...?I see a city rising from the plain; there are no mountains, no river, no sea, supposedly without reason. That is The Hague. Proof that willpower builds cities. All of Holland is proof of what man can produce on uncooperative soil. When a young man in love encounters women on his way, he immediately envisions his lover. So it is with me: Everything now serves as a stimulus and reminds me of my idea (in ?The Issue of the Jews? ? Diary no. 550).
Herzl?s main innovation was the concept of sovereignty in the context of Jewish history - the establishment of a national state for the Jewish people. For the first time in 1,800 years, a Jew takes a stand, announces that he is a people, and succeeds in motivating millions of people to follow him. This came only moments prior to the decision to sever his ties with Judaism, which he sought to suppress and deny. It was at a time when he found himself in a situation similar to that of many of the emancipated Western European Jews at the end of the nineteenth century - mired in a state of detachment, impersonation and self-loathing ? that he was struck by an illumination which shook him completely. In a quest for self-discovery, a dramatic renewal was generated within him, sweeping him towards the Zionist vision. This vision consumed him and led him to enter the struggle for his own identity and that of the Jewish people. He struggled for seven years ? in an uncooperative Jewish environment that sometimes viewed him as dangerous and hallucinatory. Some called him a dreamer, but Herzl was not attempting to predict the future, but rather to create it, to mold it with an artist?s hand, until he was struck down, almost like a soldier in combat. He had bequeathed political Jewish nationalism, and its organizational expression - the Zionist movement - to those who came after him leaving them with the foundation stone that he had molded for the establishment of the State of Israel.
?I became the leader of the Political Zionists, although I never sought this or any other honor. I expressed what is in my heart. I gave expression to just two words that came from the depths of my soul and spirit. These words are the ?Jewish State?...apparently the idea had been brewing inside me subconsciously.
The Coming of Age
Binyamin Ze?ev (Theodore) Herzl was born on May 2, 1860 in Budapest, the ?second? capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to an emancipated and prosperous Jewish family. His parents married for love, a rarity at a time when marriages were arranged. The relationship among the family members was warm. During his childhood, the family?s economic status was excellent ? his father was considered a millionaire. He lost a lot of money on the stock market during the financial crisis in 1873 and from then on did not regain his earlier status. This had a profound effect on Herzl, making him fearful of the stock market and sensitive about commerce, which were identified with the Jews (the ?stock market Jews? as he called them later).
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His grandfather, Simon Herzl, was a traditionally observant Jew. He harshly criticized his son?s secularism and the way he educated his grandson according to the German culture and language. During his childhood, Herzl was a loner and he seemed older than his actual age.
Herzl remained an only son to his parents, Janette and Ya?akov, after the sudden death of his sister Pauline on February 7, 1878 of typhus. This disaster dealt a harsh blow to the small family and sped up the family?s move to Austria, which had already been in the planning earlier. Even when he was in high school, the family had planned to move from Budapest to Vienna, but his sister?s death and the terrible crisis that his parents underwent accelerated the move. The demise of Herzl?s adored sister constituted a traumatic encounter with death. Herzl experienced a painful crisis upon her loss, from which he recovered only many years later. From the time of her passing the family sunk into despair and the young Herzl was cloaked in sadness.
At the age of 18 during the same year of 1878, he began his studies at the University of Vienna Law School. He had already encountered anti-Semitism as a high school student in Budapest. But in Vienna, the ugly encounter with anti-Semitism intensified, mainly due to the activities of the anti-Semitic Students? Union at the University. During the years of Herzl?s studies at the University, extensive anti-Semitic literature was published including the books of Wagner, Dihering and Chamberlain. Anti-Semitism is intertwined within Herzl?s life. He was the victim of anti-Semitism many times, from his youth when he encountered anti-Semitic incidents in the streets, and later on the campus and in his professional capacity as a lawyer.
