Theodor Herzl: Father of Zionism
In the late nineteenth century, one man envisioned a Jewish State that would someday emerge as Israel. Though Jews had been living in Palestine for thousands of years, it was the vision of Zionism that led to the creation of the State of Israel. That vision was spearheaded at least in part by Theodor Herzl, a Hungarian Jewish journalist who bore unhappy witness to the ravages of anti-semitism in Europe. The only solution, Herzl believed, was to create a Jewish State where Jews could live in peace. Though he died at a young age, the impact of Herzl’s vision among European Jewry was a defining moment for the future of the Jewish State—and Jerusalem.
The Idea of a State of Israel
This event left an indelible mark on Theodor Herzl, a Hungarian-born Jewish journalist who at the time was the Paris correspondent for a prominent Viennese newspaper. Herzl studied the prevalence of anti-semitism in Europe and abroad and concluded that it was undefeatable. The only solution, he decided, was for the Jewish people to form their own independent, socialist, peaceful state.
Herzl published his ideas in a series of writings, beginning with Der Judenstaat (“The Jewish State”) in 1896 and including the novel Altneuland (“Old-New Land”) in 1902. His ideas were controversial but became popular among Jews of Eastern Europe.
In the course of Herzl’s attempt to convince European Jewish leaders of his dream, he spearheaded the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. He was to oversee six more such Congresses in the course of his lifetime, and see the beginnings of a following.
Herzl died in 1904 of a heart attack at the age of 44. Before his death, he requested that his remains be interred one day in Palestine. Today, Herzl lies buried on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.