Rambling ...

I'm an Irish Girl, A Dubliner, with the 'Gift of the Gab' ... I like to talk & to tell you things. In Celtic times news, views and comment were carried from place to place by wandering Seanachaí ~ Storytellers ~ who relied on their host's hospitality and appreciation. I will need that from you too, as I venture to share Politics, Poetry, Laughter, Love, Life & everything in-between ... from Bog to Blog!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Herzl's History !!

"If you will it ... it is no Dream"

I originally posted this piece as part of my 'Heroes of Israel'  Photo series a while back on my public Page in Facebook .... JEWS NEWS!!    It took off, as sometimes happens & I have had it suggested a lot that I blog it. I do want to look at the question of 'Why Am I a Zionist??' So, today this fits.

Theodor Herzl has been credited with being the founder of Zionism. He wasn't. Zionism began in Torah. The History of the Jewish people is in fact the History of Zionism. What Herzl could be credited with, however, is the founding of Modern Political Zionism. By this definition he deserves inclusion in this history of Israeli heroes.

He was born in Budapest in 1860, and educated in the spirit of the German ­ Jewish Enlightenment, as a secular Jew, though his grandfather had been a friend of Rabbi Yehudah Alkalai, a Zionist of an earlier era. In 1878 the Herzls moved to Vienna, where Theodor Herzl studied law in the university of Vienna, graduating in 1884. However, rather than studying law, Herzl became a writer, a playwright and a journalist, acting as Paris correspondent for influential liberal Vienna newspaper Neue Freie Presse.

In 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army, was falsely accused and convicted of treason. Mobs shouted “Death to the Jews” in France, the home of the French Revolution .... and Herzl became convinced that the Jews needed a country of their own!

Herzl witnessed the Dreyfus affair as a newspaper correspondent. According to conventional accounts, his Zionism resulted from contemplating the persecution of Dreyfus. According to some others, he may have been more influenced by the election of the anti-Semitic Karl Luger as mayor of Vienna. Herzl concluded that anti-Semitism was a stable and immutable factor, which assimilation would not solve, and which it was futile to combat. Despite ridicule from Jewish leaders, he published The Jewish State (Der Judenstaat) in 1896 in which Herzl claimed that the Jews could gain acceptance in the world only if they stopped being an anomaly among nations. He asserted that the scattered Jews are one people, whose plight could be transformed into a positive force by the establishment of a Jewish state guaranteed in international law.

Herzl proposed to collect funds from Jews around the world by a company which would work toward settling Jews in Palestine. and securing a state. Eventually this idea was transformed into the Zionist Organization, the Jewish National Fund and other organizations. He also continued to publish & issue Zionist literature.

Herzl's ideas were rejected in Western Europe. Herzl was turned down by Jewish magnates such as Baron Hirsch and Baron Rothschild. Herzl then appealed to the people, organizing the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland, on August 29­31, 1897. The congress was historic not just for founding the Zionist movement, but because it was the first time an organized body , representing at least the Jews of the Western world, had been convened since the exile nearly 2000 years ago.

Herzl's ideas found mass support from the poor Jews of Eastern Europe and Russia. At Basle, the Zionist movement resolved to " establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.” The Basle congress also resolved to set up a political organization and financial institutions to carry forward the Zionist idea. The World Zionist Organization was established, and Herzl was elected president. Herzl wrote in his diary, "At Basle, I founded the Jewish state... If not in five years, then certainly in fifty, everyone will realize it."

Herzl presided over six Zionist Congresses between 1897 and 1903, setting up the Jewish Colonial Trust, the Jewish National Fund and the movement's newspaper 'Die Welt'. After Herzl's death, the movement continued to meet every year except during war. In 1936 the centre of the Zionist movement moved to Jerusalem.

Herzl Street, Haifa, Israel 1950.
Despite his Zionist intentions, Herzl had some strange ideas ... The Kishinev Pogrom in 1903 caused Herzl to realize the urgency of finding some shelter for the Jews of Russia. He travelled to Russia in 1903 & entertained a British idea of "Uganda" as a temporary refuge ~ a "night shelter" for Jews, at the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903. Herzl made it clear that this program would not affect the ultimate aim of Zionism, which was settlement in "Eretz Yisrael" . However, the proposal aroused great anger, not surprisingly ... it always made me laugh out loud!!

So, Herzl was not the founder of Zionism, Ha'Shem is ... but he did manage to raise it's status & encouraged the first trickling of Jewish immigration as the move towards the formation of Nation States occurred on the anti-semetic European continent.

