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