that perhaps Jews in the Ugandan homeland might've even evolved into better dancers, too?

The Haganah certainly would’ve had its hands full with tribal inhabitants — including the Bantu, the Luo, and the Ateker — the descendants of whom would surely be susceptible to all manner of religious fanaticism, possibly even resorting to terrorist tactics in frantic attempts to reclaim for themselves some of what they understood to be “their” land. But hey, build some refugee camps and a big old wall and forget about ‘em. Easy enough! (This, dear reader, is what some 21st century earthlings sometimes call “irony”, so chill.) Things might have gotten a wee bit sticky with our African brethren here in America, though, given the obsessive identification of the American Jewish lobby. Admittedly. And sure, the Jewish state in Uganda would be surrounded entirely by hostile nations, but hey: what else is new? Ignoring, for the sake of a little fantasy, the reality that there is in fact a contemporary community of approximately 500 Jews currently living in Uganda. Just imagine it: a Jewish homeland in the “pearl of Africa”. If we can spin it into satire, it is no dream.

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