Azure no. 21, Summer 5765 / 2005

The Political Legacy of Theodor Herzl

By Natan Sharansky

Before the melting pot, a different vision of the Jewish state.

Menachem Begin once said, “The captain proves himself in a storm, the maestro in his music, and the statesman in his prescience.”1 By this measure, Theodor Herzl was surely one of the world’s great statesmen. Half a century before the Holocaust, he alone understood the nature of the threat that anti-Semitism posed, and he alone dedicated his life’s work to saving the Jewish people from its clutches. Herzl believed that the establishment of a Jewish state was the only answer. True, he did not succeed in averting disaster, and anti-Semitism did not die out. But the state that he envisaged came into being, and there is no doubt that its birth gave new meaning to Jewish identity, both in Israel and in the Diaspora.
Herzl was determined to understand anti-Semitism, he said, “without fear or hatred.”2 He concluded that modern anti-Semitism was fundamentally different from the classical religious hatred of Jews, and was not a product of the psychological fear of the unknown. Nor could modern anti-Semitism be attributed to the absence of equal rights for Jews, for indeed it was rather a product of the Emancipation itself: It had been widely believed that in exchange for receiving full equality as individuals, Jews would forfeit their collective identity and dissolve among the nations; yet for the most part, the Jews were unable or unwilling to assimilate—a trend Herzl felt certain would only continue. As he wrote in The Jewish State:
The distinctive nationality of Jews neither can, will, nor must be destroyed. It cannot be destroyed, because external enemies consolidate it. It will not be destroyed; this is shown during two thousand years of appalling suffering. It must not be destroyed, and that, as a descendant of numberless Jews who refused to despair, I am trying once more to prove in this pamphlet.3
Because the Jews showed no inclination to disappear as a collective, the nations of the world would continue to treat them as a separate people in their midst. For this reason, the problem of anti-Semitism could not be understood purely as a function of economics or class, nor as one that could be resolved by treating the Jews solely as individuals in need of equal rights. “The Jewish Question,” he wrote, “is no more a social than a religious one, notwithstanding that it sometimes takes these and other forms. It is a national question, which can only be solved by making it a political-world question to be discussed and settled by the civilized nations of the world in council.”4 Only when a national solution was found would the problem be solved, not because all Jews would choose to live in Israel—Herzl never believed this would happen—but because the root cause of anti-Semitism would finally have disappeared.
It was thus that Herzl believed that after the establishment of a Jewish state, even those Jews who remained in the Diaspora would stand to benefit. “[They] would be able to assimilate in peace,” he wrote, “because the present anti-Semitism would have been stopped forever. They would certainly be credited with being assimilated to the very depths of their souls, if they stayed where they were after the new Jewish state, with its superior institutions, had become a reality.”5 In Herzl’s view, any Jew who chose not to be part of the Jewish national liberation was in effect declaring a more profound allegiance to his host nation than to the Jewish one; by remaining in France, for example, a Jew would testify to believing himself more French than Jewish. For Jews like these the establishment of a Jewish state would mean that their acceptance by French society would finally be complete, untainted by the suspicion of dual national loyalty.
In tune with the positivistic spirit of the age, Herzl assumed that for every problem there was a rational solution. Applied to the problem of anti-Semitism, Herzl’s analysis may today seem naïve and overly ambitious, ignoring as it does the profoundly religious roots of anti-Semitism, and attempting to pinpoint a single cause for what is really a complex phenomenon spanning thousands of years. Yet even if his analysis of anti-Semitism was oversimplified, he foresaw its consequences with stunning accuracy. He was, in fact, the only Jewish leader of his time who understood the calamity that was about to befall European Jewry. As he wrote in his diary:
I cannot imagine what appearance and form this will take. Will it be expropriation by some revolutionary force from below? Will it be proscription by some reactionary force from above? Will they banish us? Will they kill us? I expect all these forms and others.6
Elsewhere he put it this way: “It will overtake even Hungarian Jews with brutality, and the longer it takes to come, the worse it will be. The stronger they [the Jews] become, the more bestial will it be. There is no escaping it.”7 And indeed, catastrophe struck as Herzl predicted. Far too late, both the Jews and the world at large were persuaded that without a national home, the Jewish people could not survive.
