Herzl Was the New Jew

From the soil of tsarist autocracy, no Jewish political leaders could grow. Herzl, by contrast, exuded the spirit of modern, fin-de-siècle Europe.

Theodor Herzl in Altaussee, Austria in August 1900. Imagno/Getty Images.

Theodor Herzl in Altaussee, Austria in August 1900. Imagno/Getty Images.

Response
Jan. 25 2021
About the author

Anita Shapira is professor emerita of Jewish history at Tel Aviv University and the former head of its Weizmann Institute for the Study of Zionism and Israel.


“Do you read Jewish newspapers, and did you notice the ‘original plan’ of someone, a Viennese journalist, who invented a new solution to the Jewish problem: establishing a Jewish state in Syria,” wrote Ḥayyim Hissin on July 23, 1896, to his friend Jacob Shertok, his pen dripping with irony. Hissin and Shertok were among the pioneers of the First Aliyah, who settled in Ottoman Palestine in the early 1880s; the latter was the father of Israel’s second prime minister, Moshe Sharrett. “Strange,” Hissin continued, “we say again and again the same thing, then suddenly somebody shouts it out very loudly and everyone think that they heard a completely new idea.”

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Theodor Herzl