Theodore Herzl


Founder of Modern Zionism


Theodor Herzl

Theodore Herzl was born in Pest, Hungary, on May 2, 1860. He was born to a wealthy, assimilated family. Though he was sent to a Jewish elementary school, he attended the secular high school in Pest.
In 1878, Herzl moved to Vienna, where he attended Law school. He completed his legal studies in 1884 but devoted his efforts to Journalism. From 1891 until 1895, Herzl served as the Paris correspondent for "Neu Frei Presse."
The growing French anti-semitism of his time, culminating in the
"Dreyfus trial" (which Herzl covered as a journalist) convinced Herzl that a solution needed to be found to the Jewish problem, a solution based on creating a Jewish homeland.
After unsuccessfully attempting to convince the Rothchilds and other leading Jews of the merits of his plan, Herzl decided to appeal directly to the Jewish public at large. In 1896 he published "Der Judenstaat"
(The Jewish State). In it, he posited that the establishment of a Jewish homeland was the only solution to the "Jewish problem." His view was that political approval must first be obtained for the state, and only afterward mass immigration could follow.
Even though the book was positively received by many in the Jewish community, Herzl was unable to garnish support from the leadership of the community, particularly its financial leaders. Herzl, therefore, decided that he would have to appeal to the masses of Jews. Thus in 1897, he founded a Zionist weekly called "Die Welt" (The Week).
In August 1897, the First Zionist Congress was held in Basle, Switzerland, due to the work of Theodore Herzl. From that day till his death, Herzl worked to gain political legitimacy for the Zionist movement. He met with the Ottoman Sultan and the German Emperor to attempt to attract support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland. The results, however, were inconsequential.

In 1903, the British government agreed to the concept of setting up a Jewish homeland in East Africa
(Uganda), but this plan was rejected adamantly by the 6th Zionist Congress in 1903.
Herzl died in Vienna on July 3, 1904. In 1949, the government of Israel reinterred his remains in Jerusalem, on Mt. Herzl.