Rabbi Yehuda Alkalai (1798-1878)
Yehuda Solomon Alkalai was born in Sarajevo (Bosnia) in 1798. He spent his boyhood in Jerusalem studying with various rabbis and it was there that he came under the influence of the Kabbalah - Jewish mysticism. In 1825 he became Rabbi of Semlin (the capital of Serbia).
Rabbi Alkalai raised the issue of Jewish political independence and the Land of Israel for the first time in 1834 in a small booklet entitled Shema Yisrael, ('Hear O Israel'). In his essay, he proposed a beginning of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel as a precursor to the Messianic Redemption. Such an idea was not only original but was considered heretical among many Jews who believed that the Messianic Redemption would come only through a miraculous event caused by God. Within Alkalai’s proposition of a natural process of redemption, there was the inclusion of the Rabbinic doctrine, expressed in the Midrash and homiletic literature, that the Messiah, son of Joseph, would first come to lead the people of Israel in the apocalyptic war of God and Magog and would then re-conquer the Land of Israel, freeing it from foreign domination.
A drastic change took place in the life and outlook or Rabbi Alkalai in 1840 with the occurrence of the Damascus Blood Libel, shaking the very foundations of the Jewish, and elements of the non-Jewish world. This blood libel convinced Rabbi Alkalai (and many other members of the younger generation such as Moses Hess) that freedom and security for the nation could and would only be achieved in the land of the forefathers, and that the redemption would only come about through positive action on the part of the Jewish community.
He dreamed of establishing a world-wide organization along the lines of the various national organizations then prevalent among other nations of Europe. The purpose of these organizations would be to buy and reclaim land in the Land of Israel, as well as providing loans for new settlers. These ideas were subsequently adopted by Herzl and the World Zionist Organization.
From His Writings:
The Third Redemption
Now we pray every day: Let our eyes behold Thy return to Zion in mercy and if we believe our own words, then upon whom will the Divine Presence become manifest? Upon the trees and the rocks? Therefore, as the first step to the beginning of redemption of our souls we must return to the Land twenty-two thousand (Jews), the Holy One Blessed Be He to cause the Divine Presence to descend upon them. This most certainly will be followed by His showing us and all of Israel beneficial signs. Such an idea is hinted at in the Torah: And Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem... and he bought the parcel of ground where he spread his tent. Why did Jacob buy the land if his only intention was to rest there for a time and then continue on to see his father, Isaac? It is apparent that this act was realized to teach his descendants that the redemption would come about by purchasing the land from its inhabitants. Because he bought the parcel of land it was as if he lived (permanently) on it. More so, the redemption from Egypt brought the people of Israel to a good and spacious land, one whose wells were already dug, and whose vineyards and olive groves were already planted. Yet, because of our sins, the Land is now empty and desolate and we must, for this redemption, build the houses and dig the wells and plant the vineyards and the olive groves.
Source: The above information and photo was taken directly from the World Mizrachi Website. Link no longer active.