If you will it, it is no dream
In 1896, Herzl’s pamphlet entitled Der Judenstaat, which translated to The State of the Jews but commonly referred to as The Jewish State was published. To solve the Jewish problem, namely antisemitism, Herzl dreamed of founding an independent Jewish state during the 20th century. While some thought the answer was freedom from Russian oppression and being accepted by the rest of the population, he argued that the best way to avoid antisemitism in Europe was for the Jewish people to have their own homeland. The book encouraged Jews to purchase land in Palestine.
Herzl popularized the term "Zionism", which was coined by Nathan Birnbaum in 1890. He convened the First Zionist Congress, held from August 29 to August 31, 1897. It was attended by 208 delegates, including 13 women, and 26 press correspondents. The Congress created a Zionist platform and founded the Zionist Organization. It also adopted Hatikvah as its anthem.
The name Zion is used as a synonym for Jerusalem in the Torah, as well as for the country as a whole. Therefore, the word Zionism referred to a return to Israel (Palestine), the traditional homeland of the people. Later, it was used to show support for Israel. But, soon after, the term was highjacked and perverted. In 1975 the UN passed Resolution 3379, which said "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination". Though it was repealed in 1991, this negative connotation remains for many. It is our job to reclaim it.
Herzl proved to be prophetic. After the horrors of the Holocaust, the State of Israel was formed just 51 years after the First Zionist congress.
In 1902, Herzl published a utopian novel called Altneuland, The Old New Land. The book describes Palestine as a peaceful and thriving country where coexistence, equality and justice are the norm. The country is prosperous thanks to its state-of-the-art technology. Herzl envisioned the Jewish nation to be a light onto all other nations.
Yet again he proved to be prophetic. While the first 75 years of Israel’s existence was mainly spent on ensuring the safety and security of the Jewish people and their well being, the next number of years will be spent on bringing further innovation to the world in various fields such as medicine, high tech, agriculture, and science. The aim is to have Jewish solutions to universal problems, such as climate change, cancer, and plastics.
As we, the leaders of Zionist organizations, gathered together to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist congress, the Herzl Social Impact Entrepreneurship Summit was taking place in the hall next door. These social entrepreneurs were charged with rebranding Israel from the Start Up Nation to the Impact Nation. And this would be Herzl’s dream for the future of Zionism… for Israel to continue inspiring the world and to be an exemplary society.
Written by Na'amat Canada's delegates to the 125th World Zionist Organization Congress.