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May 2: Theodor Herzl

Lawrence Bush
May 2, 2010

herzl-www-israelvets-com-1Theodor Herzl, the Viennese journalist and playwright who got it into his head that the Jews needed a state of their own and then set in motion the political process that would actually result in the establishment of modern Israel, was born on this day in 1860. Herzl responded to the rise of the anti-Semitic Mayor Karl Lueger of Vienna in 1895, and to the fierce anti-Semitism expressed during the Dreyfus Affair, by deciding that the struggle for Jewish security and equality in Europe was futile. The “Jewish question,” he wrote in The Jewish State (1896), could only be ”solved on the political level,” through the establishment of a Jewish homeland. Herzl planned and helped finance the First Zionist Congress in Basel Switzerland in 1897 and began traveling to centers of political power in Europe, Russia, and the Middle East to curry support for the movement. His novel, The Old New Land (1902), forecast a secular Jewish state centered in Jerusalem that would mix capitalism and socialism in a combination that he called “mutualism,” and contained the sentence, “If you will it, it is no dream,” which became a slogan of the Zionist movement after his sudden death at the age of 44.
“Nothing prevents us from being and remaining the exponents of a united humanity, when we have a country of our own. To fulfill this mission we do not have to remain literally planted among the nations who hate and despise us.” —Theodor Herzl

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.