Theodor Herzl

father of modern political Zionism (1860–1904)

Theodor Herzl (Hebrew: בנימין זאב הֶרְצְל‎ Binyamin Ze'ev Hertsl); 2 May 18603 July 1904), was the founder and leader of the World Zionist Organization which promoted the establishment of a Jewish state. In his early life, he was an assimilated Jewish Austro-Hungarian journalist, popular playwright, political activist, and writer. Though he died long before its establishment, he is generally considered the father of the State of Israel, formed in 1948. Herzl is specifically mentioned in the Israeli Declaration of Independence.[1]

At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.

Quotes edit

If you will, it is no legend…
Dream and deed are not as different as many think. All the deeds of men are dreams at first, and become dreams in the end.
  • It would be an excellent idea to call in respectable, accredited anti-Semites as liquidators of property. To the people they would vouch for the fact that we do not wish to bring about the impoverishment of the countries that we leave. At first they must not be given large fees for this; otherwise we shall spoil our instruments and make them despicable as “stooges of the Jews.” Later their fees will increase, and in the end we shall have only Gentile officials in the countries from which we have emigrated. The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies. We want to emigrate as respected people.
    • Herzl Diary Entry (12 June 1895), The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, Vol.1, 1960, Edited by Raphael Patai, Translated by Harry Zohn, p. 83-84
  • Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word — which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly — it would be this: At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.
    • Herzl Diary entry (3 September 1897), a few days after the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, as quoted in 'Nonstate Nations in International Politics: Comparative System Analyses (1977) by Judy S. Bertelsen, p. 37; 50 years after writing this in his diary, the state of Israel was established.
  • If you will, it is no legend...
    • Prefix to Altneuland [The Old New Land], (1902)
    • Originally in German: Wenn ihr wollt, ist es kein Märchen... which was intended to have the double meaning of a strong will shall eventually be realized, and as part of a paragraph ending as a postfix to the book, that this book perhaps will be seen as a true story, but even if not...
    • Note: The Israeli rightist movement "Im Tirzu" (Literally: 'If you will') is named after this quote.
  • Let me tell you that my friend and I do not discriminate between humans. We do not ask what race or what religion he is from. He has to be a human being. That is all that's important for us.
    • Altneuland (1902)
  • ... but if you will, it may very well be only a legend dreamed up by myself, and will always be so. I had in mind to write a story with a point. There will be those who say, more story than point. After three years we must part, my beloved book. Now you go on your trail of tears. You will have to go through a maze of antagonism and misunderstanding, like through a dark forest. But if you are lucky and meet good people, please send them your father's blessings. He believes that dreams too can be a way to fill the days that man must spend on the face of the earth. The dream is not that far from action as most tend to think. All people's actions were once a dream and all peoples actions will someday be a dream.
    • Postfix to Altneuland (1902)
    • Variant translation:
    • Dream and deed are not as different as many think. All the deeds of men are dreams at first, and become dreams in the end.