In 1881, Egan Dihering, a lecturer of philosophy at the University of Berlin, published a book that was considered the classic model of racist theory, ?The Jewish Question as a Racial, Ethnic, Cultural Question.? He based his racist theory on the hypothesis that Jews were sterilizing the deep religious instincts of the German people; these were rooted in the ancient mythology of the pure German race. The Bible was alien to the German spirit and if the Germans aspired to maintain their unique spirit, then the former should be exiled from their boundaries. According to this theory, the Jewish problem would not be resolved even if all Jews converted. On the contrary, baptism would only allow them to penetrate the politics and culture of the host people and cause further troubles. According to Dihering, the Jews were the first to plant the seed of social class differences and hatred between the various classes. Out of a blind hatred for the human race, they want the working classes and the
bourgeois to constantly clash with one another, i.e., they are united in their mission to split the Christians.
Richard Wagner, the famous German composer and theoretician who lived from 1813-1883, is attributed with various anti-Semitic statements as expressed, among other places, in his book ?Judaism and Music.? He claimed that ?Judaism is incapable of creating an original composition, but rather lives a parasitic life at the expense of the creativity of others. ?
Houston Stewart Chamberlain was an Englishman who adopted the German culture. In his book ?Foundations of the Nineteenth Century? he ?discovered? the key to all historical and cultural problems. He believed that the ?secret? lies in purity of race. According to his theory, only a person with pure blood can make an important contribution to civilization, while the Jews, who lack this blood, are ?alien? to the development of the human species and their impact is ruinous.
These publications were part of an anti-Semitic tidal wave that suddenly flooded large areas of Europe. In 1881 and 1882, the ?Storms in the Desert? Pogroms swept through Russia. In Germany, racist demonstrations were incited by Adolf Stecker, one of the leading anti-Semitic propagandists. The venom of this hostility towards the Jews intensified in the 1890?s when Karl Lueger, a rabid anti-Semite, was elected again and again as the mayor of Vienna. The first three times he was elected the Austro-Hungarian Kaiser Franz Yosef the Second refused to approve his appointment, but Lueger kept on running and when chosen for the fourth time in 1896, he was allowed to assume the post of mayor.
In 1884 Herzl earned his S.JD. and for a short while worked in his profession in Vienna and Saltsburg. The literary world and the cultural life in Vienna had far greater appeal than his profession and after completing his studies he started to write plays. He traveled widely throughout Europe and began to publish articles in the ?Neue Freie Presse Newspaper? (The New Free Press), which was the most widely read paper in Europe at the time. It both formed public opinion and gave expression to it. For several years (1884-1891) he wrote plays and feuilletons, but the Jewish issue was not yet a topic of interest for his writing. Up to the age of 30 he was known as a playwright and feuilletonist.
He married Julie Naschauer, daughter to a wealthy Viennese Jewish family, on June 25 1889. From then on, he dedicated all of his time to writing. Even during the honeymoon problems arose in Herzl?s marriage to Julia, which persevered to his dying day. Between the various crises, Herzl and Julia had three children. The oldest was Pauline, followed by their son Hans, and the youngest - Gerta. Herzl spent most of his married life separated from his wife.
In 1891, after his travelogue about a trip to the French Pyrenees aroused considerable interest in Vienna, the ?Neue Freie Presse? offered him the opportunity to serve as the newspaper?s correspondent in Paris. At that time Paris was a major cultural center. He signed a five-year contract with the paper. Herzl, who had dreamed of becoming a writer and playwright, was considered a good journalist and his commentary about the seething and stormy French Republic was avidly read throughout Europe.
During the years 1892-93 he first began to deal with Jewish topics in his essays but it is hard to discern a clear stand vis-?-vis the problem of Judaism and anti-Semitism or the efforts to contend with it. His first public response to the rising anti-Semitism in Vienna came in the form of a play written in 1893, where he proposed that the Jews of Vienna convert en masse to Christianity in order to put an end to the hatred directed against them because of their affiliation with ?Satan?s band.? But he quickly discovered that this ?solution? could not succeed; many Jews would recoil from wholesale conversion to Christianity, and according to anti-Semitic writings dating from that time, those who did convert would merely expose themselves to further hatred. However, he remained an optimist and refused to concede defeat and accept the fact that anti-Semitism was incurable.
