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February 14: Der Judenstaat

February 14, 2012

Theodor Herzl’s argument for political Zionism, Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), subtitled “Proposal of a modern solution for the Jewish question,” was published in German on this date in 1896. (To read the whole text in English, click here.) The pamphlet was an immediate sensation. Although Herzl emphasized political outreach to European leaders and financiers and rulers of the Ottoman Empire, Der Judenstaat served to mobilize the proto-Zionist groups such as Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) that had already launched small movements of emigration to Palestine. This energizing of the grassroots led to the first Zionist congress in Basle, Switzerland in August, 1897, which Herzl led and helped to finance. He would spend most of his time in the years remaining before his death in 1904 (age 44) trying to convince European and Turkish political leaders of the righteousness and utility of the Zionist cause, and he would remain open to Argentina and Uganda as alternatives to Palestine. Herzl’s vision of a Jewish state included a seven-hour working day and a modern, technologically sophisticated, social democratic economic system.

“The world will be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity.” —Herzl, The Jewish State