Der Judenstaat [The Jewish State] (1896) edit

Unless otherwise noted quotes below are primarily from the American Zionist Emergency Council edition (1946), based on a 1943 revised translation by the Scopus Publishing Company, itself based on the first English-language edition, A Jewish State (1896), translated by Sylvie d'Avigdor
  • I believe that I understand Anti-Semitism, which is really a highly complex movement. I consider it from a Jewish standpoint, yet without fear or hatred. I believe that I can see what elements there are in it of vulgar sport, of common trade jealousy, of inherited prejudice, of religious intolerance, and also of pretended self-defence. I think the Jewish question is no more a social than a religious one, notwithstanding that it sometimes takes these and other forms. It is a national question, which can only be solved by making it a political world-question to be discussed and settled by the civilized nations of the world in council.
    We are a people — one people.
    We have honestly endeavored everywhere to merge ourselves in the social life of surrounding communities and to preserve the faith of our fathers. We are not permitted to do so.
    In vain are we loyal patriots, our loyalty in some places running to extremes; in vain do we make the same sacrifices of life and property as our fellow-citizens; in vain do we strive to increase the fame of our native land in science and art, or her wealth by trade and commerce. In countries where we have lived for centuries we are still cried down as strangers, and often by those whose ancestors were not yet domiciled in the land where Jews had already had experience of suffering. The majority may decide which are the strangers; for this, as indeed every point which arises in the relations between nations, is a question of might. I do not here surrender any portion of our prescriptive right, when I make this statement merely in my own name as an individual. In the world as it now is and for an indefinite period will probably remain, might precedes right. It is useless, therefore, for us to be loyal patriots, as were the Huguenots who were forced to emigrate. If we could only be left in peace....
    But I think we shall not be left in peace.
    • I : Introduction
  • Oppression and persecution cannot exterminate us. No nation on earth has survived such struggles and sufferings as we have gone through. Jew-baiting has merely stripped off our weaklings; the strong among us were invariably true to their race when persecution broke out against them. This attitude was most clearly apparent in the period immediately following the emancipation of the Jews. Those Jews who were advanced intellectually and materially entirely lost the feeling of belonging to their race. Wherever our political well-being has lasted for any length of time, we have assimilated with our surroundings. I think this is not discreditable. Hence, the statesman who would wish to see a Jewish strain in his nation would have to provide for the duration of our political well-being; and even a Bismarck could not do that.
    • I : Introduction
  • Anti-Semitism increases day by day and hour by hour among the nations; indeed, it is bound to increase, because the causes of its growth continue to exist and cannot be removed. Its remote cause is our loss of the power of assimilation during the Middle Ages; its immediate cause is our excessive production of mediocre intellects, who cannot find an outlet downwards or upwards — that is to say, no wholesome outlet in either direction. When we sink, we become a revolutionary proletariat, the subordinate officers of all revolutionary parties; and at the same time, when we rise, there rises also our terrible power of the purse.
    • II : The Jewish Question
    • Variant translation:
    • When we sink, we become a revolutionary proletariat, but when we rise, there rises also our terrible power of the purse.
  • A scheme such as mine is gravely imperiled if it is opposed by "practical" people. Now "practical" people are as a rule nothing more than men sunk into the groove of daily routine, unable to emerge from a narrow circle of antiquated ideas. At the same time, their adverse opinion carries great weight, and can do considerable harm to a new project, at any rate until this new thing is sufficiently strong to throw the "practical" people and their mouldy notions to the winds.
    • II : The Jewish Question
    • Variant translation:
    • A plan like the one being presented here is fundamentally endangered if the "realists" come out against it. Realists are, as a rule, only men in the rut of routine who are incapable of transcending a narrow circle of antiquated notions. But their adverse opinion does carry some weight and can do great harm to a new project — at least until the innovation is strong enough to push the "realists" and their moldy notions aside.
      • As quoted in The Rise of Israel: From precursors of Zionism to Herzl (1987), by Isaiah Friedman
  • I have tried to meet certain objections; but I know that many more will be made, based on high grounds and low.
    To the first class of objections belongs the remark that the Jews are not the only people in the world who are in a condition of distress. Here I would reply that we may as well begin by removing a little of this misery, even if it should at first be no more than our own.
    It might further be said that we ought not to create new distinctions between people; we ought not to raise fresh barriers, we should rather make the old disappear. But men who think in this way are amiable visionaries; and the idea of a native land will still flourish when the dust of their bones will have vanished tracelessly in the winds. Universal brotherhood is not even a beautiful dream. Antagonism is essential to man's greatest efforts.
    • VI : Conclusion
    • Variant translation:
    • Some may say we ought not to bring up new differences between people; we ought not to raise new borders, we should rather make the old ones disappear. But men who think in this way are endearing dreamers; and the idea of a native land will still flourish when the dust of their bones will have vanished tracelessly in the winds.
  • Prayers will be offered up for the success of our work in temples and in churches also; for it will bring relief from an old burden, which all have suffered.
    But we must first bring enlightenment to men's minds. The idea must make its way into the most distant, miserable holes where our people dwell. They will awaken from gloomy brooding, for into their lives will come a new significance. Every man need think only of himself, and the movement will assume vast proportions.
    And what glory awaits those who fight unselfishly for the cause!
    Therefore I believe that a wondrous generation of Jews will spring into existence. The Maccabeans will rise again.
    Let me repeat once more my opening words: The Jews who wish for a State will have it.
    We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and die peacefully in our own homes.
    The world will be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness.
    And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity.
    • VI : Conclusion

Quotes about Herzl edit

  • Speaking of concentration, Dr. Herzl has a clear insight into the value of that. Have you heard of his plan? He wishes to gather the Jews of the world together in Palestine, with a government of their own — under the suzerainty of the Sultan, I suppose. At the Convention of Berne, last year, there were delegates from everywhere, and the proposal was received with decided favor. I am not the Sultan, and I am not objecting; but if that concentration of the cunningest brains in the world were going to be made in a free country (bar Scotland), I think it would be politic to stop it. It will not be well to let the race find out its strength. If the horses knew theirs, we should not ride any more.
    • Mark Twain, "Concerning the Jews" in Harper's Magazine (September 1897)
  • ...In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country...
    • Israeli Declaration of Independence (5 May 1948)
I have often wondered how different Zionism might have been if Herzl had not been a Viennese journalist but a shopkeeper in a Damascus bazaar. Would Zionism have realized that Palestine was a part of a big area inhabited by Arabs?
~ Uri Avnery, 1971
  • I have often wondered how different Zionism might have been if Herzl had not been a Viennese journalist but a shopkeeper in a Damascus bazaar. Would Zionism have realized that Palestine was a part of a big area inhabited by Arabs? Might some solution have been found at the very beginning to the problem of co-existence with the people who considered Palestine their own homeland ? But these are, of course idle thoughts. Herzl could not have been anything but a European Jew, because his whole idea was a response to a specific challenge posed by European conditions.
    • Uri Avnery, Israel without Zionism (1971) – page 50
  • Herzl regarded Zionism's triumph as inevitable, not only because life in Europe was ever more untenable for Jews, but also because it was in Europe's interests to rid the Jews and relieved of anti-Semitism: The European political establishment would eventually be persuaded to promote Zionism. Herzl recognized that anti-Semitism would be harnessed to his own Zionist purposes.
  • Nothing better reflects the new character of this secularism than the two theoreticians of Zionism and Bundist socialism, Theodore Herzl and Vladimir Medem. Both came from assimilated backgrounds...and neither was fluent in the languages which their movements promoted. Yet both came to advocate Jewish autonomy and a radical concept of Jewish secularism which diverged completely from the eighteenth century maskilim's vision and intent: the possibility of being a committed, unassimilated Jew without being observant. And this concept had great power.
    • Irena Klepfisz "Khaloymes/Dreams in Progress: Culture, Politics, and Jewish Identity" (1990)
  • Herzl never said "In Bazel I established the Jewish state" — he wrote it in his diary... He believed in women's rights, in equality and religious tolerance... that being "the chosen people" is a moral responsibility and not a right... and this is one case where one can say with no hesitation that the leader had made the history. If not for Binyamin Ze'ev Herzl we wouldn't be standing here today...
    • Yair Lapid, Israeli minister of finance, Herzl Day 2016, Israeli Parliament

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