Even after a national home was established, however, Herzl’s prophecy of an end to anti-Semitism went unfulfilled. He believed that once the Jewish collective won recognition as a nation, the individual Jew would finally be able to live in peace. Yet what actually happened was quite different. Over the half century since the Jewish state was founded, it has consistently been a lightning rod of hatred and enmity. There is the obvious animosity of the Arab world, which was never prepared to accept Israel’s existence. But with time, the Jewish state has become the focus of a much broader hatred. In fact, the fashionable portrayal of Israel by many Europeans as the principal threat to world peace, a “Nazi state,” the archenemy of human rights—this is precisely the kind of demonization previously directed at individual Jews. And because the individual Jew living in Europe is an easier target for violence than Israel, the terror war against Israel of the last four years has awakened the specter of classical anti-Semitism throughout Europe, giving rise to a renewed wave of violence against Diaspora Jewry.
It would seem, then, that we have come full circle: The old anti-Semitism now takes the form of anti-Zionism. In fact, the present wave of anti-Semitism in Europe has proven once and for all that there is no difference between the two, that the perceived distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is an illusion. As far as the world is concerned, the Jews are Israel and Israel the Jews. But this means that every Jew, in turn, must define himself with respect to the Jewish state, either for or against. No Jew may remain indifferent to Israel.
Why was Herzl’s vision not realized? How is it that the Jewish state was established, but anti-Semitism still exists? The problem, perhaps, lay with Herzl’s failure to divine the true nature of anti-Semitism—a hatred that, throughout history, has always been directed at the very core of Jewish identity.8 In ancient times, it was the Jews’ monotheistic religion; later on, it would be their sense of belonging to a unique people and tradition. Today, however, as many Jews have a weakened sense of their uniqueness on both the religious and cultural levels, the State of Israel has become one of the main factors—for many Diaspora Jews, the central factor—in defining Jewish identity. As a result, anti-Semitism now directs itself against Israel.
The process of turning Israel into the epicenter of Jewish identity is particularly evident in movements which, like Reform Judaism, were once fiercely opposed to Zionism. Some of Herzl’s staunchest critics, after all, came from the Reform movement, whose leaders believed that in order to spread Judaism’s loftiest principles and serve as a “light unto the nations,” Jews must dwell among non-Jews. They saw in Herzl’s call for statehood a betrayal of the larger Jewish purpose. Today, however, even the Reform movement has made identification with Israel a major plank of its ideology, so much so that a year of study in Israel has become de rigueur for ordination in the Reform rabbinate.
For those of us who came from the Soviet Union, the adoption of Israel as the basis of Jewish identity is not hypothetical, but an extremely tangible, personal reality. We were born into a Jewish identity that the Soviet steamroller had almost completely crushed. We knew nothing of our roots, only that for some reason others considered us different and inferior. We knew all too well the anti-Semitic stereotypes about greed, parasitism, and cowardice—but about what Judaism stood for, we knew nothing.
That was before 1967. In the months leading up to the war, animosity towards us reached a fever pitch. Then, in six dramatic days, everything changed for us. The call that went up from Jerusalem, “The Temple Mount is in our hands,” penetrated the Iron Curtain and forged an almost mystic link with our people. And while we had no idea what the Temple Mount was, we did know that the fact that it was in our hands had won us respect. Like a cry from our distant past, it told us that we were no longer displaced and isolated. We belonged to something, even if we did not yet know what, or why. Of course, we still suffered from anti-Semitism, but even that assumed a new character. Jews were no longer cowards. Instinctively, and without any real connection to Judaism, we became Zionists. We knew that somewhere there was a country that called us its children, and this knowledge filled us with pride.
