"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"!!