70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel

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Would he be dreaming today, too?
Herzl Tivadar

By Frankpeti - 2018-04-18

Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll

Its first representatives, those returning from the Babylonian captivity to Zion had already recognized the fundamental idea of Zionism: namely, that the Jewish people need their own territory and must be in control of managing their own affairs. Without these conditions, the idea would sooner or later cease to exist because it can’t survive as a mere idea across time and space, on the pages of books, as a kind of abstract entity.

 

Judaism must be materialized; you have to take things in your own hands if you want to live.

 

This was recognized by Theodor Herzl when he dreamed of the State of the Jews. What would he say if he saw that the State of Jews is becoming more and more a Jewish State? What would Herzl have to say about what he saw in the country? What would he do if he lived today? Would he say, "Kids, you've screwed this up mighty good!" and set up a new party? Or would he perhaps not join any of the parties, and instead he would become the leader of a civilian uprising? He would surely be surprised to find that the Hebrew language is alive and well, and that there is nothing of the Babelian confusion that he had imagined. Obviously, he would be pleased that the Hebrew language had achieved a knockout victory.

 

He would probably object to the fact that the religious leaders try to reshape the country into a theocracy. He would respect the priesthood and the soldiers, but he would not allow them to have a say in the State’s affairs. He would limit the activities of the rabbis to the synagogues, just like that of the army to the barracks.

 

He would wonder about the lack of coherence in our society, about how differently we interact with each other compared to the galut, because he had never lived with Moroccan, Ethiopian, Russian, or American Jews in the same block. He would find that most of the time it is easier to live with the Viennese Jews than with the multitudes from all over the world.  Proclaiming the state of the Jews is one thing, but building and directing it is quite another cup of tea. It could be that once he saw the Jews bickering, the monopoly of tycoons, the great number of public figures in jail for corruption and sexual crimes, the stigmatization, exclusion, intimidation, and silencing of those thinking differently, he would sadly sigh: "Perhaps it would have been better to found a state for the Kurds or the Romas."

 

He would be surprised about our official flag, that it does not show seven golden stars on a white background as he had imagined where the white would mean a fresh start with a clean slate, and the seven stars the seven hours (and not ten or twelve!) of work per day. He would surely not think that the government’s policy is always correct, that Israel is always right or that we are better than any other state. And obviously he would not assume that all critically-minded persons are traitors.

 

He would feel emotionally attached to the place, but not via symbols, but with the people around him. He would know that he was alright here, he would feel at home. He might not regard the people around him as different ethnic groups, but rather he would feel solidarity with them as his relatives. The love of land, not its possession would be important to him. He would not give speeches spiked with slogans concerning assumed or real historical rights, but would get to know personally the wonderful places in the country, the Bedouin goat shepherd, the Jewish farmer and the Christian monk. He would not automatically accept any government or military action, nor would he identify with power, law, status symbols, or army, but would feel that the Israeli society is his family.

 

Instead of shouting down, he would help the other, support the needy, would not litter, but separate and recycle the waste, would not be always late for meetings, would not cause trouble on the plane with aggressive demands, or steal the hotel towel and so on ... It would be important for him to make the country look good, so he would magically turn it into something that we could be proud of, something whose survival he would be willing to die for if needs be.

 

Herzl might not promise peace, but his declared goal would be to have a democratic, liberal and progressive Jewish State that provides for the well-being of the people, for legal and social justice and for equal opportunities. A place where the Jewish majority is ensured, as are the equal rights of minorities.

 

He would not be naïve, he would know that the state that cannot defend itself, cannot be independent and free in the Middle East. Israel must always be a few steps ahead of its enemies to preserve his military strength and technological superiority. He would want to see the non-Jewish minority to achieve true and complete equality; so Herzl would conceive of Israel as a more fair, more ethical, and therefore stronger and more safe Israel.

 

Herzl would be likely to bring back to life the initiatory, creative and imaginative Zionism that sees not only risks and dangers, but also prospects and opportunities.

Herzl's life

Theodor Herzl, that is, Tivadar Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, was born on May 2, 1860 in Pest. He came from a well-to-do middle class family, one of his cousins ​​was Jenő Heltai [the famous Hungarian writer]. The family moved to Vienna in 1878 and Herzl grew up in the Neologist atmosphere. He studied at the Faculty of Law there, and later became a moderately successful playwright and journalist.

 

As a Parisian correspondent, he was shocked by the growing anti-Semitism in France, which was fuelled further by the Dreyfus affair (in which a Jewish military officer was prosecuted with trumped-up charges), and also by the 1895 election of the anti-Semite demagogue Karl Lueger as Mayor of Vienna.

 

For a long time Herzl considered anti-Semitism as a mere social issue that could be solved by the assimilation of Jews. However, over time, he became convinced that one could only avoid anti-Semitism, provided the Jews would migrate to their own state. (Jews had been praying for centuries for a return to Jerusalem, and those emigrating from Russia at the end of the 1800s had already established farms in Palestine.

 

In 1896 Herzl wrote the pamphlet entitled Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), saying: "The Jewish question is not a social or religious issue, but a matter of world politics that should be solved by the world council of civilized nations and can only be solved by that organization." He had also entered the political arena, mobilized politicians and financiers to create the Jewish state, to support the Zionist idea.

 

The Turkish Sultan did not receive him, but in Sofia, hundreds of Jews celebrated; in London, he mesmerized his audience with his prophetic appearance and performance. Herzl initiated the weekly magazine of Zionism in Vienna and then organized the First World Zionist Congress in Basel in August 1897.

 

The 200 delegates representing the Jewish world stated that "Zionism seeks to establish a homeland for the Jewish people in the land of Israel." The program included the installation of Jewish farmers and workers in Palestine, the unification of Jews of all countries in covenants, the development and cultivation of Jewish self-esteem, and the preparatory steps for government action to promote Zionist goals.

The Zionist Organization was established, chaired by Herzl. The name of the movement was derived from the hillside near Jerusalem, where King David was buried according to the tradition; the name served as a metaphor for the whole of the former homeland.

 

Herzl organized new Zionist congresses each year, negotiating with the Sultan (who denied the release of Palestine to the Jews), the Pope and the German Emperor. He requested support from Britain for a Jewish settlement founded on the Sinai peninsula, but the British suggested Uganda for that purpose. That plan encountered fierce resistance at the 1903 Congress, as most of the delegates insisted on the Jewish country to be set up in the Holy Land.

 

The news about Herzl’s death shocked the contemporary Jewry: he was only 44 when he died unexpectedly in Vienna on July 3, 1904. According to his will, after the establishment of the State of Israel, he was taken to Jerusalem and buried at the National Pantheon on the Herzl Hill, named after him. Since 2004, his birthday according to the Jewish calendar has been celebrated as Herzl Day In Israel.

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