The Spark
Isaac Eppel's founder share in Israel, the first Zionist bank, the Jewish Colonial Trust, set up by Theodor Herzl. Isaac and Rose Eppel purchased shares at the second Zionist Congress
Isaac Eppel's founder share in Israel, the first Zionist bank, the Jewish Colonial Trust, set up by Theodor Herzl. Isaac and Rose Eppel purchased shares at the second Zionist Congress
How a vision evolved from idealistic hidden roots into pragmatic reality.

Men who dared to dream, who watched the roots of their dreams take shape and form over the generations, into the State of Israel. 

, whose future as the capital of one state or two has yet to be resolved, Jerusalem in contemporary agony as we evoke the visionaries, dreamers and pragmatists, is the focal point at which the Spark, in this chapter of Hidden Roots, is kindled. 

Yehuda Leib Eppel, an unassuming Jewish visionary, worked for and recorded, meticulously in small notebooks - the activities and proceedings of the early Zionist organizations. Only at the end of his life did he take time to tell his own story, too late, it turned out to be expanded and completed. A fragment is the sole remnant of an untold tale, the seed of a hidden root, the improbable root that became a tree - the State of Israel.

His grandfather, Reb Baruch Eppel, buried now on the Mount of Olives, arrived with his wife in Jerusalem in 1881 to rebuild the famous “Hurva” synagogue – Rabbi Yehuda Hahasid – which lay ruins.

Another grandson (David's grandfather, Isaac Eppel) spoke 'like a prophet of old," said people who knew and understood his incredible liberal and humane teachings. 

On his death in 1952, an obituary in the Jewish press described him as "probably the first Zionist in Scotland."

In his person "Isaac Eppel symbolized the contemporary Jewish epoch.

As a mere boy in the Lithuanian ghetto, in which he received traditional  Talmudic training, he was one of the last disciples of the Maskilim movement which gripped the minds and hearts of intellectual Eastern European Jewry during the nineteenth century. Even in those early days in Wexna, Isaac Eppel was already a member of the pre-Herzl Chov'vei Zion. Coming to Edinburgh, the young man was fired by two ideals which were really fused into one - to educate himself in European and classical culture, and to further the cause of Zion."

The Prophecy

Long before the Holocaust and the events described in Hidden Roots, Isaac Eppel, in 1918, pleaded for Jewish education and, with remarkable
forethought, warned of the horrors to come - twenty two years later. 

Standing outside the main Edinburgh synagogue on the Jewish High Holidays, he handed a pamphlet in hard-hitting Yiddish to the worshippers. Newspapers reported later that his presience was ignored, but that Isaac carried on with his Zionist propaganda.

The pamphlet was called "the death sleep of the Jewish Community in Edinburgh."

It reads, in part: -

Brothers, it is time for you to wake up from the sleep of the dead in which the false prophet of Baal has lulled you. Open your eyes and mark and define what is what.  By measurement and definition you must wash your eyes and look with the good Jewish intent and see where you stand and who is misleading you.

My poor brothers, three years have already gone by since we Jews lie in this bath of blood and tears, and what has Edinburgh Jewry done during all this time?

What they should have done from the first day of the plague … instead of uniting and organizing themselves as one body of brothers and support and protect one another, against enemies from outside and instead of combining all together like one man to protect our most precious possession and the future generations against the great danger. 

The comfort and the hope of the Jewish future is in our youth to give them a good national and historical upbringing, the Hebrew language, the story of the Jewish people and implant in their young hearts the love of the people and their holy history, written with Jewish blood and tears.


But what have you done for almost three years?


My God, is it not terrifying and disgusting when you reckon up the shameful and tortuous wriggling and disgraceful neglect by us during the past three years


I beg your pardon you have done a lot you have created but what do you call it? - a Jewish representative council.

And he continues: -


Tell me brothers, what use are our synagogues when you never use them?


Why? If you had only one shul, from the rest of the money you could buy or rent a good building and turn it into a good school where we could teach our children


Would it not be a thousand times better instead of three ritual slaughterers to have only one for our citizens and let him slaughter oxen, sheep and hens, 


Engage good, capable teachers who would study our Holy Torah with our children. Our holy language and our holy history, which has been written with our blood, so as to inculcate in the young heads and hearts of our children a  consciousness, a  nationality and influence them to love our holy land of Israel.


Instead of many Scrolls of the Torah, which stand and gather mildew,one is ample. Use the rest of the money to buy copies of the five books of Moses and other texts and books which .are necessary to teach the young.


So that the holy texts are inscribed on their minds and in their hearts. The young, pure minds of our children. This would be so much more useful for their morals than your mode of living and constant squabbling.


My brothers, make changes. If your presidents, treasurers and committees and your clergyman cannot unite all the Jews in Edinburgh, then the time has come for you to overthrow them.


Take away their .seats of authority and then say to them “'Oh, you bad teachers during the past 30 years you have the power to lead the Jewish community and you have taken our blood and sweat, our hard-earned money.


For the common folk, you have done nothing you have not weighed the position and you have not known what to do.


Therefore, please go away, you are useless, to put it more strongly you are charlatans.


We can no longer trust our moral living or the morals of our children, in your hands.


Written and printed for circulation in Yiddish in 1918.


Translated, July, 1987 by Joseph and Fanny Rivlin, Ramat HaSharon, Israel

Passing the "Spark" of Jewish and Zionist visionary enterprise from one genration of Eppels to the next, it is left to Yehuda Leib Eppel, the assidious chronicler, to record how his own grandfather, Reb Baruch Eppel, arrived with his wife in Jerusalem, to restore a magnificent, ruined synagogue, the "Hurva."

"Born in the small town of Vekshna in the Kovna region, I recall my paternal grandfather, Reb Baruch Hasoref or Reb Baruch Eppel.

Only five years old, as I was at the time, yet I can see him now, standing there in front of me, this venerable, tall and thin man, with his bushy, unkempt beard, wearing a brown, tasseled hat.
This grandfather of mine, Baruch, was an extraordinary man. When he was already getting on in years he left his wife and children and went to study in the township of Zimel. For five years not a scrap of information came from him.
One morning, he turned up in Vekshna, sold his home and property and with his wife went to the Holy Land to devote himself entirely to the reconstruction of the synagogue Rabbi Yehuda Hahasid, which he found in ruins and desolate, full of rubble, sand and rocks.  
It is possible that a small spark of this, the love of my forbearers, those first Hovevei Zion, was reborn in me, and handed down as a heritage in my own heartfelt devotion for Eretz Yisrael. 

The Spark, passed now from Baruch ro Yehuda and Isaac, inspires Bert (Baruch) only months before Israel is born. In December, 1947, in his last conversation with his wife, Leah, they agree that the time has come to leave for and live in Palestine (the nascent Israel). Bert died from a sudden illness before they could make the arrangements.

In 1962, David, who writes these words and explores both sets of hidden roots, began his own life in Israel.

His bond to and marriage with Betty  completes this phase of the Hidden Roots narrative, with their children, Yaron, Michal and their grandchildren, Yuval, Omri, Alon, Rony and Noam - all of them part of the story that began in the beginning, with a dream, determination and a decision to kindle the Spark for the knowledge and understanding of the generations to come, no longer hidden in an obscure past, but revealed now for all to read. 

In so many ways, this is our monument, our modest token of respect to the entire momentous cast - Victor, Perla, Michel, Paula, Baruch, Yehuda, Isaac, Bert - and to so many others, hidden and revealed.