On This Day in Jewish History: July 3rd, 1904
Theodor Herzl z”l, the father of Zionism and the primary mover of the movement that would lead to the creation of the first independent Jewish State in the Land of Israel in 2,000 years, passed away #onthisday in 1904.
Born in Pest, Hungary in 1860 to a secular Jewish family of both Ashkenazi & Sephardic descent. While living in Vienna, Herzl would go on to have a brief career as a lawyer and a successful one as a journalist & playwright.
It was during his time as a Paris correspondent for Neue Freie Presse that Herzl was caught up in covering the Dreyfus Affair: the antisemitic, false accusation and verdict of the Jewish French army captain’s “spying for Germany.”
Allegedly, this turned Herzl into a Zionist and awoke him from his assimilated upbringing. He now felt certain that no matter how many Western nations gave Jews “emancipation” and “equality”, antisemitism would still rear its ugly head to remind the Jew he would never truly be equal.
Around this time, Herzl began writing pamphlets that would become the book called “The Jewish State” which kicked off the modern political, spiritual, and liberation movement called Zionism- a modern response to the ancient Jewish longing of Return.
Herzl would go on to devote his entire career and life to the cause of establishing an independent Jewish homeland – wherever it may be – at one point even suggesting it be established in Uganda since Britain “offered” it. This notion was immediately shut down by the 6th Zionist Conference who unanimously agreed it needed to be in Ottoman-controlled Palestine.
Between the years 1894-1904 Herzl essentially worked himself to death by travelling all over Europe, Turkey, and Palestine building relationships with those in power in Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and Britain. He knew that in order to will the dream into reality, the entire movement would need these powers’ “blessings”.
Theodor Herzl died of a cardiac sclerosis. Buried near his father in Vienna at the time, his remains would be brought to Jerusalem in 1949 after the creation of Israel where they are found to this day on Mt. Herzl.