Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Theodor Herzl;s six days of action to establish the Stae of Israel


Theodor Herzl needed only six days of action to establish a state. Or at least that period of time to understand and absorb that, in this short time, he laid the foundations for the political existence of the Jewish people.

On 1 Elul, 5647 (1897) Herzl was still running around the Stadtcasino concert hall in Basel, starching flags, commenting – like a skilled editor – on the delegates’ speeches that were sent to him ahead of time. He then reprimanded Max Nordau and sent him back to the hotel to change his casual clothes into a frock coat, in accordance with the ceremonial dress code. On Friday, 6 Elul (1897), after the 208 delegates had returned to their relevant countries, Herzl wrote in his diary: “At Basel, I founded the Jewish state.”

What made Herzl realize that the Jewish state had been founded at the special conference of the First Zionist Congress? After all, another fifty years passed until the actual declaration of independence, during which time the Jewish people faced a real danger of annihilation. Herzl had, in fact, launched a vision that expressed a desire. In the following lines in his diary, he wrote: “The foundation of the state was already laid in the people’s desire for a homeland.”

One word in the Hebrew language expresses the transition from the metaphysical event of the First Zionist Congress to the physical event called the State of Israel more than anything else, and that word is “chozeh.” In English, there are two separate meanings for the word “chozeh.” One is “visionary,” and Herzl, who was defined as the State Visionary, represents the vision and belief in the establishment of the Jewish state. The second is “contract,” and Herzl was the one who drafted the contract between the Jewish People and their homeland. In Hebrew, it sounds so much better, clearer, and more real.

Black frock suits have disappeared over the past 125 years, but the ceremonial emotions remain and the historical excitement is still thriving, as many hundreds of Jews gathered in the Basel concert hall this week. They clinked their glasses and mingled, but they also contemplated one big and ever-existing question: as the State of Israel enters its 75th year, what should the country represent – a safe haven for Jews from constant global threats or a model society? The obvious answer, derived from the variety of meetings this week in Basel, is that all the answers are correct.

Herzl understood that the solutions that the Jewish people find for themselves are only paving the way for even bigger solutions, for a better world. The “Jewish question” that troubled the world in which he lived (Die Judenfrage) was given an answer in the actual essence of political Zionism as well as in the establishment of institutions that motivated Zionist action – for immigration, settlement, and fulfillment.

As Dr. Micah Goodman said in Basel, in his typical prophetic passion, “we have reached a new stage in the responsibility of the Jewish people: if Herzl found a universal solution to the Jewish problem, we are now in an era where universal problems are being solved by Jewish solutions.”

The Trap of Improvisation

The current congress differed from the first in that over the years Israeli culture has developed a thin layer of cynicism towards the ability to change and dream ahead. The need for a vision has been replaced, all too often, by the need for survival. In some way, the famous Israeli improvisation – which has become known all over the world – has become infamous.

Existential plans, which consider the future of Israel, the 100th Independence Day, the lives of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and not the next fiscal year – have become unrealistic in an unstable political reality. This reality forces us to stray from thinking about the collective, and mainly it suppresses our ability to dream and envision; to look beyond the horizon.

But reality can change quickly. Herzl was one of those righteous and upright individuals who were able to lift himself above a crisis and the low spirits of his time, in order to envision lofty insights and a new reality. This is how he acted when he, as a journalist, reported on the antisemitic trials of Édouard Drumont and Alfred Dreyfus, when he stubbornly trudged among the major philanthropists, and when he did not let himself sink into the political filth when the “protesting Rabbis” in Munich objected to his intention to hold the First Zionist Congress in the city, but simply moved it to Basel – and the rest is history.

So, if only one insight emerged from the discussion panels, the cocktails and the many meetings held this week in Basel, it is that the Jewish People must remember Herzl’s message, that has characterized him for over 125 years of Zionism: the ability to rise above narrow-mindedness and low-level interests, and put a vision into action. Zionism, a la Herzl, strives for moral and spiritual perfection for the Jewish people. This is the contract he signed, and this is the contract that has been continuously ratified for the past 125 years.

{Written by  Omer Lachmanovitch  and reposted from IsraelHayom}

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If only we would have been zoChe to see his face. For those of us in Israel please go to his tomb and light a candle and maybe say some passages of the bible