The New Ghetto
During Herzl?s years in Paris, anti-Semitism worsened in France. In France he witnessed a structured anti-Semitic theory that had previously been unknown to him ? pseudo-scientific publications related to social Darwinism were best sellers. The Jews were considered the culprits for the country?s dire state. In 1894, over a period of 17 days, Herzl wrote the play ?The New Ghetto? which dealt with the Jewish problem and the rising anti-Semitism. The play?s hero was killed in a duel with an anti-Semitic Christian while endeavoring to defend his own honor and the honor of the Jewish people. Herzl hoped that the staging of the play would place the Jewish question on the public agenda. While he was waiting and searching for a theater to stage the play, the trial of Alfred Dreyfus opened. As a journalist, Herzl was present at the humiliating ceremony on January 5 1895 when Captain Dreyfus was stripped of his ranks at the parade plaza in the Ecole Militaire in Paris, from whence he was banished to Devil?s Island. Dreyfus, the only Jewish officer at the French National Headquarters, was the obvious suspect when it was discovered that secret French military documents had been stolen for the German government. Herzl witnessed the anti-Semitic insults that the French masses flung at Dreyfus. Three years later, Herzl?s play ?The New Ghetto? was staged in a Viennese theater, sparking a tidal wave of anti-Semitic sentiment. In Herzl?s consciousness, this phenomenon merged with the taunting masses in Paris. At the same time, the vitriolic racist Karl Lueger had risen to power in Vienna. The intensity of anti-Semitism and its widespread popularity brought Herzl to the understanding that the promises of emancipation were meaningless and made him rethink the Jews? place in the world. It was clear to him that the solution to the Jewish problem was not assimilation. He came to the conclusion that the Jews must leave Europe and establish their own state. In Herzl?s diary it is possible to identify the turning points, which inspired him to search for a new path. Through them it is possible to identify the stages that motivated him and brought him to contend with the Jewish problem.
(The Issue of the Jews ? Diaries 55-56).
?When did I actually begin to address the Jewish issue? Probably from the moment that it was placed on the agenda. Certainly from the moment I read Dihering?s book.?Over the years the question gnawed at me, pecked away at me?it tormented me and dismayed me. The truth is that I returned to it again and again, and I was able to rise above my own private experiences, suffering and joy, to more general issues?At first the Jewish question was bitterly painful. Those were times when I would have gladly evaded it and slipped towards Christianity, to some other place. But those were the unformed wishes generated by the weakness of youth. And I tell you this with complete honesty, and this writing is sincere?I say to myself that I never seriously considered being baptized as a Christian or changing my name?? The Jewish question ambushed me in every corner?in Austria and Germany I always have to fear that I will be followed with ?hep hep? [a taunt]. While here (in Paris) I walk among the crowds ?with no identity??anti-Semitism is growing, spreading ? and I as well??