This pride, born of a newfound connection with Israel, was the source of hope to which I clung during the long years of my imprisonment. I knew without a doubt that contrary to what my interrogators said, I had not been abandoned. Nor would I be: Unlike my cellmates—Ukrainian nationalists, Protestants from Siberia, Church activists from Lithuania—I had a country that wanted me, and a people that stood behind me. It was the same country that sent its soldiers to rescue its kidnapped citizens and other Jews in Entebbe, and so would they also come, I believed, to rescue me as well. I imagined that I heard the beating hearts of my rescuers in every plane that flew through the skies of the Urals. I knew that even if it took a long time, one day I would be freed.
For Jews in the Diaspora today, identification with Israel is not as straightforward. The State of Israel has long ceased to be seen in the West as the courageous underdog, and is instead increasingly portrayed by the international media as an anachronism, an illegitimate relic of colonialism, even an enemy of humanity. Nonetheless, I realized on a recent visit to Europe that identification with Israel still imbues Diaspora Jews with a sense of empowerment. Indeed, the stronger the link with Israel, the greater the Jewish pride, even in small communities and even when Jews are subjected to harsh recrimination by those hostile to Israel. Conversely, when the connection to Israel is weak, Jews in the Diaspora are inclined to downplay their Jewish identity as well. This pattern emerges most clearly in the context of programs such as Birthright Israel, in which the strengthening of Jewish identity is directly correlated with pride in the State of Israel. With few exceptions, Israel has become a nearly universal basis for Jewish identification.
Thus, while the establishment of Herzl’s Jewish state did not eliminate anti-Semitism, it did fundamentally alter the identity of the Jewish people. Israel became a source of strength and pride for world Jewry, and identification with the Jewish state became a remarkably potent weapon in the struggle against anti-Semitism.
But what about the Jewish identity of Israelis? What was Herzl’s vision regarding the future citizens of the Jewish state? And how were they affected by the establishment of the state?
At first glance, Herzl does not seem to have been particularly concerned with this question. His principal aim was to alleviate the suffering of the Jews. The future of Jewish identity and culture was naturally subordinate to the overriding goal of averting catastrophe and establishing a state in which Jews around the world could together rebuild their lives. With what values would that new nation identify? On what foundations would its citizens be educated? In The Jewish State we find only the most vague of answers. Indeed, Herzl’s supposed indifference to the fate of Judaism and nearly exclusive focus on improving conditions for the Jewish people had earned him the fierce opposition of Ahad Ha’am, the leader of cultural Zionism who believed that the Zionist effort should be devoted to the revival of Judaism and the establishment of a center of Jewish spirituality.
But a closer reading of Herzl’s writings leads to a different conclusion. He was not indifferent, but rather offered a conservative approach to Jewish culture in the new state. He repeatedly emphasized the central role that classical Jewish identity would play in the national identity of the Jewish people. “Zionism,” he declared at the First Zionist Congress in 1897, “is a return to the Jewish fold, even before it becomes a return to the Jewish land.”9 Herzl saw the Jewish religion as the common denominator among all the prospective state’s diverse Jewish communities. “We identify ourselves as a people on account of our religion,” he wrote in his journal. Elsewhere he said, “Our community of race is peculiar and unique, for we are bound together only by the faith of our fathers.”10
Herzl did not, in fact, overlook the nature of the future Jewish state and the culture that would come to characterize it. Rather, he sought to preserve the Jewish culture of his day. For it was from within this culture, he believed, that a new Jewish culture would emerge:
But we will give a home to our people—not by dragging them ruthlessly out of their sustaining soil, but rather by transplanting them carefully to better ground. Just as we wish to create new political and economic relations, so we shall preserve as sacred all of the past that is dear to our people’s hearts.11
For this same reason, Herzl opposed the creation of a new language. “Every man can preserve the language in which his thoughts are at home,” he wrote. “We shall remain in the new country what we now are here, and we shall never cease to cherish with sadness the memory of the native land out of which we have been driven.”12 So how were the citizens of this new country to communicate with each other? “The language which proves itself to be of greatest utility for general intercourse will be adopted without compulsion as our national tongue.”13 Herzl saw no problem in transporting the best of the old world into the new land. “There are English hotels in Egypt and on the mountain-crest in Switzerland, Viennese cafés in South Africa, French theaters in Russia, German operas in America, and the best Bavarian beer in Paris…. When we journey out of Egypt again we shall not leave the fleshpots behind.”14
Herzl’s attitude toward Jewish culture is graphically expressed in his novel Altneuland, a fictional representation of the vision he described in The Jewish State. There he repeatedly describes how the new country would incorporate the best of what each of its citizens’ lands of origin had to offer: City parks constructed in the English style, the Health Ministry headquarters built in the German manner, and the streets like those found in Belgium. The finest of the world’s technology, culture, and economics would be transplanted to the new country in an effort to preserve everything worth saving.