Even after the Jewish state was established, however, Herzl’s prophecy of an end to anti-Semitism went unfulfilled. He believed that once Jews won recognition as a nation, the individual Jew would finally be able to live in peace & the Diaspora become assimilated. Yet what actually happened was quite different as we know. And in fact, the fashionable portrayal of Israel by many Europeans as the principal threat to world peace, a “Nazi state,” the archenemy of human rights ~ this is precisely the kind of demonization previously directed at individual Jews. And because individual Jews living in Europe are an easier target for violence than Israel, the terror war against Israel of the last four years has awakened the spectre of classical anti-Semitism throughout Europe, giving rise to a renewed wave of violence against Diaspora Jewry.

It would seem, then, that we have come full circle ~ the old anti-Semitism now takes the form of anti-Zionism. In fact, the present wave of anti-Semitism in Europe has proven once and for all that there is no difference between the two, that the perceived distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is an illusion. As far as the world is concerned, the Jews are Israel and Israel the Jews. But this means that every Jew, in turn, must define themselves with respect to the Jewish state of Israel, either for or against. And, the embracing of Zionism should lead to Alyiah, at least in my opinion.

And what does Zionism mean to me?? That is the subject of tomorrow's blog "Why I am a Zionist"!!


  1. Anti-Zionism IS Anti-Semitism .....

    When people isolate Israel, the one Jewish state in the world for sanctions, opprobrium and de-legitimizing, they are doing so because it is the Jewish state. And that, quite simply, is why anti-Zionism is simply another form of Jew-hatred.

    If you are an anti-Zionist or advocate the destruction of the Jewish state, then let's be clear ~ You are an enemy of the Jews and of Judaism, and the word for such a person is Anti-semite.

    Actually, if you want to destroy the national state of any people, you are a racist.

    Anti-semitism IS racism. And Anti-Zionism is Racism!!

  2. "Anti-Zionism = Anti-Semitism" ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    ". . . You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely 'anti-Zionist.' And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews ..."

    "Antisemitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently antisemitic, and ever will be so.

    "Why is this? You know that Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land. The Jewish people, the Scriptures tell us, once enjoyed a flourishing Commonwealth in the Holy Land. From this they were expelled by the Roman tyrant, the same Romans who cruelly murdered Our Lord. Driven from their homeland, their nation in ashes, forced to wander the globe, the Jewish people time and again suffered the lash of whichever tyrant happened to rule over them.

    "The Negro people, my friend, know what it is to suffer the torment of tyranny under rulers not of our choosing. Our brothers in Africa have begged, pleaded, requested--DEMANDED the recognition and realization of our inborn right to live in peace under our own sovereignty in our own country.

    "How easy it should be, for anyone who holds dear this inalienable right of all mankind, to understand and support the right of the Jewish People to live in their ancient Land of Israel. All men of good will exult in the fulfilment of God's promise, that his People should return in joy to rebuild their plundered land.

    This is Zionism, nothing more, nothing less.

    "And what is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is antisemitism.

    "The antisemite rejoices at any opportunity to vent his malice. The times have made it unpopular, in the West, to proclaim openly a hatred of the Jews. This being the case, the antisemite must constantly seek new forms and forums for his poison. How he must revel in the new masquerade! He does not hate the Jews, he is just 'anti-Zionist'!

    "My friend, I do not accuse you of deliberate antisemitism. I know you feel, as I do, a deep love of truth and justice and a revulsion for racism, prejudice, and discrimination. But I know you have been misled ~ as others have been ~ into thinking you can be 'anti-Zionist' and yet remain true to these heartfelt principles that you and I share.

    Let my words echo in the depths of your soul: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews ~ make no mistake about it."

    From M.L. King Jr., "Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend," Saturday Review_XLVII (Aug. 1967), p. 76.

  3. Zionism has been around since the Torah and as you pointed out Herzl was responsible for the modern political/secular "Zionism" I believe the best definition of Zionism I ever read is this :


    Jewish History! That whirlpool of tragedy, drama, and courage, whose richness and color dazzle anyone who plunges into its depths. And the American Jew, whose ignorance of self is devastating, knows it not. It is so important that he travel backward through the pages of his own times! It is so necessary that he learn what his stubborn zeydes did or refused to do and how, but for their obstinacy, he would not exist today…

    Listen, you who begin to believe in inanities and who begin to doubt the legitimacy of a Jewish State. You who weep for the oppressed Arabs and gnash your teeth at the ‘fascist’ Zionists. You who waver in support of Israel and who suggest that she lie down and die. Listen.

    You are too young to remember the day. It was a moment in May, the 14th day of that loveliest of months, and they stood in the streets. They, the Jews; they, your people; they, the Zionists. The year was 1948, but to Jews it was 1878. One thousand eight hundred and seventy-eight years since the long exile began. You see, that is how your people count history.

