Herzl’s Writings Are Revived in New Masterpiece Work
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Herzl’s Writings Are Revived in New Masterpiece Work
By Alisa Bodner | December 01, 2022
Reviewing: “Zionist Writings: Susan and Roger Hertog Edition” by Theodor Herzl. ISBN: 9781613292075.
No individual is more well known for his or her contributions to the creation of the Jewish state than Theodor Herzl. Many of Herzl’s visions for the Jewish state, as well as the obstacles that stood in his way and his frustrations with the Jewish condition during the late 19th century, were recorded in his diaries and various other written works during the 11 years of his life that he dedicated to Jewish nationalism. Thanks to Koren Publishers Jerusalem, a complete edition of his writings translated into English is now available in a new, three-volume masterpiece that brings renewed meaning into these old texts.
The timing of the publishing of “Susan and Roger Hertog Edition Theodor Herzl Zionist Writings” is no coincidence, coming during a period that marks three important milestones in modern Zionist history—the 125th anniversary of the first World Zionist Congress this past August, the 75th anniversary of the U.N. Partition Plan this week and the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel this coming spring. But the dates on the calendar are only one of the reasons why the timing of this work is so significant, according to Distinguished Scholar on North American History at McGill University Gil Troy, who edited the work, alongside translators Harry Zohn and Uri Bollag. According to Troy, this work comes at a time when Herzl’s message is desperately needed.
It is no secret that Jewish people in the United States, particularly young adults, are becoming increasingly detached from Israel. The recent Pew study “Jewish Americans in 2020” found that whereas 67% of Jews aged 65 and above say they “feel very/somewhat attached to Israel,” only 48% of Jews between the ages of 18 and 29 feel the same way. Troy believes that many of the challenges Jewish people in the United States are facing today are the same frustrations Herzl dealt with 150 years ago. And some of the solutions can be discovered in his writings.
“Zionism is a way to find a framework for meaning, to find roots and anchors in a world that eviscerates ties, and to be part of a community,” Troy explained. He calls this “identity Zionism.” Rather than focusing on combating antisemitism and taking a defensive approach towards anti-Zionism, identity Zionism is values oriented and focuses on finding meaning in the particularism of the Jewish people and on embracing Jewish peoplehood, while celebrating pride in their heritage. This is what Herzl dreamed of in his vision of liberal nationalism and wrote about in his diaries and other writings. “I hope that the diaries give that excitement to the next generation,” Troy added.
“Zionist Writings” is a deep dive into the journey that the father of modern Zionism took from 1894 to 1904 to turn the vision of a Jewish state into a reality, as well as an exploration into some of his most intimate thoughts. The 2,700-page, three-volume set is divided into 11 different stages that represent each year of Herzl’s Zionist activities. Each section as well as each volume is preceded by an introduction from Troy.
What made Herzl stand out among the other Zionist leaders of that time? Troy thinks it’s a combination of a number of qualities that Herzl possessed. As a playwright, he knew how to tell a captivating story of an alienated and rejected people, and was able to effectively reach his audiences. He could speak the old language of longing and Jewish peoplehood together with the modern language of Jewish nationalism. As a lawyer, he was able to navigate legal, diplomatic and political elements and travel the globe to meet world leaders as a representative of the Jewish people. And he was able to give the Jewish people a “leap of hope” so that other Zionist visionaries like him would get their hands dirty to make these dreams bear fruit. Though Herzl did not live to witness the establishment of the state of Israel, his vision became a reality some four decades after his passing. Troy is certain that were Herzl to have a chance to witness a glimpse of Israel today, he would conclude that the state has exceeded his dreams.
“Zionist Writings” is the first publication in a new series called “The Library of the Jewish People” that is the brainchild of Koren publisher Matthew Miller. The initiative aims to make the writings of great Jewish thinkers in the fields of religion, politics, Jewish thought and fiction more accessible and user friendly through rejuvenated texts with modern translations and insightful commentary.
In an age where Zionism is constantly being challenged on the right and left, Herzl’s revived writings can play an important role in activating conversations around the subjects of identity, peoplehood and Jewish nationalism, and in reinvigorating the “older generation” with a spirit of Zionism. It’s time to breathe Zionism, Troy insists, and “be proud to be part of this people.”
Alisa Bodner is a Fair Lawn native who immigrated to Israel a decade ago. She is a nonprofit management professional who enjoys writing in her free time.
A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org ) . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist.
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Prof Gil Troy · 20 Derech Bet Lechem · Apt 2 · Jerusalem 9310925 · Israel