Israeli history is filled with notable individuals. If asked to select only one outstanding individual, I would respond that it was not possible. On the other hand, if I was asked who opened the doors to the vision of a Jewish State in the last part of the 19th century, I would emphatically answer, Theodor Herzl (1860-1904).
Herzl lived in Europe during a time of rampant anti-Semitism. During the Dreyfus Affair, he heard “Death to the Jews” throughout the French streets and read daily doses of anti-Jewish sentiment in the press. While many felt that the assimilation made possible by the French Revolution would potentially eliminate centuries of bias against the Jews, Herzl disagreed. He viewed the issue as an international political question that could be resolved only after the Jews were able to establish a Jewish state.
Herzl’s writings helped to gather support among Jews and Gentiles. Without his outreach, I the Zionist movement would have taken longer to gain momentum. His organization skills fostered conferences that created the World Zionist Organization. Determination and perseverance were key to his success. These traits enabled Herzl to travel from country-to-country with the hope of meeting with world leaders. He was not deterred by rejections. Although he died long before Israel became a state in 1948, his dream paved the way.
When I entered the Herzl Museum, a light mist was beginning to fall. Inside we were treated to an hour-long audio-visual program that highlighted the key aspects of Herzl’s short life. Through reenactments, I stepped into Herzl’s shoes and appreciated the challenges that he faced and how he overcame a series obstacles.
Gazing at some of his personal items drew me back to his time. I reflected on a man who was able to change the course of history. It was an incredible accomplishment, especially for someone who had lived only into his 40s.
Sadly, his family could not carry on his name. His wife’s documented mental illness and Herzl’s early death created an unstable family environment. His eldest daughter was a drug addict who died from a heroin overdose. Her brother converted to Christianity and later shot himself on the day of his sister’s funeral. Herzl’s youngest daughter died in a Nazi concentration camp. Herzl’s only grandchild committed suicide after learning that his parents had perished during the Holocaust. Despite these tragedies, Herzl’s greatness will remain an integral part of Jewish history for generations to come.
CAN YOU SHARE?
Can you think of another individual whose vision made such a large impact on a country?
Sandra Bornstein is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer. She shares her experiences and recommendations on this blog and on other websites. Sandra contributes a monthly travel tip column for Golden Living, a Best Version Media magazine.
Sandra is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. This memoir highlights Sandra’s living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. As a licensed Colorado teacher, Sandra has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad. She also taught college level courses.
Sandra’s memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.