The Jewish State
Herzl launched his Zionist activity in 1895. Herzl met Max Nordau, who expressed support for his political path, and from this point on the latter became his assistant and right-hand man. In May 1895, Herzl met with the Baron Hirsch in order to appeal for his financial aid to further the Zionist concept, but the meeting was unsuccessful and the Baron rejected Herzl?s request. In June 1895, he met with the Rothschild family for the same purpose, and even wrote ?The Speech to the Rothschilds? in the hope that they would help him purchase land for the establishment of settlements in Eretz Israel. The speech was never presented to them. In July, he returned to Vienna where he was appointed the literary editor in the newspaper that employed him. During the month of October 1895, he converted ?The Speech to the Rothschilds? into ?The Speech to the Jews? and then adapted it into a booklet called ?Der Judenstaat? (?The Jewish State?) which was published on February 14, 1896. The book outlined Herzl?s political-Zionist plan and his proposed modern solution for the Jewish question by establishing a sovereign Jewish political entity. The concepts published in the book are based on the two abovementioned speeches in which he appealed to affluent Jews to donate funds towards the establishment of a national homeland, as well as on entries in his diary and letters that he wrote to various people. In the book, he raised the Jewish question for public and international discussion. The book aroused considerable public interest. There were those who opposed the idea for religious reasons and claimed that redemption must come from divine sources, and until then, no steps should be taken. Others argued that demands for a political entity would sabotage Jewish efforts to assimilate in general society. Nevertheless, many regarded the book as a beacon of salvation, and they asked Herzl to stand at the head of what was to become the Zionist Movement.
??Last night I dined with a rich Viennese bachelor, a pleasure-seeking playboy. He complained about the anti-Semites, the blood libels. I stimulated him to talk. This way, I could gain an impression about the feelings prevalent in the affluent circles. For a moment I even took the man seriously. I asked him if he would be willing to do something about the Jewish issue. He must have thought I was talking about a donation, and his response was an emphatic no. I immediately pointed out that he had misunderstood me, and said: ?What about a trip to Constantinople, for example?? ?No,? he said, ?I am not suited to such pursuits. I love my creature comforts too much.? Indeed, it will be a long time before I am able to arouse the Jews from the comforts of their captivity and shake them?? (The Jewish Issue, Volume A, 129)
??In the Promised Land, we will be able to walk tall without being jeered for our hooked noses, black or red beard, or bowlegged gait. There we will finally be able to live as a free people in our own land and die quietly in our homeland. There we will also be granted respect for great achievements. There we will be able to live in peace with the whole world, which we will liberate with our own release, enrich with our riches and elevate with our greatness. Thus the jeer ?Jew? will become a word of honor, like a German, Englishman, Frenchman, or in short, like the names of all cultured peoples. And in this way, with the help of our country, we will be able to educate our people for tasks that are still concealed. For God would not have sustained our people for so long if it had not been designated some destiny in human history??
Herzl?s Zionism constituted the concept of a Jewish state as an alternative to liberal promises that were never kept and a response to the rising threat against European Jewry. Herzl tried to recruit his newspaper to support the idea of a Jewish state, but a week after submitting his request, the editor gave him his final answer: ?I cannot say if we will undertake publicist representation of this stand in the future, but I believe that we cannot promise to do so. If serious anti-Semitic riots erupt one day along with murder and looting - then maybe we will be forced to make use of your idea.?
When Herzl?s Zionist ideas were placed on the agenda, tension and angry confrontations broke out between him and the editors.
After the publication of the book, Herzl launched his public Zionist activities. He was received for a meeting by the Grand Duke of Baden. In April 1896, he traveled for the first time to Constantinople.
In June, he negotiated the establishment of the ?Association of the Jews? in London, and met with the Baron de Rothschild in Paris. On July 18 1896, he began organizing the Zionist Movement. In March 1897, he convened a preparatory conference in anticipation of the Zionist Congress. On August 29 1897, the First Zionist Congress convened under Herzl?s leadership and with the assistance of Max Nordau, Aryeh Leib Motzkin and Avraham Usishkin. Jewish delegates from 16 countries attended the Congress.
Herzl regarded the Basel Plan, which was approved at the First Zionist Congress, as the preliminary foundation for the establishment of a Jewish state. The Zionist Organization was also formed at this Congress, in addition to initial leadership institutions.
Herzl believed that he would soon obtain an international charter to establish a Jewish entity in Eretz Israel and therefore insisted that illegal settlement and Aliya (infiltration in his words) be suspended until after the granting of the concession. This generated tension between Herzl and First Aliya activists, including Rothschild?s clerks, who regarded his activity as disruptive to their covert settlement campaign in Eretz Israel.
