Her­zl’s Vision: Theodor Her­zl and the Foun­da­tion of the Jew­ish State

Shlo­mo Avineri; Haim Watz­man, trans.
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By – December 22, 2014

Theodor Her­zl began his pub­lic life at age 35 and died at the age of 44. In those nine years, Shlo­mo Avineri writes, he trans­formed the idea of a Jew­ish state from one bandied about by a small coterie of edu­cat­ed but mar­gin­al Jews to an item on the inter­na­tion­al polit­i­cal agen­da, a posi­tion which it keeps to this day.”

The most unique point in this new biog­ra­phy, which is based on Herzl’s diaries, is that con­trary to what many of his oth­er biog­ra­phers claim, the tri­al of Cap­tain Alfred Drey­fus was not the essen­tial source of Herzl’s Zion­ism. When read­ing Herzl’s diaries, Avineri explains, one clear­ly sees that the idea of find­ing a solu­tion to world anti-Semi­tism and cre­at­ing a Jew­ish state was on his mind much ear­li­er, even in his uni­ver­si­ty days. 

Her­zl was dream­er. He adjust­ed his dreams to chang­ing real­i­ties, and that, in part, was what made him so very effec­tive a leader and vision­ary. Orig­i­nal­ly Pales­tine was not con­sid­ered the ide­al place for the Jew­ish state: Her­zl thought that his state would be a mini-Switzer­land in the Mid­dle East. But when real­i­ty set in, Her­zl changed his vision. 

The book tells the sto­ry of Theodor Her­zl’s nine years of activ­i­ty in cre­at­ing the State of Israel. Avineri does not ide­al­ize Her­zl; he iden­ti­fies Herzl’s mis­takes, his false starts, and his char­ac­ter flaws. Most impor­tant­ly, Avineri describes how Her­zl took a sim­ple idea, a dream, and put it on the map of the Jew­ish peo­ple and of the world.

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Mic­ah D. Halpern is a colum­nist and a social and polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Ter­ror, and main­tains The Mic­ah Report at www​.mic​ah​halpern​.com.

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