Ahad Ha'am and Theodor Herzl: Together at Last?

The Zionist debate between the two men is old but still urgent. Can their disparate visions be reconciled? Do they need to be?

From a 1921 United Israel Appeal poster by Reuven Rubin.

From a 1921 United Israel Appeal poster by Reuven Rubin.

Response
Oct. 19 2016
About the author

Steven B. Smith, professor of political science at Yale University, is the author of Spinoza, Liberalism, and Jewish Identity and, most recently, Modernity and Its Discontents: Making and Unmaking the Bourgeois from Machiavelli to Saul Bellow.


In his superlative essay, Hillel Halkin resurrects what seems to be a purely antiquarian debate between Theodor Herzl and Ahad Ha’am over the nature of Zionism and the Jewish state. The debate grew out of Ahad Ha’am’s blistering 1902 review of Herzl’s Zionist-utopian novel, Altneuland (“Old-New Land”), with its imagined portrait of a secure and prosperous Jewish state in the historical land of Israel. At the core of this debate lay two fundamentally different visions of Zionism, visions that, far from being of merely antiquarian interest, still shape the contours of the Jewish state today.

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More about: Ahad Ha'am, Israel & Zionism, Theodor Herzl