Herzl & Zionism

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Theodor Herzl


Herzl was born in Budapest in 1860. He is best known for being the founder of political Zionism. He was inspired and horrified at the injustice done to the Jewish artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus during the trial of the Jewish captain. He developed a deep emotional crisis when he witnessed the degradation of this man and the subsequent French anti-Semitic mob shouting “Death to the Jews.” During that “treason trial” in 1895, Herzl was a journalist for the Viennese newspaper “Neue Freie Presse”.

Following this unfortunate historic episode, Herzl gave much thought to the Jewish question. He was a strong advocate for a Jewish state where Jews could help one another and escape the persecution of the world. He next wrote an essay called “Der Judenstaat” (The Jewish State – in 1896), a pamphlet which had great significance for the Jewish people. This beginning was the blueprint for all Zionist political thinking. Herzl was an idealist . He was a man whose feelings ran deep and whose experiences and attitudes still live to this day. He protested, as many of us do to this day, that money is found for all sorts of external causes except for our own people. Thus Herzl wrote: “Money can be found in large amounts for a Chinese loan, for Negro railways in Africa, but for the deepest, most immediate and crying need of the Jewish people itself, is there none to be found?” Herzl approached the wealthy Jews of that day, namely the London Rothschild’s, Baron de Hirsch and innumerable others to further the cause of his people through the establishment of a Jewish State. They proved unresponsive and disagreed with Herzl. Theodor persisted for a number of years and wore himself out following his passion, his convictions. He was ridiculed and maligned. The very orthodox movement, the “Agudisten” and others had slogans that Herzl was not fit to be spat on. Another faction responded that, yes, he should be “angespuckt” (spat on). Since he was not a religious/ orthodox Jew he was shunned by the ultra orthodox or “true believers”. Among the poor Jews who had suffered so much, Herzl found a following. Herzl was a very brilliant man with strong conviction and a good legal mind. He predicted that during his lifetime he would not totally succeed in creating a Jewish state, but before his death at age forty-four he made the statement that in fifty years or so his dream, that he had worked so hard to achieve, a dream that he had given his life to and for, would become a reality --- and so it did; exactly fifty years later the State of Israel was born. He did more to give us a haven, a Jewish State, than any other man in history. 


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Grandparents:  A New Look at the Supporting Generation (publ. 2002)

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