Yet alongside these imports, Herzl also wrote about the Jewish “phenomena”: Theatrical and operatic performances on Jewish themes, for instance, and a special nationwide atmosphere on the Sabbath. Jewish religion, too, would play a decisive role: Herzl proposes in his diary that rabbis would be a “supporting pillar” of the future state, and insists that in every neighborhood the synagogue “be visible from long distances, for it is only our ancient faith that has kept us together.”15
Herzl, in other words, was most certainly interested in Jewish culture—he simply believed that it would spring from the rich mix of already existing Jewish cultures, forging what one of Altneuland’s heroes calls a “Mosaic mosaic,” a Jewish patchwork combining old with new, the traditions and experiences of history with the vision and enterprising spirit of the modern era.16
Herzl was uninterested in the creation of a new Judaism or a “new Jew,” or in the erasure of that which had sustained the Jewish people during thousands of years of exile. Rather, he believed that these same Jews, with the languages and cultures that molded them, would create in their new country a splendid mosaic that would, in itself, be sui generis. This would happen not through revolutionary force, but as the natural result of the Jews’ living free and creative lives in their own state. As Herzl’s hero in Altneuland puts it, where in the past “Jewish children were weak, pale, cowed,” they would become like plants that are “saved, if they are transplanted to the right soil.”17
With time, Herzl’s conservative approach would be upstaged by a more revolutionary Zionist approach, which called for a dramatic change in Judaism and the Jewish character. The great proponent of this view was David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. He called for new, “Hebrew” forms of cultural expression and festivals; for the repudiation of European-sounding names and their replacement with Hebrew ones; and for the importance of Jewish labor, Bible study, and the connection to ancient periods of Jewish independence. All these would effect, as he put it, “the integration of Diaspora Jewry into one homogeneous Hebrew brigade.”18 In describing the early years of independence, Ben-Gurion wrote,
There has been a profound and fundamental change in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews here… a wholesale revolution in a Jew’s image and his way of life… with their arrival in their homeland, this Jewish dust (avak adam), living among strangers, dependent on vagrancy and serfdom, coalesces into an independent, national brigade, attached to and rooted in its great history and sharing the end-of-days vision of national and human redemption… on the trunk of ancient Hebrew culture the prospect of a new Hebrew culture is sprouting, permeated with human and Jewish values, and it makes no division between man and Jew… it is difficult to find any other example of such a transformation of man and it happens to all who return to Zion, whether they come from European countries or America or are returning from Asian and African countries.19
This is not so much an account of Israel’s early history as a summary of Ben-Gurion’s entire worldview. He sought to create a new Jew out of the Diaspora “Jewish dust,” to craft a nation rooted in the Bible and in the ancient kingdoms of Israel, its landscapes bearing witness to the return to Zion. As for the millennia that had passed between the glorious biblical period and the still-greater future, these offered very little that one could take pride in, and would be pruned from the tree of history and discarded.
Anyone mildly familiar with the development of Russian socialism in the nineteenth century will quickly recognize the source of Ben-Gurion’s outlook: The revolutionary ethos, seeking to create a new world, and a new man, on the ruins of the old. In contrast to the careful replanting Herzl envisioned, Ben-Gurion sought to forge the new nation in a fiery melting pot, whose principal means would be the school system, the military, and a battery of ceremonies, myths, monuments, military parades, and army bands—all of which would turn Jews into an “Israeli nation” whose history begins with the Bible, continues through the Hasmonean and Bar Kochba revolts, and then, after a long hiatus, resumes with the First Aliya in 1882. A nation, to use Moshe Shamir’s phrase, “born from the sea,” without a tradition, freed from the yoke of generations. All the experience of exile would be left at sea.
