Theodor Herzl

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At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.

Theodor Herzl (Hebrew: בנימין זאב הֶרְצְל‎ Binyamin Ze'ev Hertsl); May 2, 1860 – July 3, 1904), was the founder and leader of the World Zionist Organization which promoted the establishment of a Jewish state. In his early life, he was an assimilated Jewish Austro-Hungarian journalist, popular playwright, political activist, and writer. Though he died long before its establishment, he is generally considered the father of the State of Israel, formed in 1948. Herzl is specifically mentioned in the Israeli Declaration of Independence.[1]


  • Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word — which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly — it would be this: At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.
    • Herzl Diary entry (3 September 1897), a few days after the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, as quoted in 'Nonstate Nations in International Politics: Comparative System Analyses (1977) by Judy S. Bertelsen, p. 37
    • :Note: 50 years after writing this in his diary, the state of Israel was established
  • If you will, it is no legend...
    • Prefix to Altneuland, (1902)
    • Originally in German: Wenn ihr wollt, ist es kein Märchen... which was intended to have the double meaning of a strong will shall eventually be realized, and as part of a paragraph ending as a postfix to the book, that this book perhaps will be seen as a true story, but even if not...
    • Note: The Israeli rightist movement "Im Tirzu" (Literally: 'If you will') is named after this quote.
  • ... but if you will, it may very well be only a legend dreamed up by myself, and will always be so. I had in mind to write a story with a point. There will be those who say, more story than point. After three years we must part, my beloved book. Now you go on your trail of tears. You will have to go through a maze of antagonism and misunderstanding, like through a dark forest. But if you are lucky and meet good people, please send them your father's blessings. He believes that dreams too can be a way to fill the days that man must spend on the face of the earth. The dream is not that far from action as most tend to think. All people's actions were once a dream and all peoples actions will someday be a dream.
    • Postfix to Altneuland (1902)
  • ... Let me tell you that my friend and I do not discriminate between humans. We do not ask what race or what religion he is from. He has to be a human being. That is all that's important for us.
    • Altneuland (1902)
  • The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies. We want to emigrate as respected people.
    • The Complete Diaries, p. 84

Der Judenstaat [The Jewish State] (1896)[edit]

  • Realists are, as a rule, only men in the rut of routine who are incapable of transcending a narrow circle of antiquated notions.
Dream and deed are not as different as many think. All the deeds of men are dreams at first, and become dreams in the end.
  • Some may say we ought not to bring up new differences between people; we ought not to raise new borders, we should rather make the old ones disappear. But men who think in this way are endearing dreamers; and the idea of a native land will still flourish when the dust of their bones will have vanished tracelessly in the winds. Universal brotherhood is not even a beautiful dream. Antagonism is essential to man's greatest efforts. 
  • We have honestly endeavored everywhere to merge ourselves in the social life of surrounding communities and to preserve the faith of our fathers. We are not permitted to do so. In vain are we loyal patriots, our loyalty in some places running to extremes; in vain do we make the same sacrifices of life and property as our fellow-citizens. ...In countries where we have lived for centuries, we are still cried down as strangers. ...In the world, as it now is and will probably remain, might precedes right. For us to be loyal patriots as were the Huguenots who were forced to emigrate is therefore useless. If we could only be left in peace. . . . But I think we shall not be left in peace.

  • ...When we sink, we become a revolutionary proletariat, but when we rise, there rises also our terrible power of the purse.
    • Herzl about the way the Jews are perceived by antisemites when they do not have a country of their own


Quotes about Herzl[edit]

  • ...In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country...
    • Israeli Decleration of Independence, May 5, 1948

  • Speaking of concentration, Dr. Herzl has a clear insight into the value of that. Have you heard of his plan? He wishes to gather the Jews of the world together in Palestine, with a government of their own – under the suzerainty of the Sultan, I suppose. At the Convention of Berne, last year, there were delegates from everywhere, and the proposal was received with decided favor. I am not the Sultan, and I am not objecting; but if that concentration of the cunningest brains in the world were going to be made in a free country (bar Scotland), I think it would be politic to stop it. It will not be well to let the race find out its strength. If the horses knew theirs, we should not ride any more.

  • Herzl regarded Zionism's triumph as inevitable, not only because life in Europe was ever more untenable for Jews, but also because it was in Europe's interests to rid the Jews and relieved of anti-Semitism: The European political establishment would eventually be persuaded to promote Zionism. Herzl recognized that anti-Semitism would be harnessed to his own Zionist purposes.

  • Herzl never said "In Bazel I established the Jewish state" he wrote it in his diary... He believed in women's rights, in equality and religious tolerance... that being "the chosen people" is a moral responsibility and not a right... and this is one case where one can say with no hesitation that the leader had made the history. If not for Binyamin Ze'ev Herzl we wouldn't be standing here today...
    • Yair Lapid, Israeli minister of finance, Herzl Day 2016, Israeli Parliament

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