    They stood in the streets and waited, these Zionists. To look at them, you would never have imagined them to be part of an international cabal, hand-maidens of Rockerfeller’s Esso and other monopolist oil interests. Beholding the old men, and the rapturous women and the glorious youth, one might easily have been moved to consider them the farmers and tailors and housewives and mechanics and students - and Auschwitz survivors - they claimed to be.

  4. here is the second part:

    And as they stood, they listened to a proclamation that tolled an end - and a beginning - of an impossible dream come true. The words entered their ears, filling the minds, choking their throats, gripping their hearts, flooding their eyes:

    “We hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ‘Medinat Yisroel, ’ the State of Israel…”

    And as the last words drifted off into the cloudless mid-eastern skies, the ‘fascists’ of Tel Aviv burst into song, the song. The words were written a mere sixty years earlier; the idea was 1, 878 years old. With tears streaming down their reactionary cheeks and radiance lighting up their faces, they sang:

    “Od lo avda tikvateynu…
    Our hope is not yet lost -
    The hope of two thousand years.
    To be a free people in our land
    The land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

    How they sang and how they rose - for just that moment in time - to the heights of immortality. And happy were they eyes that merited seeing that moment, while how sad for you that you were not there to taste the sweetness of a miracle.

    And when they finished singing, with the stains still fresh on their skin, they danced - oh, how they danced. Never was there a dance such as this and never will nations know the ecstasy of such vindication…

    Listen, young descendant of a stubborn zeyde. Listen and try to understand the tenacity of the Jew who sat in countless synagogues on the night of Tisha B’Av with flickering candles and tearstained Book of Lamentations, with stockinged feet and bearded face as befits the mourner for Zion and who mournfully remembered the anniversary of the destruction and sadly intoned the words: “How doth she sit solitary; the city that was filled with people hath become a widow.”

    Listen to all this and ask yourself the question: Was it truly United States oil that created Israel? Was it really the military-industrial complex that gave birth to a Jewish State? Was it the United Nations that brought us home? Was it British imperialism that created this dream?

    There was no Esso when Jews were driven from the land in which they had lived for centuries and to which they vowed to return. There were no Arabs when Bar Kochba went down to defeat, and Jews were already turning to Zion three times a day. There was no Pentagon when Yehuda Halevi, the greatest of medieval Jewish poets, wrote: “My heart is in the East and I am in the West.”

    Israel came into being because it never came out of being. Israel came back to life because it never died. It was the Jewish State in the days of Joshua; it was the Jewish State when there were Pharaohs; it was the Jewish State when Assyrians and Moabites and Edomites and Philistines and Babylonians and Persians and Hellenes and Romans drifted through history and passed out of it again. It remained Jewish because Jews never left it and there was never a time when Jewish communities did not remain in Zion.

    Do you think Theodore Herzl created Zionism? Not so! Zionism came into being the day that Jews went into exile and was nurtured by every religious law and custom. Every Jew who practiced his faith and every Jew who observed his tradition was a Zionist. Herzl was merely a man whose time had come, and Jews simply put into practice the goal and dream and aspirations of two millenia. Had there been no Balfour Decleration - there would still have arisen the State of Israel. Had there been no United Nations - there would still have come into being a Jewish State. The stubbornness of Jewish zeydes can be denied for only so long…

    After suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous Gentile fortune and a sadistic world for too many centuries, the Jew in the late 19th century decided that he had had quite enough of moving eulogies over his grave and wished to become quite as normal as those who persecuted him. He dreamed a dream of Zion, woke up with its memory firmly captured and decided to do the impossible - go home.

    By Rabbi Meir Kahane
    Never Again

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  6. Wow, Moshe .....

    "The History of the Jewish people is in fact the history of Zionism" --- beautifully said! I don't think it could be said any better than that.

    Are you going to publish these pieces??

  7. Hey Benjamin, that definition is already well published but sadly not well known or even taken seriously. The man who wrote that was a true leader and pioneer, Rav Meir Kahane.

  8. And my favourite Meir Kahane quote is .... "It's better to have a Jewish State, that is hated by the whole world, then an Auschwitz, that's loved by it!" ~ Rav Meir Kahane ~

    And, he definitely needs to be featured in the 'Heroes of Israel' series!

    Oh! and thanks Moshe!!

  9. He was my main inspiration for first starting to think about returning home over 10 years ago.

  10. And thanks, Ben. No plans to publish .... Pana's Political Pieces, huh???

    You're actually the second person to mention that sentence. I guess my education had some worth, ha ha!!!

  11. Pana you truly have a gift for the pen or in this case keyboard! Keep up the blogs!

  12. This particular piece has just taken off, I don't really get why this one is liked so much.... But, the words Gift, Horse & mouth come to mind!!!!!