Today, with our experience since the establishment of the state, we can judge Ben-Gurion’s vision against Herzl’s, and ask whether it was indeed prudent to try to recreate the Jewish people in a new image. I, for one, harbor a deep antipathy to any attempt to create a new man or manipulate history by forcibly halting its natural progress. My antipathy grows out of experience: I grew up in a vast laboratory of such an attempt. I was one of its guinea pigs.
At the same time, I do not deny the historical imperative to create a melting pot in the Jewish state. Maimonides taught that he who wishes to escape one form of extremism should adopt its opposite. It is possible that in order to overcome the extreme circumstance of a people scattered around the world, it was necessary to adopt a countervailing extremism—an unrelenting drive toward uniformity. Herzl’s vision of diverse communities living alongside one another, without even a common language to bind them, could not have formed the basis for a citizenry capable of establishing a state, winning a war of independence, or absorbing hundreds of thousands of new immigrants in a very short period of time.
But as Maimonides also teaches, after passing from one extreme to the other, one must then return to a middle path. Even if the sabra melting pot was justified at the outset of the Zionist enterprise, I do not think it continued to be valid in the 1960s and 1970s. Why did the immigrants of those two decades need to forsake their traditional Jewish identity, assuming the posture of a Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, or Yitzhak Rabin in order to be accepted in Israeli society?
The results of that attempt to create a “new Jew” are well-known: Orthodox Jews, refusing to give up the religious observance that Ben-Gurion considered a vestige of exile, were removed from the centers of influence. Worse, Jews from Arab lands, asked to jettison their traditions like an old suit, felt humiliated and marginalized. The discrimination resulted in the predominance of Sephardi Jews in impoverished development towns and the creation of Sephardi movements like Shas, the Black Panthers, and Tami, which built their popularity on deep resentments. To this day, Israel continues to pay the price.
At the beginning of the 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed and a million new immigrants poured into Israel, their leaders—myself among them—looked for ways to revive Herzl’s more conservative vision, even if we were unaware of its existence. We did not believe in the melting-pot model for absorbing immigrants. We did not believe in expunging everything “old,” but rather in preserving everything worth preserving. This was the guiding ideology behind the establishment of those organizations that sought to represent the immigrants from the former Soviet Union, culminating in the Yisrael Ba’aliya political party. We insisted that we did not want to wait decades to be assimilated, decades in which feelings of discrimination and exclusion would be allowed to fester. We wanted our own generation of immigrant Jews to stake their claim to Israeli politics and society. This view was also the force behind our insistence on establishing Russian-language radio stations, television channels, and newspapers. We recognized that these media would be the only way for the older generation of immigrants to know what was happening in, and identify with, their new country.
This is also the story behind the Russian-language Gesher Theater, perhaps the most striking example of what we were trying to achieve. It began in 1991, when I received a call from two friends in Moscow, professional actors, who were having doubts about immigrating to Israel. Acting was their life’s calling, and therefore the source of their concern about aliya. Did I think that they could set up a Russian-language theater in Israel? And could I, as head of the Zionist Forum, help?
I was immediately taken by what struck me as an opportunity to attract a segment of the Russian-Jewish cultural elite to Israel. I took the proposal to the Ministry of Education and to the leaders of the theater community in Israel. They rejected it out of hand. They had refused to set up theater here in Bulgarian or even Yiddish, I was told. They were trying to develop a Hebrew culture, and therefore certainly would not create a Russian theater. It was, they felt, an anti-Zionist idea.
