Theodor Herzl and Shabbetai Zvi – the Palestinian problem ……… 15


the inspired writings of Theodor Herzl had turned the once vague dream of Zionism into a thriving movement in Europe.
Within years of the appearance of Herzl’s novel Altneuland, the Hungarian feuilletonist had become a near-mythical figure in Jewish communities in much of Europe, with his photograph displayed in Jewish homes as a Catholic home might display a crucifix.
Even devout Jews who believed that Israel could only be resurrected with the coming of the Messiah would hang a Hebrew micrograph portrait of Herzl, the entire lithograph made up of tiny Hebrew letters.

Herzl’s utopian writings and fame made the Zionist venture seem not only possible but almost inevitable.
The first Zionist congress, held in Basel in 1897, issued a deceptively simple and straightforward manifesto: “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.”
The ambiguity of terms like “a home” and “under public law” was deliberate.
In Constantinople the terms could be interpreted in the least threatening context, as “a residence” and “under public Ottoman law.”
The ultra-Orthodox could read from the same passage a reassuring echo of the biblical verse “Zion shall be redeemed by law.”
And among the Jewish masses the phrases could be read as “the first step toward statehood” and “under international law.”


Herzl attributed his idea of political Zionism and a massive migration to Palestine to his reactions to the Dreyfus trial, but his plans and vision may have owed even more to his readings about the seventeenth-century false messiah Shabbetai Zvi, who inspired massive migrations of Sephardic Jews across Europe.
Like Shabbetai Zvi, Herzl could be intolerant, domineering, and narcissistic.

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