April 13, 2024
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Herzl’s Visionary Book: The Jewish State, 1896

I thought it would be interesting to discuss and provide excerpts from this work.

Herzl was not the first to write in the post-Emancipation period with a vision for the Jews returning to Israel. For example, Moses Hess (in France) wrote such a work in 1862 and Leo Pinsker (in Russia) wrote such a work in 1882. Herzl did not know of these works.

But Herzl wrote in more detail than the others, as he understood how to go from a mere vision to the achievement of the end result. He had gone to law school and understood the corporate entities that needed to be set up. He wrote about all the details of what needed to be done and exactly how the Jews—who wanted to go to their new country—would do so.

First, I am going to list his “Table of Contents,” so you can see how many details he thought about.

Part I: Preface and Introduction

Part II: The Jewish Question

Previous Attempts at a Solution

Causes of Antisemitism

Effects of Antisemitism

The Plan

Palestine or Argentine?

Demand, Medium, Trade

Part III: The Jewish Company


Non-Transferable Goods

Purchase of Land


Workmen’s Dwellings

Unskilled Laborers

The Seven-Hours Day

Relief by Labor


Other Classes of Dwellings

Some Forms of Liquidation

Securities of the Company

Some of the Company’s Activities

Promotion of Industries

Settlement of Skilled Laborers

Method of Raising Capital

Part IV: Local Groups

Our Transmigration

Emigration in Groups

Our Rabbis

Representatives of the Local Groups


Here are some excerpts from the work itself:

“We are a people—one people. We have honestly endeavored everywhere to merge ourselves in the social life of surrounding communities and to preserve the faith of our fathers. We are not permitted to do so. In vain are we loyal patriots, our loyalty in some places running to extremes; in vain do we make the same sacrifices of life and property as our fellow-citizens; in vain do we strive to increase the fame of our native land in science and art, or her wealth by trade and commerce. In countries where we have lived for centuries, we are still cried down as strangers and often by those whose ancestors were not yet domiciled in the land where Jews had already had experience of suffering.”


“Let the sovereignty be granted us over a portion of the globe large enough to satisfy the rightful requirements of a nation; the rest we shall manage for ourselves …

The plan—simple in design, but complicated in execution—will be carried out by two agencies: ‘The Society of Jews and the Jewish Company.’

The Society of Jews will do the preparatory work in the domains of science and politics, which the Jewish Company will—afterwards—apply practically.

The Jewish Company will be the liquidating agent of the business interests of departing Jews, and will organize commerce and trade in the new country.

The departure of the Jews … will be gradual, continuous and will cover many decades. The poorest will go first to cultivate the soil. In accordance with a preconceived plan, they will construct roads, bridges, railways and telegraph installations; regulate rivers; and build their own dwellings; their labor will create trade, trade will create markets and markets will attract new settlers—for every man will go voluntarily, at his own expense and his own risk. The labor expended on the land will enhance its value … ”


“Should the powers declare themselves willing to admit our sovereignty over a neutral piece of land, then the Society will enter into negotiations for the possession of this land. Here two territories come under consideration, Palestine and Argentine. In both countries, important experiments in colonization have been made—though on the mistaken principle of a gradual infiltration of Jews. An infiltration is bound to end badly. It continues till the inevitable moment when the native population feels itself threatened, and forces the government to stop a further influx of Jews. Immigration is consequently futile, unless we have the sovereign right to continue such immigration.”


“Our people should emigrate in groups of families and friends. But no man will be forced to join the particular group belonging to his former place of residence. Each will be able to journey in his chosen fashion as soon as he has settled his affairs. Seeing that each man will pay his own expenses by rail and boat, he will naturally travel by whatever class suits him best. Possibly there will even be no subdivision for classes on board train and boat, so as to avoid making the poor feel their position too keenly during their long journey. Though we are not exactly organizing a pleasure trip, it is as well to keep them in good humor on the way.

Every group will have its rabbi, traveling with his congregation … Our rabbis … will devote their energies to the service of our idea, and will inspire their congregations by preaching it from the pulpit. They will not need to address special meetings for the purpose; an appeal such as this may be uttered in the synagogue.”


“For the emigration, which I suggest will not create any economic crises … A great period of prosperity would commence in countries which are now antisemitic. For there will be … an internal migration of Christian citizens into the positions slowly and systematically evacuated by the Jews … It is different from a departure which is a result of persecution, for then property is, indeed, destroyed … The States would have a further advantage in the enormous increase of their export trade; for, since the emigrant Jews ‘over there’ would depend for a long time to come on European productions, they would necessarily have to import them.”


It might be suggested that our want of a common current language would present difficulties. We cannot converse with one another in Hebrew. Who amongst us has a sufficient acquaintance with Hebrew to ask for a railway ticket in that language! … Yet, the difficulty is very easily circumvented. Every man can preserve the language in which his thoughts are at home. Switzerland affords a conclusive proof of the possibility of a federation of tongues.”


“Every man will be as free and undisturbed in his faith or his disbelief as he is in his nationality. And if it should occur that men of other creeds and different nationalities come to live amongst us, we should accord them honorable protection and equality before the law.”


“The Jewish state is conceived as a neutral one. It will, therefore, require only a professional army, equipped—of course—with every requisite of modern warfare, to preserve order internally and externally.”


“We have no flag and we need one. If we desire to lead many men, we must raise a symbol above their heads. I would suggest a white flag, with seven golden stars. The white field symbolizes our pure new life; the stars are the seven golden hours of our working day.”


“We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and die peacefully in our own homes.

The world will be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness.

And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity.”

Mitchell First can be reached at [email protected]. P.S.: “The Society of Jews” became the “Zionist Organization.”

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