On August 28-31 1898, the Second Zionist Congress convened during which it was decided to found the Jewish Colonial Trust. A call was issued to ?conquer the communities.? Immediately afterwards, Herzl departed for Constantinople at the head of a Jewish delegation where he met with the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. During the meeting, Kaiser Wilhelm II agreed to recommend the Zionist Movement to the Turkish Sultan and consented to meet with Herzl again in Jerusalem.
On June 4 1898, Herzl founded the Jewish weekly ?Die Welt? (The World). During this period he proved himself to be a daring leader ready to face difficult challenges, such as the loss of his job at the newspaper where he had achieved such a distinguished status.
On October 27 1898, Herzl arrived in Jerusalem at the head of a Jewish delegation, which included the entrepreneur David Wolfson and others. During his visit in Eretz Israel he was welcomed as the ?King of the Jews? by the Jewish settlers. He was amazed by Jerusalem?s beauty and wrote in his diary: ?Even in ruins, it is still a beautiful city and in our hands it will be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.?
Herzl met once again with Kaiser Wilhelm II in Jerusalem. He also visited Jaffa and the moshavot (agricultural villages) Rishon Lezion, Ness Ziona, Rehovot and the Mikve Yisrael School.
On August 15-18 1899, the Third Zionist Congress convened in Basel. The Charter was formulated and the platform of the World Zionist Organization was established. In the month of March of that year the Jewish Colonial Trust bank was registered in London. In May, Herzl was granted an interview with the Sultan in Constantinople.
The Fifth Zionist Congress was convened in Basel on December 26-30 1901, during which the Jewish National Fund (JNF) was established. In 1902, Herzl testified before ?The Royal Committee for Foreign Entry? in London, and in July entered talks with the Baron Rothschild in London.
In October 1902, he published ?Altneuland,? a book in which he described a Jewish State with a European culture, an advanced country with social achievements. He envisioned a liberal country that would be characterized by complete freedom regarding faith and religion. In this country, religion would be separated from political life, and all its citizens ? both Jews and non-Jews ? would have equal rights. He wrote, ?The Jewish State is not a country of national oppression but rather a place where brotherhood and equality will prevail.? The book aroused controversy, mainly because Herzl believed that Hebrew would not be the spoken language there. ?Ahad Ha?am,? or Asher Ginzburg ? the philosopher who conceived the concept of spiritual Zionism ? wrote several articles criticizing the book as well as Herzl?s cosmopolitan attitude.
In the aftermath of the pogroms in Russia in 1903, Herzl felt that time was running out and that immediate measures needed to be taken to save the Jews.
In October he met with the British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain in order to consider the possibility of establishing a Jewish state in Uganda. In March 1903, he went to Cairo with a delegation studying the Sinai Peninsula, and held talks with the British High Commissioner and the Egyptian government.
On August 5, he traveled to tsarist Russia where the Russian Minister of Interior promised to recommend the Zionist plan to the Sultan. Herzl was enthusiastically welcomed there by masses of Jews, particularly in Vilna.
In 1903, the Sixth Zionist Congress convened in Basel, where Herzl submitted the ?Uganda Proposal.? He presented the British government?s rescue proposal ? the establishment of a Jewish haven in Uganda, East Africa. Although the vote regarding the proposal ended with a resolution to send experts to Uganda in order to check out living conditions there, Herzl was shocked by accusations that he had abandoned the Zionist ideal. The Zionist Congress ended in acrimony. In January 1904, Herzl met with the Pope and the King of Italy. On April 11-12, he convened the Zionist Action Committee in Vienna and brought about reconciliation within the Zionist Movement. Months later, Herzl?s heart condition worsened and he died of pneumonia at a sanatorium in Badlach, Austria on July 3 1904 when he was only 44.
??Today I am still a lone and isolated man. Tomorrow I may be the spiritual leader of hundreds of thousands. Or in any case, the discoverer and herald of a magnificent idea.?