Seeing that I would get no help from the Israelis, I went to New York in search of funding. I was able to raise enough funds to bring the troupe of actors for six appearances in Israel. Later, the Zionist Forum agreed to provide additional funds, and so, step by step, the Gesher Theater came together. It quickly became a success: Audiences flocked to it, and Israeli institutions were eventually compelled to support it. At first, performances were only in Russian, and the audience consisted solely of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. With time, however, its actors began performing in Hebrew as well. The Gesher Theater now features both immigrants acting in Hebrew and sabrasacting in Russian, and has earned acclaim from audiences and critics alike. It is hard to argue that this is not a cultural, economic, and even Zionist success.
On the face of it, the story of the Gesher Theater—like that of the Mofet schools specializing in math and the sciences, as well as any number of other examples—is the perfect realization of the Herzlian vision of preserving a particular culture even as it gradually becomes absorbed into the general one, all the while taking care to retain its distinctiveness. But while this was clearly helping form a cultural mosaic, we may still ask whether it is a “Mosaic” mosaic—that is, not only an Israeli achievement, but also a Jewish one.
It takes stones to make a mosaic, but also cement to hold it together. Herzl believed that Judaism would be the cement. But Judaism as a binding force was rejected by Ben-Gurion and his generation of Zionist leaders, who replaced it with the “Hebrew” or “sabra” ethos. Though this newly crafted identity may have fulfilled an important role in the early years, it proved too insubstantial to hold together the very different groups that constitute Israeli society. It was gradually rejected, leaving in its wake a cultural void. As a result, the last few decades in Israel have witnessed the breakdown of the Jewish mosaic into a mere collection of stones.
Russian immigrants have sensed this keenly. For in contrast to what is generally thought, most of them, at least in the early years of the immigration, wanted to be part of the Jewish-Israeli experience as they imagined it. They came here with no knowledge of Judaism, yet they were acutely aware of what they lacked. During the collapse of the Soviet Union, its former citizens once again returned to their various ethnic-religious identities. Jews, however, knew almost nothing of their roots. They found themselves lacking any clear identity, and began searching for one. They yearned to find out about the Jewish calendar, Jewish history, Jewish heritage and culture. But when they came to Israel, they discovered that they did not have to assume a Jewish identity in order to be Israeli. They very quickly realized that for many Israelis, to be Jewish it was enough simply to serve in the military. A friend of mine, new to Israel, described it strikingly: “I thought I would be giving my children three thousand years of history,” he told me. “After all, I was taking them from a country where history began in 1917 to one with a tradition spanning thousands of years. But I soon discovered that instead of giving them an extra three thousand years, I had taken away thirty: History began here in 1948.”
Without Jewish history, and without Jewish culture, it is impossible to make a mosaic. What is being produced in Israel instead is a society made up of distinct groups that tend to keep mostly to themselves, put sectarian interests above national ones, and compete for control of the country. For a society that is still very much in its formative period, and in many ways still fighting for its survival, this does not bode well.
This trend is all the more dangerous because the cultural vacuum is increasingly being filled by a post-Zionist vision of society, in which religious and secular, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Jews and Arabs will all live side by side—but with nothing to bind them together. Israel will be a “state of all its citizens,” with no specific national identity. It will no longer consider itself responsible for the fate of Jews everywhere, nor grant Jews the unconditional right to immigrate to Israel. It will certainly not try to promote Jewish culture and heritage or the Hebrew language among Jews around the world. It will provide education, health, and social services to its taxpayers, and little else. And just as in the exile, Jewish identity will gradually be relegated to the confines of the kehila, detached from the affairs of state.
