Theodor Herzl is often referred to today as the Father of Zionism, a man known for his role in the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people. His most famous pamphlet, The Jewish State, inspired thousands of Jewish men and women from across the world, although particularly in Europe, to leave their homes to realize the glory of creating their own homeland in Palestine. While Herzl was originally a believer in the gradual assimilation of German and Austrian Jews into the European cultural world, the growing anti-Semitism within Europe led him to believe that the only solution to Jewish ostracism was the creation of a separate state for Jews in Palestine. Although Theodor Herzl became, over the course of his lifetime, a man who held a crucial role in the creation of a state that Jews across the world could take pride in and refuge from the prejudice they faced throughout the European world, he was never truly a believer in the traditions of Judaism and was primarily concerned with the necessity for the “reformation” of the Jewish culture instead of the founding of a prejudice-free environment.
European anti-Semitism, a condition that influenced his own views on his culture, dominated the world that Theodor Herzl grew up in. In a world dominated by prejudice, even Herzl, who defended the rights of the Jews, viewed them as a people who had been corrupted by years of exile and persecution. The leading intellectuals of the time believed the Jewish people to be a race of money-lenders and usurpers with no capacity for change and as such were a class to be ostracized (Kornberg 21). In contrast, Herzl believed that while his people may have held the stereotypical Jewish vices of greedine...
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Although he held that the European Jews were exposed to extreme anti-Semitism, he also believed this oppression had caused them to become a people worthy of the stereotypes placed on them by the prejudiced European Christians. Herzl grew to believe that it was only though a complete disassociation with these peoples would the Jews again become a race of people worthy of European respect. Theodor Herzl is somewhat of an enigma in that he is a man who dedicated his entire life to the cause of improving the lives of his people for reasons that many would find to be prejudiced themselves.
Elon, Amos. Herzl. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975.
Kornberg, Jacques. Theodor Herzl. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Prior, Michael. Zionism and the State of Israel: A Moral Inquiry. New York:
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