Theodor Herzl: The Zionist Dream of a Jewish State

What is Zionism and why is it so controversial? How did Herzl, a secular writer, transform an ancient longing into a modern political movement that changed the course of history?

Comments (9)

(6) Gil Weinreich, December 26, 2018 8:13 AM

Herzl's Role as a Jew

Your superb video is a large step in the direction of demystifying a deeply misunderstood man. Herzl has become something of a prophet without honor in the land and among the people to which he dedicated his life. Religious Jews often assume he has no legitimacy because of his minimal "frum" credentials, while his vision is inherently discomfiting to many of his "landsmen" still entrenched in the Diaspora.

Those willing to disinter the true Herzl from the defamation and distortion in which he has been buried should read the only historically and Jewishly accurate biography that has been written about him (available in English, French and Hebrew), called "Theodore Herzl: A New Reading," by Dr. Yitshak (Georges) Weisz (Gefen Publishing House):

Among the things you will learn is that many of the things you "know" about Herzl are completely mistaken. To cite one example, he had more awareness of Judaism growing up than you likely assume. Ultimately, Herzl paved the way for the return in our days to Eretz Yisrael, just as Moshe Rabbeinu did in his time (and as we learn in this week's parsha, his having also grown up in an assimilated environment did not hinder his dedication to the Jewish people.)

Weisz's book, written with tremendous knowledge of Jewish and historical sources, corrects a grave injustice -- the failure to give credit where it is due, not to mention the "motzai shem ra" (slander) of a proud Jew who benefited his people and their land.

With our next holiday, Purim, upon us at winter's end, it is relevant to note that Herzl, like Mordechai, was:
גָדוֹל֙ לַיְּהוּדִ֔ים וְרָצ֖וּי לְרֹ֣ב אֶחָ֑יו דֹּרֵ֥שׁ טוֹב֙ לְעַמּ֔וֹ וְדֹבֵ֥ר שָׁל֖וֹם לְכָל־זַרְעֽוֹ
("great to the Jews and favorable to the majority of his brethren, a seeker of good for his people and speaker of peace to all its offspring").

(5) Anonymous, December 20, 2018 6:17 PM

What is Zionism?

The first 3 words in the text above the video are, "What is Zionism"? I watched the video and still don't know what Zion means.

(4) Moshe, December 20, 2018 3:44 PM

Didn't fix it, but didn't necessarily make it worse either.

Looking at events since 1948, one certainly cannot claim that antisemitism has been fixed. After the Holocaust, antisemitism definitely became out-of-bounds in polite company. But Jews were still murdered in Poland and other countries,(not that Poland was necessarily the worst, it's just that I don't recall stories from other countries), and viciously persecuted in the Soviet Union. And those who wanted to bring back antisemitism used a very convenient euphemism, anti-Zionism.
One might say that antisemitism got much worse in the Arab lands, but this was really just a reaction to the Jews' change of status. As long as we were prepared to be dhimmis (if this is unfamiliar, please look it up), the Arabs were willing to hold us in contempt with no more than occasional physical attacks. Once we refused to be dhimmis, they became enraged and have mostly remained so for 70 years! One can certainly hesitate before describing that as a change in the level of antisemitism.

(3) Cheryl, December 19, 2018 2:56 AM

This is a wonderful video, and I'm so glad that the speaker is young, under the age of 40, and can look at history made 100 years ago and still feel a part of what was going on.
What I got most out of this video is that I don't have to feel badly about being a secular Jew. If it weren't for Hertzl, the world would have lost the concept of Jews as a PEOPLE in need of their own State. As for the problem of "divided loyalties", Jews in the diaspora have always had them, except that the division was between loyalty to Jewish practice VS loyalty to the practices of the host state. There can never be a perfect solution to our troubles, but I feel we have made the right choices, considering what the alternatives could have been.

Moshe, December 20, 2018 4:00 PM

OK to be secular?

One cannot deny that Theodore Herzl made a very significant contribution to Jewish future (opposite of history). However, please read the article about his descendants at
Whether this is a tragedy is open to discussion, but I wonder whether Herzl himself would have been happy to know that a Jewish state would exist in a world without his descendants.
Given that almost all living Jews, religious or secular, can trace their roots back to a religious ancestor, what happened to the descendants of all the Jews who became secular? And what does that say about the future of today's secular Jews' descendants?

(2) Ed Gaglardi, December 17, 2018 5:43 PM

Well done

A great, short history of recent Israel. Thanks.

(1) Anonymous, December 17, 2018 1:43 PM

The Missing Piece

Excellent video, with one missing piece, though.

I can understand because Herzl was secular and the father of political Zionism, but Torah is missing in why it was so controversial.

Jews en masse were not permitted to immigrate to the Land of Israel without Moshiach, and our Nationhood was established and created at Sinai on receiving Torah. We were exiled when the Shechina fled the Temple and in my mind, remain in exile today, still Praying daily for our return and for Moshiach.

For me, Zionism and Judaism are not one in the same
and anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. My love for Israel is the land of Israel, separate from the government, the policies of the modern state.

In my opinion, since the presenter asked, for comments about the creation of the modern state and anti-Semitism, did it help or make it worse, I think it makes it worse for Jews in the diaspora, at times, like flare ups in Gaza. Criticisms now over apartheid etc. and politics of the modern state that are extended toward all Jews, unfairly.

I appreciate the mention of the Palestinians and their quest too for nationalism on the same land in the video, and hope you will do a follow-up video.

Thank you !

Anonymous, December 20, 2018 4:06 PM

Zionism is not the same as Judaism, but anti-Zionism is antisemitism.

While I completely agree that Judaism and Zionism are very different concepts leading to completely different practices and lifestyles, anti-Zionism is totally synonymous with antisemitism. It is the euphemistic fig-leaf used by those who are too 'polite' to admit that they are antisemitic.
And since we are commanded and expected to love every Jew, even those who fall short of other expectations, we can definitely not stand idly by when our brothers and sisters are hated and attacked under the banner of anti-Zionism. An anti-Zionist won't bother to ask the Neturai Karta whether they support Israel before beating them up or shooting them!

anonymous, December 23, 2018 3:32 AM

But, you can't ignore this

Yes, of course, I grant you that there are people that are anti-Semitic and they hide beneath the banner of anti-Zionism.

Their motivation comes from hatred, no legitimate purpose.

They do not care about your denomination, or your politics. You are a Jew.

This is anti-Semitism, it led to the slaughter of 11 innocent Americans praying in their Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

But, there are anti-Zionists that deeply love HaShem, Torah and the Jewish people.

Their motivation comes from love.

They do not have an anti-Semitic bone in their body.

The ultra-Orthodox Satmar, (they are not Neturei Karta, since you mentioned them) are anti-Zionist, to say they are anti-Semitic is ridiculous.

They are committed to following G-d's word in their lives.

Jews who feel the occupation is harming the collective Soul of the Jewish People, are also coming from love.

The self-hating label to silence critics of Isrseli politics is terrible.

So, I adamantly, disagree with you, that Anti-Zionism is equal to anti-Semtism.

As a Jew, it is acceptable to be a Zionist or an anti-Zionist. I know many Israelis that are non-Zionist.

There are differing points of view. Both acceptable, even if you happen to feel otherwise.

And I further say that many Christian Zionists do not support Jews, practicing their faith, as Jews; they are motivated by a desire for us all to convert to Christianity.

That is why they want us all to make Aliyah.

Do I fear their killing innocent people? No. Do I feel they respect and honor Judaism, No.

To equate Anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is wrong, nothing more than Hasbara, Propaganda.


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