This dream—some would call it a nightmare—is beginning to become a reality. Although the majority of the country’s leadership is not prepared to sign off on the “state of all its citizens” idea, it is clearly the ideology behind, for example, the Supreme Court’s landmark Ka’adan decision of 2000, in which the court ruled that the settlement of Jews in Israel, upon which practical Zionism was based since the early twentieth century, was inherently discriminatory and therefore could not be the official policy of government institutions; or the IDF code of ethics, which makes no mention whatsoever of the army’s commitment to assisting Jews in the Diaspora or building a Jewish state; or the ruling this year by the attorney general, Manny Mazuz, prohibiting JNF land from being used for the creation of specifically Jewish communities. In all these cases, the principle of absolute equality was considered to trump all considerations of the state’s Jewish character. Another example is the establishment in 2003 by the prime minister and education minister of a “national task force for the promotion of education in Israel,” whose conclusions were included in the Dovrat Commission Report this year. While no one would consider the members of the task force post-Zionists, a simple reading of the task force’s letter of appointment will reveal that the terms “Jewish state,” “Jewish people,” “Jews,” or “Judaism” are nowhere to be found. Instead, it mentions only “civil society,” “mature, educated citizens,” and “civic duty.” The task force was aimed at helping rebuild the national education system, which is the government’s central means of instilling social values, fostering social unity, and connecting Israel’s children with their heritage. For those who commissioned the report, however, these fundamentals seem to have little to do with Judaism, and everything to do with the secular discourse of democratic citizenship. In a truly “Jewish and democratic state,” however, one would expect both sides of the equation to get a fair hearing.
To turn the State of Israel into a “state of all its citizens” is nothing less than to declare the failure of the Zionist dream, to advocate the assimilation of the State of Israel into the rest of the Middle East, and ultimately to bring into being an Arab country with a sizable Jewish minority, which itself would be just another Diaspora community—albeit a less attractive one. The only way out is to return to Herzl’s vision of a state that enables its various communities to give voice to their unique heritage and culture, on the one hand, but carefully preserves their Jewish commonality on the other. It is a difficult undertaking, but Israel’s future as a Jewish state cannot be ensured without it. It will be built on our common Jewish history, on our common Jewish tradition, and on an unseverable bond between Israel and the Diaspora.
A hundred years have passed since Herzl’s death, but his vision seems more relevant today than ever before. It was neither simple nor easy to carry out, but given the collapse of the classic Ben-Gurionite vision and the rejection of Zionism among influential Jews and Israelis, it has never seemed more urgent.

Natan Sharansky is a Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center. He is former minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs. His latest book was The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, with Ron Dermer (Public Affairs, 2004).
The author would like to thank Roman Polansky and Tehila Nachalon for their assistance in preparing the present essay.
1. Menachem Begin, quoted in Harry Zvi Hurwitz, Begin: A Portrait (Washington: B’nai B’rith, 1994), p. 43.
2. Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State, trans. and ed. Jacob M. Alkow (New York: Dover, 1988), p. 75.
3. Herzl, The Jewish State, pp. 79-80.
4. Herzl, The Jewish State, pp. 75-76.
5. Herzl, The Jewish State, p. 80.
6. Theodor Herzl, Letters and Journals (Jerusalem: Mizpa, 1928), p. 129. [Hebrew]
7. Theodor Herzl, Letters, trans. Y. Yavin (Tel Aviv: Hotzaat Medinit, 1937), p. 266. [Hebrew]
8. I do not wish to enter here into a full analysis of the sources of anti-Semitism, which I have explored in depth elsewhere. See Natan Sharansky, “On Hating the Jews,” Commentary (November 2003), pp. 26-34.
9. Theodor Herzl, welcome address at First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, August 29-31, 1897.
10.Herzl, The Jewish State, p. 146. For a full treatment of Herzl’s vision of Israel as a Jewish state, see Yoram Hazony, “Did Herzl Want a Jewish State?” Azure 9 (Spring 2000), pp. 37-73.
11. Herzl, The Jewish State, p. 123.
12. Herzl, The Jewish State, p. 146.
13. Herzl, The Jewish State, p. 146.
14. Herzl, The Jewish State, p. 135.
15. Herzl, The Jewish State, p. 102.
16.Theodor Herzl, Altneuland, trans. Paula Arnold (Haifa: Haifa Publishing Company, 1960), p. 201.
17. Herzl, Altneuland, p. 62.
18. As per the proposed phrasing in his party’s manifesto. From Ben-Gurion’s Archives, Letters, January 9, 1949.
19. David Ben-Gurion, The State of Israel Restored, vol. 1 (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1969), pp. 432-433. [Hebrew]