In his final years, Herzl was haunted by his fears regarding the terrible end in store for European Jewry.
His death was accompanied by a scope of Jewish bereavement unprecedented in modern Jewish history. Many thousands of Jews poured into Vienna from all over Europe to attend his funeral. Commemorative ceremonies were held in almost every Jewish community in the world. Most of the members of the ?Neue Freie Presse? editorial staff were present at his funeral.
During his short period of activity, Herzl became a national myth. His boundless devotion, his infinite capacity to get things done, and his faith and ideology in his chosen path paved the way to the establishment of the State of Israel.
Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook said of him: ?The reality and the organization of our lives all start with Herzl. Some people called him a heretic. His writings do not reflect heresy, but rather they show that he did have faith. He wrote in his diary; ?our people cannot be a nation without its faith.? He who thinks and writes this way is a man of faith.?
About a year and a half before his death, Herzl wrote a will pertaining to his funeral and the arrangements for his interment. He wrote, ?I want a very simple funeral, without speeches or flowers...to be buried in a metal coffin near my father and to rest there until the Jewish people brings my remains to Eretz Israel. The coffins of my father, my sister Paulina...and the coffins of my closest relatives (my mother and children) who die prior to the transfer of my coffin to Eretz Israel should be re-interred there as well.?
About a year and a quarter after the establishment of the State of Israel, the first Knesset decided to act upon Herzl?s last wishes. On August 10 1949, the Chairman of the Knesset Committee, Yizhar Harari, proposed a law regarding the realization of Herzl?s will. The proposal met with the approval of almost all of the Knesset members, and passed all of the stages of legislation on the same day. The law also established a date when the resolution would be enacted and Herzl?s remains would be brought to Eretz Israel. ?The will of the visionary of the State of Israel, Theodore (Binyamin Ze?ev) Herzl, requesting to bring his remains to Israel, will be performed on August 17 1949.? Three days after the resolution was passed in the Knesset regarding Herzl?s will, a special delegation left for Vienna. The delegation went to the Debling Cemetery in Vienna, exhumed the coffins of Herzl and his parents, and placed them in the local synagogue. Many of the Jewish residents in the area passed before their coffins as they lay in state and paid their last respects prior to their re-interment in Israel. The next day, the coffins were flown to Israel on a special El Al flight. At Lod Airport, awaiting the arrival of the coffins, was an official delegation of the State of Israel which included Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, government ministers, the Knesset Speaker, the Chief of Staff and representatives of the Zionist Organization, which he had headed until the day he died. Herzl?s coffin was transferred from Lod Airport to the Knesset, which was situated in Tel Aviv at that time. By midnight, tens of thousands of people had passed before his coffin in a parade of appreciation and esteem for the man who had brought about the establishment of the fledgling state. On the morning of the 22nd day of the Hebrew month of Av 1949, the coffin was transported in a convoy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. At the city?s entrance, the convoy stopped to observe a minute of silence and then continued to the courtyard of the Jewish Agency. The coffin was placed on a special dais surrounded by an honor guard, and thousands of Jerusalem residents passed before it. In the afternoon hours the funeral procession set out for the burial site ? at the top of a mountain in Jerusalem, in a new section allocated for this purpose.
Herzl?s grave was the first in this area subsequently named ?the section for the nation?s leaders.? Later it was to be surrounded by the military cemetery. The mountain itself was named ?Mount Herzl? and it serves ? with Herzl?s grave in its center ? as the national site for the State of Israel?s Remembrance Day and Independence Day ceremonies.
In a special ceremony held at the Knesset, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion quoted something that Herzl wrote in 1898: ?I do not know the time of my passing, but Zionism will not die... The Jewish State will rise in our homeland.? And Ben Gurion added: ?His prophecy has come true. The interment of Herzl?s remains in Jerusalem will not be a procession of grief but rather a triumphant parade ? the victory of the vision that became a reality.?