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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » A Jewish state, an attempt at a modern solution of the Jewish question » User review

Prescient and Informative

  • Jul 25, 2011
Rating:
+5
The establishment of the state of Israel ranks among the most momentous political developments of the twentieth century. Reemergence of the independent Jewish state after millennia of occupation and exile of the Jewish people is a remarkable development by any measure. It was a fulfillment of an ancient dream, and yet its political and logistical groundwork was only laid down within a century or so prior to its completion. This was the program of the Zionist movement, and the most noteworthy of its nineteenth century proponents was Theodor Herzl.

"The Jewish State" served as the de facto manifesto and Zionism. It is a relatively short pamphlet (less than hundred pages in its printed form), and yet within it are contained some of the most eloquent and inspiring words that tried to justify and promote the cause of Jewish statehood. Some of the Herzl's words have proven to be prescient in their foresight, and some of his other ambitions today feel a bit naïve and dated. As a starting point for his analysis of the "Jewish Question" (as he himself refers to it) Herzl takes as the indisputable fact the existence of European anti-Semitism. The history of the persecution of the Jews in Europe is long and checkered, but Herzl is careful to distinguish its ultimate sources from its proximate causes. It is the latter that are of the most importance to him, and Herzl attributes social, political, and economic upheavals as the primary driving forces of the contemporary anti-Semitism. Herzl is also very skeptical of the long-term prospect of assimilation of Jews into Western countries. He is convinced that Jews are an intrinsically different people from all of their host countries, and that only within their own state they can properly thrive.

One of the primary goals of this pamphlet is the establishment of the fact that Jewish State is not a utopian delusion but a necessary and practically achievable project. Herzl treats head-on some of the practical and logistical issues with its creation. He is not very concerned with the geographical location of such a state, and thinly populated regions of Africa and South America are perfectly acceptable to him. He devotes many pages to the explanation of how the cities, agriculture, and trade could be feasibly developed in not too long span of time. With the help of hindsight some of these schemes seem naïve, but from the point of view of Herzl's audience they would have sounded perfectly reasonable.

This is a very interesting book that ought to be read by anyone fascinated with history. The writing is immensely clear, accessible, and even forceful. Many of its concerns are relevant even today.

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Bojan Tunguz ()
Ranked #53
I am a benevolent rascal. I love lounging in bed on a Sunday morning. Rainy days make me melancholy, but in a good kind of way. I am an incorrigible chocoholic. I hate Mondays, but I get over it by Wednesday. … more
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Author: Theodor Herzl
Publisher: University of Michigan Library

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